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CREATIVE YOUTH JUSTICE PRACTICE.

INTRODUCTION

One of the principles of The Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act, 1989 (hereafter referred to as "the CYP&F Act" or "the Act"), is that "any sanctions imposed on a child or young person who commits an offence should:

(i) Take the form most likely to promote the development of the child or young person within his or her family, whanau, hapu, iwi, and family group; and

(ii) Take the least restrictive form that is appropriate in the circumstances" (s.208f).

One of the ways this principle is translated into practice is the avoidance of custodial sanctions wherever possible and appropriate, and where whanau(1) or community-based alternatives are available and feasible.

The Creative Youth Justice Practice project(2) was a piece of research designed to identify examples of particularly creative Family Group Conference (FGC) plans for serious or repeat offenders that did not incorporate a custodial component.(3) Although some professionals who worked with young offenders acknowledged that Department of Social Welfare residences had an appropriate role to play in the youth justice system, Youth Justice Coordinators (YJCs)(4) were generally very strong on trying to avoid their use. As one person put it:
 "I've never believed that young people can be helped if they're sent away
 from the whanau or away from the area ... That young person still has to
 come back and try and fit into this community again."


Participating YJCs were interviewed and/or participated in workshops about what they thought were key elements of their practice that made such outcomes possible. In addition, YJCs throughout New Zealand were asked for examples of cases that might have received, but managed to avoid, custodial sanctions. It was hoped that the creative elements of these plans could be shared, and give other YJCs some inspiration for future FGCs. (Four of these cases are included in this paper.(5))

Some of the Police Youth Aid personnel that four of the YJCs worked with, as well as two Youth Court judges, were interviewed, too. (A third judge provided extensive commentary on a previous draft of the report.) In particular, we asked them about what they looked for in an FGC plan that made them support non-custodial outcomes for serious or recidivist offenders.

In this paper we summarise some of the findings of this research and discuss the critical issues that they present to youth justice policy and practice.

BACKGROUND

The youth justice provisions (S208) of the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act (1989) represent a significant change in the policy and procedures for children and young people who come to notice for offending. The Act is premised on research findings which show that it is better to avoid or delay involvement with formal court proceedings to as late as possible in the life of a child or young person who has offended, as the earlier that formal involvement begins, the more likely the child or young person is to be involved in further offending. The Act separates youth justice from care and protection and expressly forbids the engagement of youth justice provisions for the purpose of accomplishing care and protection aims, so that the appropriate focus of youth justice -- dealing effectively with youthful offending -- is not lost.

The Act seeks to achieve a balance by developing practices which minimise the formal involvement of children and young people in the criminal justice system, whilst at the same time holding the children and young people accountable for their offending behaviour. There is an emphasis of imposing appropriate sanctions on children and young people, which allow them to understand the impacts that their offending has on others (particularly victims and families) and to atone. With the support of the family members, extended family, Iwi and hapu, the child and young person can be encouraged to develop socially acceptable ways. The Act provides for a greater level of victim involvement in the statutory processes than previous legislation allowed.

There is an emphasis in the Act on maintaining the child or young person within their wider family group and their local community if at all possible. Through the FGC process it actively involves family group members in decisions about the child or young person. This is an acknowledgment that families are the greatest source of ongoing support for a child or young person, thus any state intervention should be designed in such a way as to enhance and complement the central role of families in the lives of children and young people. The role of youth justice professionals is to manage the child and young person's involvement in the criminal justice system, and in doing so, to minimise the negative impact of the system on children and young people and their families. In summing up, the Act emphasises:

* the utilisation of diversion where possible;

* intervention should take the least restrictive form appropriate to the circumstances;

* a preference for community based sanctions;

* family/whanau decision making as central;

* consideration of victims interests; and

* the separation of justice issues from welfare issues.

