Social Work Now, Issue 34, pages 17-20.
The Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Act 1989 (CYP&F Act) was born out of a social environment which included a growing dissatisfaction with the dominance of professional decision-making. There was also an ongoing and growing concern about a western based justice system which discriminated against Māori, and held little regard for Māori custom, beliefs and values.
The new legislation enacted some innovative ways of working with children, young people and their families. In particular the CYP&F Act mandated the use of family group conferences (FGC) and emphasised that family was to be seen as part of the solution and key decision-makers. The legislation also emphasised that offending by children and young people was often opportunistic, contact with the formal parts of the youth justice system was inherently harmful and age should be a mitigating factor when deciding on responses to offending.
While the youth justice system is an attempt to move away from the traditional welfare model, it does provide for the needs of young offenders to be considered and addressed while also ensuring that they are held accountable for their offending. The FGC is the key forum where decisions about accountability and rehabilitation are made.