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Guidelines for Restorative Family Group Conferencing

As FGC begins to develop more extensively throughout North America in the coming years, the following recommendations can serve as initial guiding principles to maximize the likelihood of it truly being a restorative intervention for victims, offenders, families, and communities. The following guiding principles are based on a consensus that emerged from a group of individuals who participated in FGC training, which is offered throughout the country. This group included representatives from education, law enforcement, VOM programs, and communities in Minnesota. It was convened by the Center for Restorative Justice & Peacemaking (formerly Center for Restorative Justice & Mediation) at the University of Minnesota School of Social Work in 1995.

  1. The process should be clearly and explicitly grounded in restorative justice values.

  2. If public agencies such as police or probation are initiating FGC, the actual sessions should be cofacilitated by a trained community member.

  3. If a local VOM program exists, a new FGC program should be developed as a collaborative effort, including the use of VOM volunteer mediators as cofacilitators.

  4. FGC coordinators/facilitators should be trained in mediation and conflict resolution skills and the effects of victimization and needs of crime victims.

  5. FGC coordinators/facilitators should be trained in understanding the experiences and needs of offenders.

  6. The FGC process should be conducted in the most victim-sensitive manner possible, including providing victims with a choice of when and where to meet and allowing them to present their story first. When asked to consider the process, victims should be informed of both the potential benefits and the potential risks, and they should not be pressured into a conference or told just to trust the coordinator's judgment.

  7. In-person preparation of the primary participants in a conference (the victim, the victim's immediate family, the offender, and the offender's immediate family) should occur to connect with the parties, build rapport and trust, provide information, encourage participation, and prepare them for the conference should they choose family group conferencing. This can help them to feel safe enough to participate in an open dialogue with one another, with the coordinators/facilitators being as nondirective as possible.

  8. FGC coordinators/facilitators should be trained in cultural and ethical issues that are likely to affect the conference process and participants.
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Family Group Conferencing: Implications for Crime Victims April 2000
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