KEY FINDINGS

The Creative Youth Justice Practice study draws the conclusion that the key to developing creative FGC plans for the most difficult cases -- plans that are in accord with the principles of youth justice and which avoid custodial sanctions where appropriate -- is not any startling or unusual cleverness in the plan itself, but rather a solid overall youth justice practice that is committed to effective quality control and gatekeeping. That is why this report covers such a broad range of issues -- they all affect areas of good youth justice practice.(6)

The main points that arose from the research centred around two issues: the need for good FGC preparation and the importance of good interdepartmental coordination ("coalition building" in one coordinator's words). We can think about these two areas of operation as the two poles of the youth justice system which is the YJC's job to manage: working with young offenders, their families and their victims on the one hand, and interfacing with the Police and Courts on the other. A third important area of work identified by the YJCs was networking with community agencies: this was seen as crucial to having available the necessary resources for FGC plans, and to doing the preventive work that was considered particularly valuable for an efficient youth justice system.

It was clear that, relatively speaking, the actual facilitation of an FGC is a small part of the YJC's job, compared to FGC preparation and networking within the community and with other justice system agencies. Preparation and networking are extremely time consuming, but crucial to getting good results. These activities are basically about promoting the CYP&F Act -- an obligation of YJCs under the Act -- and creating an optimal environment for the implementation of the Act. To paraphrase one coordinator, it is about selling the process, promoting interagency cooperation and recruiting the community into the process. Some YJCs argued that there was a need to go further: to help community and government agencies focus on the trends and patterns of local youth offending, and look for possible preventive measures, particularly the engagement of young people in ways which might minimise the occurrence of offending. This allows the FGC process to focus on a lesser number of the more difficult cases, while at the same time community resources are developed that can be incorporated into the FGC plans themselves.

Thus a good, creative, youth justice practice is based on three fundamental activities:

* Thorough FGC preparation

* A sound working relationship with the Police and Courts

* Serious networking with community agencies

Thorough FGC preparation: High quality FGC preparation is aimed at empowering families, offenders and victims to be involved in developing more creative plans well suited to the specifics of the case. Such empowerment encourages the development of original plans that do not follow a formula, but which are responsive to the particular circumstances of the offending and of the FGC participants. The preparation for "minor" cases is not of a lesser nature than that for serious ones (because, if there is good interagency cooperation, the truly minor cases are dealt with by Police diversion).

YJCs discussed a range of issues surrounding FGC preparation and techniques they used to deal with them. These included:

* how best to contact FGC participants and provide information to family members;

* how to obtain the participation of the extended family;

* facilitating the involvement of the victims and the young person;

* the best ways of helping the family with their plan; and

* dealing with the complications caused by a care and protection history.

A sound working relationship with the Police and Courts: Good interagency co-operation is accomplished by frequent and regular meetings, particularly between the YJC and Youth Aid. These promote mutual respect, a shared youth justice philosophy, assurance that everyone is doing their job and confidence in the effective operation of the FGC process (i.e. that the family will be committed to the plan, the young person will be held accountable, and the victim's needs will be addressed).

Serious networking with community agencies: Good networking is necessary in order to have a useful range of community resources available for FGC plans and for developing for young people who are at risk of offending programmes that might be expected to minimise those risks.

A key area that emerged was the special skills that Maori YJCs bring to their work and issues to do with working within Maori communities. Maori YJCs who were working in the rohe of their iwi focused on the advantages that their particular perspective gave them in managing the youth justice system. They discussed their vision; empowering the whanau; their use of Te Reo, whakapapa, and the marae as an FGC venue; and their understanding of whakamaa.

They also dealt with certain aspects of their work with the Police.

CASE STUDIES

Youth justice professionals offered a range of cases as examples of FGC plans for serious and/or repeat offenders which might well have been expected to include custodial sanctions, but which managed instead to keep the young people within their own whanau and community. Ten cases were selected as illustrations of creative youth justice practice, to amplify the report and heighten its impact. Four of those cases, "Andrew", "Paul", "John" and "Joseph", are included in this paper. While some of the plans contain unusual and interesting elements, their true creativity lies in their particular appropriateness to the nature of the offending and the individual circumstances and needs of the victim, young people and their families.

Each plan holds the young person accountable for his offending, through community service, apologies to the victim, driving disqualifications, and a range of restrictions on the young person's behaviour, such as curfews, supervision arrangements, non-association with particular individuals, house rules and bans on alcohol. Every plan addresses the victims' needs, and half of the plans had quite a large input from the victims. They incorporated reparations, gifts, work for the victim, personal visits, apologies, progress letters and, in one case, the creation of a memorial for a daughter killed in a car crash. All the plans included clear responsibilities for monitoring their outcomes, variously depending on family members, social workers, caregivers, CYPFS social workers and Community Corrections. Three of the cases drew on Iwi social services.

