A Closer Examination of Family Group Decision Making in
family group-conferencing has had success around the world,151 and
the number of communities implementing FGDM in the U.S.
continues to increase.152
Although there are various practice models of FGDM, all
include the shared philosophy that families function better in a broad-based cultural system that can support and assist families as
compared to traditional agency-driven practices focusing solely on
the parents and children.153 FGDM compels public welfare agencies
to turn first to the family and community for handling problems of
abuse and neglect, and limits state involvement.154 An important
aspect of the FGDM model promotes collaborative responsibility and
reinforces accountability.155 The main goal of FGDM is to keep the
family, including the child, at the center of the dialogue and to
implement a plan within the child’s cultural practice.156 This goal is
achieved through numerous conferences attended by the immediate
and extended family, close friends and supporters, and other
members in the community involved in the child and family’s
151 See generally Responding Restoratively to Vulnerable Victims, Youths, and
Families, 24 PROTECTING CHILD., no. 4, 2009 (describing the success of family-based approaches in positive restorative justice outcomes). The FGDM reform
effort has been adopted in over 35 states and 22 countries. Lisa Merkel-Holguin,
Family Group Decision Making: An Innovation in Need of Court Partnership?,
CASA (July 2011),
152 The number of communities in the United States using FGDM grew from five in
1995 to over one hundred in 2000. Crampton, supra note 145, at 175. A 2004 web-based survey of FGC received 225 responses from 17 countries. PAUL NIXON ET
AL., A SURVEY OF INTERNATIONAL PRACTICES, POLICY & RESEARCH ON FAMILY
GROUP CONFERENCING AND RELATED PRACTICES 1, 5 (2005),
153 Sheets et al., supra note 144, at 1188.
154 REENTRY PRACTICES FOR TRIBAL YOUTH, supra note 149, at 2.
155 Crampton, supra note 145, at 183.
156 Pennell & Burford, supra note 147, at 141.