SA Government boosts Family Group Conference investment
The Sector > Workforce > Advocacy > SA children at risk supported with $13.4m investment into Family Group Conferences

SA children at risk supported with $13.4m investment into Family Group Conferences

by Freya Lucas

February 29, 2024

The South Australian government has invested heavily in improving outcomes for children who come into contact with the child protection system, allocating $13.4m to Family Group Conferences.


Family Group Conferencing is a facilitated process where extended families work together to make decisions that protect a child or young person who is at risk of harm and possible removal from their family.


Following the 264 Family Group Conferences held in 2023, approximately 90 per cent of families continue to safely care for their children, with structured support, and to make decisions in the best interests of the child.


The 264 Family Group Conferences held in 2023 involved 482 children – almost twice the number held in 2022. This included 134 Family Group Conferences for Aboriginal families involving 259 children, up 59 per cent on the previous year.


Given the success of the program the South Australian Government allocated an additional $13.4 million over five years for Family Group Conference services in the 2023-24 State Budget, focusing strongly on supporting Aboriginal families.


“I’m proud of the positive impact Family Group Conferences are having for families across the state, with families empowered to make decisions in the best interests of their children,” Minister for Child Protection Katrine Hildyard said.


“We know that many families are facing a range of complex and interconnected issues including intergenerational trauma, domestic and family violence, substance misuse, mental ill-health and poverty. When there are risks identified for a child or young person, and a family is willing to work together with DCP, a Family Group Conference puts the family in the driver’s seat to come up with a plan to keep their child safe, nurtured and loved.”


For First Nations children, who are over-represented in the child protection and family support system, Family Group Conferences play a critical role in recognising the protective factors that connection to culture, family and community provides and gives families the lead role in finding solutions to keep their children safe, loved and nurtured with kin.


“Family Group Conferences are achieving the same significant outcomes for Aboriginal children as non-Aboriginal children, which reflects the strength of a model that empowers families to care for and protect children,” Sarah Decrea, Practice Manager, Family Led Decision Making, Relationships Australia South Australia (RASA) said. 


“The investment in family led decision making programs, in partnership with RASA, is helping to reduce the number of children, in particular Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, going into long term care.”


“The best support is provided to children when the circle around that child is widened. The Family Group Conference process ensures that the wider family is fully informed and understands the extent of the child protection concerns about a child in a timely manner.”


Conferences are also available for unborn child concerns – helping to address issues of risk during pregnancy. In 2023, 30 Family Group Conferences were held for unborn children – up from 20 the year prior.


Family Group Conferences are offered by the Department of Child Protection, in partnership with Relationships Australia South Australia and Aboriginal Family Support Services.


The Family Group Conference model used in South Australia is based on the New Zealand model, which is widely acknowledged as best practice. The model is culturally inclusive and has a strong focus on enabling Aboriginal family and community members to identify strategies to keep children and young people safe with family and kin.

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