Review and evaluate the Conciliation Conferencing Program operating statewide within the Family Division of the Court

Project Type - Program evaluation and review

Year

  • 2016

Description

Whilst significant investment has been made in the past decade in child protection legislative, policy and service delivery reform, an alarming number of children remain at risk of neglect and abuse in their homes and come before the Children’s Court for determination around their future care. This traumatic experience for children and young people has been found to be compounded in Victoria by the application of an adversarial approach to hearing child protection matters in the Children’s Court.

In order to ensure a less adversarial approach to deciding child protection matters and to facilitate constructive and informed engagement with children, their families, child protection workers and legal representatives and agreement on approaches to care, the CCM was introduced as a referral option by the Children’s Court in 2011. Through this mechanism, all relevant parties can attend a conference facilitated by a trained convenor outside the Court environment to discuss a range of issues impacting on the child; family relationship; and parenting with the aim of reaching agreement as to the care of the child and approaches to addressing the relevant risk factors for that child within their family in a non-adversarial manner.

An evaluation of the CCM was conducted in 2012 which found overall that the model had been effective in reaching agreements and reducing the number of contested hearings in the Children’s Court, although issues were raised with respect to the level of and barriers relating to engagement by families. This current evaluation has been precipitated by impending amendments to the Children, Youth and Families Amendment (Permanent Care and Other Matters) Act 20141 which are due to commence in March 2016. As such, this evaluation focused not only on determining the effectiveness of the model but also  confirmed the likely impacts of the legislative change and recommend ed necessary modifications to the Model to appropriately respond to these amendments.

The objective of the current evaluation was to perform a state-wide review and evaluation of existing CCM operations and plan to prepare for the impacts of legislative amendments (future state).

A four stage methodology was  developed to meet the scope of this consultancy, concluding in the submission of a Final Evaluation report. Key aspects of the methodology included:

  • A comprehensive environmental analysis to collect required data elements used to develop the evaluation framework; including a documentation review and focused literature scan
  • Ethics approval
  • Extensive stakeholder consultations ultilising online surveys, face-to-face and semi-structured telephone interviews, with nominated informants, children and their families
  • Analysis of stakeholder consultations and conduction of economic analysis of CCM

Outcomes- A Draft and Final Evaluation Report was submitted to CSV.