The plans all involved the young person's family in a very substantial way, sometimes demonstrating an extraordinary commitment on the part of family members. This is especially impressive given that over half the cases reveal outstanding care and protection issues of one kind or another (with all the complex family dynamics to be expected in such situations), including three young people who had substantial histories of care and protection intervention.

Each plan also incorporates developmental elements, ranging very widely across the cases, from employment opportunities and recreation, to life-skills training and counselling. Some of the FGCs met on marae, bringing in hapu and iwi members, and furnishing the young person with valuable cultural direction. In four cases the FGC plan addressed the young person's problems with substance abuse. In general, the developmental elements of the plans were aimed at providing the particular combination of positive alternative activities and practical support needed by that young person to avoid future offending. In eight of the ten cases the professionals involved were able to report that the young person had, in fact, stopped re-offending.

The cases are presented as examples of how, even in extremely serious cases, the family, young person and victim can be empowered to find the elements of a plan that can really work for them. They also illustrate the need for thorough FGC preparation, effective interagency cooperation, and good community networking so that, when required, the community resources are available.

"Andrew"

"Andrew" was arrested and charged with kidnapping (of his girlfriend and a young family member), wilfully setting fire to a property, assault, assault with a weapon, and wilful damage (all in one drunken episode). Because of the seriousness of the offences and the fact that he was only a few days away from his 17th birthday, his case would be heard in the District Court and it was for Probation to make the final recommendation to the court. Nevertheless, as "Andrew" was still 16, it was ordered that the Youth Justice Coordinator (YJC) convene a Family Group Conference (FGC) in relation to the offending.

The FGC was well attended with participants from all major players: the young person, his parents and the wider whanau (mostly from out of town), kaumatua, the victim, and the Youth Aid Officer. Probation was also represented so that they would be part of the process and on board with the family decision. Family dynamics were complicated by the fact that "Andrew" had been the victim of very serious intergenerational sexual abuse. Preparation for the conference had been particularly difficult and time consuming because of the department's long history (in different parts of the country) of care and protection and youth justice involvement with the young person and his family. The meeting began with karakia, and an opportunity for each of the participants to voice their goals for the outcome of the conference.

The FGC stood out in the coordinator's mind because the young person deliberately and seriously wounded himself early in the proceedings, when he was asked to say what he wanted to come out of the conference. He was taken to hospital, but was able to return in time for the conference to continue, which it did with the participants in a very heightened emotional state. In the opinion of one of the professionals, it had the effect of "shocking the family into reality".

"Andrew" apologised to the victim at the FGC, and plans for his making reparations were put into place. His family agreed to raise funds to contribute to the reparation costs. The family decided, and the other participants agreed, that a custodial sentence would be very inappropriate for "Andrew", and that he needed to have counselling to help him deal with his history of being abused, alcohol problems and difficulties with anger management. The plan focused on keeping the young person at home with members of his family.

A significant aspect of this case was the work that went into the preparation for the conference and the cooperation between Youth Aid and YJC. However, the Probation Officer did not make the expected recommendation, which was a surprise and a disappointment to the rest of the participants when they arrived in court. In the words of the Youth Aid Officer:
 And they went through all the facts, they saw our grief, our pain, our love
 and at the end of the day they write up a bloody nonsense report: the easy
 way, lock him up.... A custodial sentence, because that was the easiest
 way, and we were saying to them, no, he needs psychiatric help, he needs
 counselling for his drug addiction and he needs counselling for his family,
 all that stuff came out, it was a really neat, amazing FGC. Till we get to
 court and that's when I first saw it, (the) probation report ... We had all
 thought -- and his lawyer -- that we were going to get what we wanted. And
 his lawyer threw it at me and he said, look at this, what are we going to
 do with that? ... I said, well you do your bit, I'll do mine. So he did his
 bit, and then I got up and said to [the] Judge ... "It is unusual for the
 police prosecutor to argue with a custodial sentence ... Today I'm going to
 do that." So I did that, argued against the custodial, I went through all
 that and I knew that we were on a winner because all this time [the Judge]
 was nodding [in agreement].


