Family Conferencing: Responsibility at Grassroots Level – A Comparative Analysis between the Netherlands and South Africa




Family group conference, family group plan, children's court proceedings, child justice system, child protection, care of the elderly; family problems, divorce, domestic violence, bullying, addiction, ; neighbourhood problems, social network, problem-solving, mediation, restorative justice, independent coordinator/facilitator, mediator


As family group conferencing is gaining world-wide recognition as an alternative dispute resolution process, this article aims to outline the origin and relevance of this process, which promotes solution-finding to family problems by the family themselves and/or the social network and usually results in a plan or agreement that will be implemented collaboratively by the people involved. Although it was originally used in child protection matters, the process is now used for a wide range of problems pertaining to families and individual family members, including divorce matters, the illness or death of a family member, the care of the elderly, family financial problems, bullying, addiction cases, domestic violence and child justice matters. The process is also suitable for application in problems concerning any group, neighbourhood or school. Next, the application of family group conferencing in both the Netherlands and South Africa is first examined and then briefly compared. It appears that family group conferencing through Eigen Kracht in the Netherlands is an established practice which consists of a relatively simple and quick process and yields positive results for families/communities experiencing problems. Recently the Dutch Youth Act of 2015 (Jeugdwet) made legislative provision inter alia for a family group plan to be drafted by parents, in conjunction with next-of-kin or others who are part of the social environment of a youth/juvenile person. On the other hand, although extensive legislative provision is made for family group conferencing by the Children's Act 38 of 2005 in children's court proceedings and by the Child Justice Act 75 of 2008 in the child justice system in South Africa, the process has not yet reached its potential in terms of the implementation of the concept. Lastly, some recommendations are made which mainly aim to contribute to the implementation of the concept in South Africa, in that the model will eventually be fully developed and utilised for the benefit of individuals, children, their families and/or social network.



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Author Biography

Madelene De Jong, University of Limpopo

Prof/Dr Madelene (Leentjie) de Jong completed her BLC degree in 1984 and her LLB degree in 1986 at the University of Pretoria. She started her working career in Pretoria in 1987 as a candidate attorney at Couzyn, Hertzog & Horak Inc. After her admission as an attorney of the High Court of South Africa, she joined Du Plessis & Eksteen, where she practised as an attorney from 1989 to 1990. She joined Unisa in 1991 as a lecturer in Family Law in the Department of Private Law. She was promoted to a senior lectureship in 1994, an associate professorship in 2004 and a full professorship in 2008. She retired from Unisa at the end of 2019 and is now a full-time mediator, parenting coordinator and divorce liquidator. She was also appointed as a research associate in the School of Law at the University of Limpopo at the end of 2020.

In 2003 she obtained her LLD degree from Unisa on the strength of a thesis entitled “Divorce mediation in South Africa – a comparative study”. She is the co-author of four books and has published many articles on family law and, more specifically, matrimonial property law upon divorce, maintenance matters, divorce or family mediation, family arbitration and parenting coordination in various legal journals. In 2008 and 2013 she received the Hugo de Groot prize for the best short contribution to the Journal of Contemporary Roman Dutch Law and in 2018 she received the Hugo de Groot prize for the best article in this journal. Prof De Jong is a C1 NRF rated researcher.

She has delivered papers at various national and international conferences, mainly on alternative family dispute resolution, matrimonial property law and maintenance matters.

Dr de Jong is accredited as a divorce and family mediator and a parenting coordinator by the South African Association of Mediators (SAAM). She has been practising as a part-time family mediator since 2004.

She is presently serving on the advisory committee of the South African Law Reform Commission’s Project 100D (Family Dispute Resolution: Care of and Contact with Children) and acting as project leader of the advisory committee of the South African Law Reform Commission’s Project 100B (Review of the Maintenance Act 99 of 1998).

She is also serving on the Board of Management of Child Welfare Tshwane and the Board of Management of SAAM.




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Case law

B v B 2012 ZASCA 151 (28 September 2012)

HG v CG 2010 3 SA 352 (ECP)


Amendement Voordewind of the Tweede Kamer der Staten-Generaal, 2010-2011

Child Justice Act 75 of 2008

Children's Act 38 of 2005

Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act, 1989

Dutch Civil Code (Burgerlijk Wetboek)

Dutch Code of Civil Procedure (Wetboek van Burgerlijke Rechtsvordering)

Promotion of Access to Information Act 2 of 2000

Youth Act, 2015 (Jeugdwet)

Youth Care Act, 2004 (Wet op de Jeugdzorg)

Government publications

GN R250 in GG 33067 of 31 March 2010

GN 992 in GG 43709 of 11 September 2020

International instruments

Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989)

Internet sources

Eigen Kracht Centrale 2011 Werken met Eigen Kracht-conferenties – Eigen Kracht-coördinator: iets voor u?

/02/2011_Eigen-Kracht-coordinator-Iets-voor-U-digifolder.pdf accessed 12 September 2020

Eigen Kracht Centrale 2020 Wij gaan voor Samenredzaamheid accessed 6 November 2020

Nederlands Jeugdinstituut 2017 Factsheet: Het Familigroepsplan accessed 12 September 2020



How to Cite

Spijker, A., & De Jong, M. (2021). Family Conferencing: Responsibility at Grassroots Level – A Comparative Analysis between the Netherlands and South Africa. Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal, 24, 1–32.