Communities and Justice

Alternative Dispute Resolution

What is alternative dispute resolutions?

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is a term used to describe a variety of different voluntary processes where an impartial facilitator helps people resolve disputes (section 37).

ADR provides a confidential space for family/kin and practitioners to discuss what needs to change, to keep children safe and develop a plan to achieve this. It also allows the child, parents and family/kin to be involved in major decisions affecting them.

ADR may be offered in the following stages of assessment and case planning:

  • after a safety assessment has been completed and a child has been found to be safe or safe with plan
  • after a risk assessment has been completed and a child is at high or very high risk
  • after a risk re-assessment has been completed and a child is assessed as continuing to be at high or very high risk
  • before a Family Action Plan is developed or as a process to develop a Family Action Plan
  • when a Family Action Plan is due for review and child protection concerns are still present.
  • when completing an Alternate Assessment and it is identified there are ongoing risk issues for a child.
ADR: Family Group Conferencing (FGC)

The Department’s preferred model of ADR is Family Group Conferencing (FGC).

FGC is a family-focused, strengths based form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) which aims to strengthen partnerships between family members and encourage parental decision making and responsibility. FGC helps inform case planning and provides an opportunity for family/kin to develop their own plan to keep their children safe. It aims to:

  • Place children and family/kin at the centre of planning and decision making
  • Empower parents and family/kin in decision making about the safety and wellbeing of their children
  • Improve outcomes for children by providing them with a stronger voice
  • Build respectful relationships through open communication.

When the form of ADR used is FGC, the Department or the PSP provider – whichever exercises primary case responsibility:

  • Takes an active role in arranging the FGC
  • Requests participation of practitioners from the other agency (the Department or the PSP provider not arranging FGC).

See expenditure incurred by the Department for when the Department incurs expenditure for FGC. 

ADR: other models and approaches

Other approaches may be more appropriate depending on the circumstances of the child and family. These approaches include:

  • Perinatal or Pregnancy Family Conferencing (PFC) for unborn children
  • Family Dispute Resolution (FDR), facilitated by NSW Legal Aid or a funded family dispute resolution service
  • Care and Protection Mediation, facilitated by NSW Legal Aid
  • Mediation, facilitated by a Community Justice Centre mediator
  • Private mediation, facilitated by an accredited mediator - this could be a mediator chosen or agreed to by the family
  • Culturally appropriate forms of ADR, for example, Aboriginal Care Circles.

Also see use of ADR when responding to a child protection report.

Collaborating in ADR

PSP Providers may participate in court ordered ADRs if the Children’s Court has provided permission. If consent is obtained from the child, their parents and family/kin, a representative of the PSP provider (the ‘representative’) exercising (or soon to exercise) primary case responsibility may participate in other forms of ADR. This may include the child’s carers or practitioner, noting:

  • they have (or will have) a casework relationship with the child, their carers, parents, siblings and family/kin
  • they may possess first-hand knowledge about the child, the placement and carers
  • they may have a role in supporting implementation of the plan developed through ADR.

The following factors are considered by the Department’s practitioner arranging ADR, in relation to participation by the representative:

  • relevance of the likely input of the representative, to the issues in dispute
  • whether the representative’s input will help all parties reach an agreement
  • the nature and extent of the representative’s relationship with the child, their parents, siblings and family/kin
  • whether the representative attends all or part of the ADR
  • any other relevant factors.

Subject to consent, the Department’s practitioner arranging ADR requests that the representative participate. The representative may also request to be involved in ADR, upon becoming aware of a planned future ADR.

Last updated:

04 Apr 2023