The Judge accepted the family's plan, and a full year went by with no re-offending, an outcome which, in the opinions of the YJC and Youth Aid Officer, validated the work of the conference and the decision of the court. The plan addressed the needs of the victims and made the young person accountable for his offending through apologies and reparations. Against the odds, the plan kept this young person free of a custodial sanction.

"Paul"

"Paul" had an offending history which included theft from a motor vehicle, attempted theft, wilful damage, theft, unlawful taking of a motor vehicle and burglary, and several resultant FGCs. His parents were separated. He lived with his mother, who was alienated from her whanau while residing in the rohe of her husband. She was afraid to involve her husband's whanau. Her husband was a heavy drinker. Previous attempts to involve whanau were not successful.

The young person's offending escalated to assault with a weapon, possession of an offensive weapon, and unlawful taking of a motor vehicle. These were arrest matters which were denied and went to a defended hearing. The Court found in favour of the prosecution, directing that an FGC be convened and a copy of the plan sent to the Judge.

The FGC was held on a marae and ten whanau members participated. (Although there had been complex sensitivities within the family regarding the involvement of the Iwi, these were successfully resolved.) The whanau acknowledged that the charges were very serious and that if dealt with in the District Court would very likely lead to incarceration. The whanau decided to meet on two further occasions to develop a plan for the young person and 15 whanau members participated in this work. The whanau stipulated in advance that they accepted responsibility for rehabilitating him and shared the shame that his actions had brought on them all. They decided that the mother would pay reparations to the victims. They asked that the Court accept the family's plan and make an order placing the young person under the supervision of a proposed Iwi Social Service.

The full plan was very detailed with responsibilities assigned to the young person, specific members of his whanau, the Iwi Social Service, the Iwi trust board, and CYPFS. "Paul" was to follow the rules of his kaumatua/kuia and whanau support; live in the home of a designated member of his whanau during the period of his Supervision Order, following their home rules; participate in the whanau programme arranged; and participate in certain other programmes and sporting activities. The schedule laid out for "Paul" demanded considerable discipline on his part, with strict accounting for his time. His programme was meant to address his accountability for his actions as much as his future development.

The members of his whanau were required to keep in contact with "Paul" by phone and home visits, and support the whanau plan, providing specific support to his caregivers. The whanau was also required to convene a hui on the completion of the Supervision Order to review progress with "Paul", discuss how to rebuild his relationship with his parents, and provide an effectiveness report to the Court. The young person's caregivers were accountable for his supervision and day-to-day living arrangements, for encouraging contact between "Paul" and his parents, and reporting regularly to the rest of the whanau on his progress.

The Iwi Social Service involved in the plan was to arrange supervision and counselling sessions; a report to the court at the end of the supervision period; monthly progress reports and accounts to be sent to CYPFS; liaison with the trust board regarding oversight, supervision and support for the whanau; monthly whanau meetings and disbursement of funds to the programme. The trust board members were to act as liaison between all the participants in the plan and to oversee field excursions contained in the plan. CYPFS staff were responsible for arranging the agreed payments to the Iwi Social Service involved.

The programme set out for "Paul" comprised work experience; Tikanga (including self-development and introducing "Paul" to his tribal elders and his obligations to whanau, hapu, iwi); Kapa Haka (introducing haka and action songs, waiata to competition level, and marae protocol); conservation and wilderness programmes; and sport. There was also provision for deciding how to address educational issues.

The case stands out because of the very serious nature of the charges, the empowerment of the whanau and Iwi Social Services to create and implement their plan, the clear and detailed allocation of responsibilities between CYPFS and Iwi, the tight monitoring and reporting systems imposed on whanau and Iwi, the extending of the net (i.e. the involvement of the wider whanau), holding the FGC on a marae, and the acceptance of Iwi to participate in the plan.

"John"

"John" was charged with a burglary which occurred in a provincial town. The victim was an elderly person, frail and living alone, who had been deeply traumatised by the event. A Family Group Conference (FGC) was convened following direction by the court. It was attended by the young person's parents and eight other members of his extended family.

