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Evaluation of Alternative Dispute Resolution Initiatives in the Care and Protection Jurisdiction of the NSW Children's Court

NCJ Number
Anthony Morgan; Hayley Boxall; Kiptoo Terer; Nathan Harris Ph.D.
Date Published
183 pages
This report from the Australian Institute of Criminology examines the effectiveness of two alternative dispute resolution initiatives used in the children's court in New South Wales.
Findings from the Australian Institute of Criminology's evaluation of two alternative dispute resolution (ADR) initiatives implemented in the children's court in New South Wales (NSW) include the following: court staff and legal aid workers worked together effectively to overcome initial resistance to the programs; the majority of parents, family members, aid workers, and legal professionals who participated in the program were satisfied with the way it was run and the way they were treated by staff; and a large number of ADR conferences resulted in disputes being resolved or narrowed leading to a positive impact on the length of the conferences and time spent in the court system. This evaluation was conducted to determine the effectiveness of using ADR initiatives in care and protection proceedings in the NSW Children's Court. The report presents an overview of the two programs, a new model of the dispute resolution conference and the Legal Aid Pilot, which were implemented in NSW in February 2011 and September 2010, respectively. The evaluation looked at each programs' ability to produce better informed and more responsive child protection decisions, to foster collaborative relationships between families and the Department of Family and Community Services, to provide parties with an opportunity to agree on actions that would be in the best interests of the child, and to produce outcomes acceptable to all parties. The findings indicate the effectiveness of these initiatives at improving the outcomes for children involved in care and protection proceedings. Recommendations for improving the operation and effectiveness of these programs are discussed. Tables, figures, references, and appendixes