When arranging a Family Group Conference (FGC) it is emphasized that both family and professional participants focus on the child. The child must be the focus of the discussions and through the FGC the expanded family must strive to reach a plan that is beneficial to the child.What is best for the child is a normative question. Deliberative theory is founded on assumptions for linguistic communication and deals exactly with questions concerning normative issues by following argumentation procedures. Deliberative theory is based on a Habermasian discourse theory. In much research four conditions or criteria are necessary in order to make a deliberative process. First is inclusion of the parties involved. Secondly, a meeting place must be established. The third condition concerns the structures dealing with the power balance, and fourthly, is the publicity of the deliberation. (Skivenes and Eriksen’s 2002) conclusion is that structurally the FGC has democratic qualities in accordance with the four criteria in deliberative theory. Focusing on children as participants in FGC it is especially the first and third conditions, involving the concerned parties and structures for power balance, which require more detailed investigation. To a large degree the child is an involved part when the FGC is to determine what is beneficial to the child. When investigating this the child perspective is essential. “Child perspective” is a concept first used in research of children in the 1990s and refers to a view of children as active subjects and producers of their own reality.
In very few research projects about FGC is the child perspective and children’s participation in FGC debated. Many point to the need for theoretical discussions and empirical studies of children’s participation in FGC. (Andersson and Bjerkman 1999) define child perspective in FGC. In the evaluation of the Swedish FGC, Anderson and Bjerkman found three different categories of FGCs. In the most frequently used category the FGC was organised in a child perspective. In the view of Andersson and Bjerkman, adopting a child perspective in the first place includes trying to see things from the child’s point of view. The child’s point of view must be sought as well as his or her experiences and thoughts concerning the future. This aspect of the child perspective must seek to be described as authentically as possible without any adult filter. The next component of the child perspective is adults ‘having the child in their viewpoint’ meaning that it is necessary for adults to see and understand the child (Andersson & Bjerkman, 1999). This is not an objective description but, at best, a child perspective based on wisdom, experience and the desire to act in the child’s best interests.
Having a child perspective in a FGC means that one is continually alternating between the child’s perspective and different adult perspectives. As described here, the child perspective corresponds to that of The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The dominant idea here is that all children are entitled to an adolescence which benefits the child. This is stated in Article 3 in the Convention: “In all actions concerning children (...) the best interest of the child shall be a primary consideration”. Consequent to this article, Article 12 was framed – the most central rights about children’s participation in the Convention. Article 12 was drafted to ensure the child’s point of view being taken into consideration.
Parents have the responsibility for their children’s upbringing and development. As addressed in The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child the benefit of the child is the basic element on how responsibility is practiced. This indicates that the authority of the parents must be a result of a conscientious and competent care for the best interests of the child. The question about the best interests of the child in the FGC is supposed to be answered as an outcome of rational discussion, which includes both the voice of the child and those of the adults.
Andersson, B., & Bjerkman, A. (1999) Mellan myndighet och familj. En kvalitativ undersökning au familjerådsalg i Sverige. Stockhom: Social Service Administration, Unit for Research and Development
Skivenes, M., & Eriksen, E.O. (2002) Nye deltagelsesformer og demmokratisk medvirkning. Bergen: LOS Centre (Norwegian Centre for Research in Organization and Management).
Strandbu, A. (2004) Children's participation in Family Group Conference as a resolution model, International Journal of Child & Family Welfare, Vol. 7 (4), p.p. 209 – 211