It was not possible for the elderly victim to attend the FGC, which was being held some distance away. Therefore, in order for the conference to reach appropriate resolutions and restore the dignity of the victim, the young person's parents paid a personal visit to the victim's home. ("John" had already been placed in a different part of the country in full-time employment, and working a great deal of overtime.) The visit was very successful in that it resulted in warm and kindly relations between the two families and further visits followed. The parents apologised to the victim, who in turn made it clear that no reparations were being sought. In fact, the victim wrote a letter to the Court expressing appreciation for the visit and asking that no further action be taken against "John".

The Youth Justice Coordinator encouraged the parents to involve the extended family by emphasising the fact that the vulnerability of such an elderly victim created a potential for more serious charges. The YJC suggested that the extended family's help in dealing with the young person might be critical to prevent re-offending, and thus the mana of the family would be more seriously damaged if this help was not sought from the wider whanau.

The FGC plan stipulated that the young person would make a cash reparation, and provide a card with his apologies and a gift for the victim, all of which would be personally delivered by one of his family members. The parents acknowledged that they were having a "rough patch" in controlling their son's behaviour, and enlisted the support of extended whanau. "John" was to live with a close relative who lived in an urban centre where he would be surrounded and supported by immediate and extended whanau.

The plan built on the fact that the young person had obtained full-time employment, and provided for a regular programme of savings managed by his mother; involvement in sporting activities, which includes playing for a whanau team; and help from an immediate family member towards passing the written examination for a driver's licence. Monitoring was to be the responsibility of the family. The plan was completed.

This particular case stands out for

* the lengths to which the family went to include the views of the victim;

* the exceptional reconciliation between the victim and young person's family;

* the support of the victim for the young person;

* the detail of the FGC plan

-- both in terms of the young person's accountability for the offence and

-- in providing for the young person's development;

* and for the fact that there has been no further offending.

"Joseph"

"Joseph", 15, admitted to the aggravated robbery of a taxi driver. Although it was the first time he had come to the attention of the authorities, a custodial sentence was a possibility because of the seriousness of the offence. There were others involved in the crime (which was committed to get money for drugs), but it was "Joseph" who admitted to the actual assault.

The FGC was attended by parents and members of the young person's extended family, the victim with a support person, service providers, Youth Advocate and police. The key issues for the FGC were redress for the victim and the young offender's drug abuse, in addition to holding the young person accountable for his offending. The participants agreed to a plan in which the offender would pay his share of the reparation to the victim, apologise (both verbally at the conference, and in writing) and complete 120 hours of community work, 60 hours of which would be spent cleaning the offices of the victim and the other 60 hours at a Kohanga Reo. This would be overseen by an Iwi-based community group under a Supervision Order. The representatives of this community group were at the conference and had known the young person for some time.

Other features of the plan included that the offender would reside with his parents under a strict curfew as well as a non-association order stopping him from seeing the other youths involved in the crime. Furthermore, the offender was ordered to attend every period of every school day, as well as see the school counsellor for his drug problem and aggressive behaviour. "Joseph" also had to write a progress letter to the victim at the end of three months. The victim was very impressed with the FGC process and has told his colleagues that it was well worthwhile.

This plan was completed successfully by the young person. It demonstrated the effectiveness of the Iwi-based social service in supervising the young person and monitoring the plan. Unfortunately the young person committed a burglary seven months later. However, because the Police were impressed by the work of the Iwi-based service provider, and by the way in which the young person had carried out the FGC plan, they were willing to try similar diversion again rather than automatically lifting the tariff. Thus the plan was doubly successful in that it kept "Joseph" from a custodial sentence in the short term and from more intrusive interventions in the longer term as well. He is now doing very well at a polytech. Everyone involved in the case is confident that he will not offend again.

CRITICAL ISSUES FOR YOUTH JUSTICE POLICY AND PRACTICE

In the course of analysing the information yielded by the Creative Youth Justice Practice study, a number of critical operational and policy issues were identified. These issues concerned aspects of the work of the YJCs, youth justice cases with a care and protection history, FGC preparation and resourcing, and the key elements of FGC plans.

