oa Comparative and International Law Journal of Southern Africa - State intervention and child protection measures in New Zealand - lessons for South Africa
The family group conference, which serves as an important instrument for the protection of children in New Zealand, came into existence as a result of the recognition of Maori values in the legislative process. The Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act 24 of 1989 emphasises family participation in decisions affecting children in need of care or protection. An important objective of the Act is to link the well-being of children to the well-being of their families and family groups. From the definition of 'family group' in the Act, it appears that the emphasis is on the connection with the child (biological, legal, psychological, or by whanau or any other culturally recognised family group). A family group conference, which is convened by a care and protection coordinator, has to be involved in decision-making regarding a child in need of care or protection. Little decision-making can be done without the conference first having been convened and having had the opportunity to find a solution. For various reasons, which are pointed out in the article, the family group conference lacks objectivity and professional expertise. If the family group conference is to play any role in future South African child protection law, it should be in the form of a multidisciplinary forum incorporating both the family (including the child) and professional staff. Mediation should be an integral part of the process.
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