YJCs' Proactive Work, Specialist Skills and Professional Requirements

The relationship between YJCs and Police Youth Aid is of critical importance to effective operation of the youth justice system. Frequent and regular meetings between the professionals in these agencies for the purpose of specific case consultation and general problem-solving are of particular value. These meetings will have the added benefits of promoting a shared youth justice philosophy, improving interpersonal interaction and engendering respect and trust for each others' work and opinions. They also provide an opportunity for colleagues to educate each other, for example, to encourage the use of Police diversion. It is the obligation of YJCs under the CYP&F Act to promote the Act and their involvement in these youth justice committees is a critical part of their meeting this obligation.

Monthly meetings between YJCs, Youth Aid, Youth Advocates, court staff and the Youth Court Judge, are very valuable for ironing out issues relating to courtroom processes as well as any interpersonal or interagency problems. They are also important for looking at overall issues and trends in youth justice service delivery in the particular local area.

Networking with community agencies is of fundamental importance in making available a range of useful programmes for developing creative FGC plans. With particular reference to networking within Maori communities, Maori YJCs operating in the rohe of their iwi made use of particular cultural capabilities -- such as their vision; their ability to work with iwi, hapu and whanau; their focus on empowering the whanau; their ability to korero Maori; their use of whakapapa; their use of the marae as a venue for FGCs; and their understanding of whakamaa -- all of which need to be acknowledged as special skills which they bring to their work.

Cooperating with the Police, other agencies and community groups, in the development of programmes engaging at-risk youth in positive activities, should be seen as part of the youth justice portfolio. Preventing young people from offending in the first place has the effect of keeping down the youth justice case load, and it is the logical extension of the overall aim of keeping young people out of the justice system altogether.

Finally, YJCs wanted more opportunities to come together to share their experience, practice and knowledge, and develop the best aspects of a creative youth justice practice. As a very specialised group of professionals, it is important that they be able to get this sort of support and it can really only be obtained from others doing the same sort of work. This is of particular concern in those districts where there is only one YJC.

Youth Justice Cases With a Care and Protection History

YJCs found that families who had a history of care and protection involvement with DSW were particularly difficult to bring on board when preparing for a youth justice FGC. They found that these families sometimes felt disempowered by their previous experience. This is a significant issue in that there is a perceived pattern of care and protection cases progressing to youth justice cases; and the family that is alienated from the FGC process is an irreplaceable resource lost to the young person who has offended and who will need their input and support.

Furthermore, YJCs found that many of their serious and recidivist cases had a care and protection history. They believed that this reflected some shortcomings in the care and protection interventions that had been put into place in these cases. They also argued that there was a basic problem with the care and protection perspective in that it commonly failed to address behaviour issues. It was suggested that the care and protection system would benefit from incorporating certain elements of the youth justice philosophy concerning holding young people accountable for their behaviour.

Not surprisingly, YJCs found that in many cases with a care and protection history, it was necessary to find a way of addressing the underlying care and protection issues still outstanding, in addition to the youth justice issues to hand. While the Act stipulates (as mentioned earlier in this paper) that youth justice provisions must not be invoked for the purpose of accomplishing care and protection aims, is is nevertheless essential that where such issues arise they are dealt with along with the youth justice concern that originally gave rise to the FGC. Sometimes this was done at the youth justice FGC, and sometimes at a later care and protection FGC.

FGC Preparation and Dealing With the Various Participants

A key tenet of successful youth justice practice is that every FGC is important. FGCs for relatively minor or first offences were not to be treated with any less care and attention than those convened for young people who had offended more seriously or more often. YJCs agreed that FGCs worked far better when they themselves did the convening of the FGC (that is, the face-to-face preparation -- contacting and informing the participants) themselves as well as the FGC facilitation. Given the extremely specialised nature of the YJCs' work, it was crucial that when any of this work was delegated, it should only be delegated to those individuals that had the appropriate skills.

YJCs were agreed about the importance of getting the extended family or whanau to participate in the FGC and discussed various ways of overcoming the resistance of immediate family members when, out of shame or a reluctance to impose, they wished to avoid the involvement of the wider circle of relations. Some YJCs noted that it was sometimes easier to gain the participation of the extended family when they were dealing with Maori, especially where they could draw on the help of kaumatua and their knowledge of whakapapa. Nevertheless, they all agreed that the advantages of involving the extended family (and the usefulness of the CYP&F Act in general) existed for Maori and pakeha alike.

Victims were often crucial to the success of an FGC in that their involvement helped the young person understand the consequences of the offending, hold the young person accountable, promote healing, and obtain the support of the Police and the Youth Court Judge. While these functions were by no means inconsistent with the fact that the victims were there in their own right, to represent themselves and their own interests first and foremost, it is important that both aspects of their presence at the FGC -- their contribution to the outcome as well as their representation of their own interests -- be acknowledged and accepted.

Finally, YJCs found those cases to be particularly difficult where the young person's family was steeped in the very offending behaviour with which the young person was being charged. No effective strategies were able to be put forward to deal with the fundamental problems this presented in terms of the hollowness of the exercise.

Resourcing

While there was a clear commitment to the ideal of having families draw on their own resources to implement FGC plans, there were cases where extra funding was necessary. Some YJCs were concerned that there were times when budget constraints meant that the required funding was not available to support an agreed FGC plan.

FGC Plans

There was widespread agreement on the need for FGC plans to hold young people accountable for their actions, address the victims' needs, provide for the young person's future development and be genuinely feasible, not setting the young person or family up for failure.

A Youth Court Judge recommended that FGC plans proposing non-custodial alternatives needed to include the following items (which could also be incorporated into guides for social work reports):

* Suitable oversight for the young person, especially in the evenings;

* Developmental activities such as sports, cultural skills and involvement with the extended family;

* Ways of addressing the young person's educational needs and the steps taken to meet those needs, including attendance at school or reasons for non-attendance;

* Drug and alcohol counselling, where appropriate;

* Substantially different approaches from any previous (failed) plans;

* Evidence that alternatives had been explored; and

* Provisions for monitoring, with specified performance measures for successfully completing the elements of the plan.

The CYP&F Act imposes the obligation to provide for regular review and monitoring of the actions taken in each case. It is essential that FGC plans incorporate provisions for such review and assign responsibility for their implementation. It is desirable that this responsibility reside within the whanau, where feasible, so that they retain as much ownership of the plan as possible.

Summary

The Creative Youth Justice Practice project, with the help of selected youth justice professionals, explored the ways in which the the youth justice system was able successfully to implement community-based FGC plans in cases of serious and repeat offending that otherwise might have been expected to meet with custodial sanctions. The critical operational and policy issues identified by this study focussed on the importance of:

* nurturing effective working relationships within and between all the key agencies of the youth justice system, particularly between YJCs and Police Youth Aid, but also the Youth Court;

* networking within the community for the promotion of programmes useful both for supporting FGC plans and preventing youthful offending;

* careful FGC preparation aimed at the full involvement of victims, young people and the members of their family groups;

* resolving outstanding issues in the interface between youth justice and care and protection; and

* ensuring that FGC plans address young people's accountability for their actions, victims' needs, and young people's developmental needs, and contain provisions for monitoring and review.

(1) Family or extended family.

(2) The study was a joint undertaking by the Social Policy Agency, and Children, Young Persons and Their Families Service, of the Department of Social Welfare. The authors wish to thank the people who, in various ways, participated in the study for allowing us to draw on their time and expertise: for permitting us to interview them, joining in the workshop, sharing their cases with us and providing feedback (and other contributions) in response to earlier drafts of this report.

(3) The results of this exploratory research are reported in Creative Youth Justice Practice by Marlene Levine, Aaron Eagle, Simi Tuiavi'i and Christine Roseveare, published by the Social Policy Agency and Children, Young Persons and Their Families Service, of the Department of Social Welfare, Wellington.

(4) Under the Act, YJCs are responsible for managing the youth justice system and facilitating FGCs.

(5) Pseudonyms have been assigned to the young people whose cases have been recounted, and identifying details have been eliminated or altered to protect the anonymity of the participants.

(6) The report also covers a range of issues which are not included in this paper, such as the work of the Police Youth Aid Section and their particular perspective on the youth justice system and appropriate outcomes for serious and repeat offenders; the perspectives of two Youth Court Judges on the key elements of FCG plans discussions of the role of youth justice social workers and the resourcing of the youth justice system.

Marlene Levine

Aaron Eagle

Simi Tuiavi'i

Social Policy Agency
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Author:Tuiavi'i, Simi
Publication:Social Policy Journal of New Zealand
Geographic Code:8NEWZ
Date:Dec 1, 1998
Words:6432
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