A Restorative Approach to Family Violence : Feminist Kin-Making book cover
1st Edition

A Restorative Approach to Family Violence
Feminist Kin-Making

ISBN 9780367612665
Published July 8, 2022 by Routledge
150 Pages

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Book Description

A Restorative Approach to Family Violence looks back at an early and successful demonstration of a family and culturally based model to stop severe family violence. This conferencing model, called family group decision making, was applied by three diverse Canadian communities—Inuit, rural, and urban—to the benefit of child and adult family members. Narrative inquiry identifies how engaging the family and relatives resets the narrative from misrecognition to recognition of their competence and caring.

Family violence poses some of the most long-term and controversial questions in restorative justice. Should we use a restorative approach to stop gendered and intergenerational harm? Or will bringing together those who have been harmed, those causing harm, and their supporters only incite more violence? Underlying these questions is a profound distrust of families and their cultural networks. This distrust has stalled turning away from carceral interventions that particularly harm minoritized communities.

Moving forward in time, the volume identifies blocks to trusting families and their cultural networks and means of circumventing these blocks. The book offers a theory of feminist kin-making to comprehend the restorative process and gives practical guidance to restorative participants, practitioners, policy makers, and researchers.

Table of Contents

1. A Restorative Approach—Narrative Threads

2. FGDM Example—A Newfoundland Story

3. FGDM Project Planning—Local Organizing, Emergent Responsive Regulation

4. FGDM Conferencing—Resetting Narrative, Revitalizing Culture

5. Concluding Possibilities—Cascading Trust in Families and Cultural Networks

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Joan Pennell is Professor Emerita of Social Work and founding director of the Center for Family and Community Engagement at North Carolina State University. Before her return to the United States, she was principal investigator (with Dr. Gale Burford) of the Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, demonstration of family group decision making in situations of child maltreatment and domestic violence. In the US, she has conducted research on family group conferencing and other forms of engaging families in decision-making. She has a long-term commitment to the movements for gender, racial, and economic justice.


"This important and beautifully written book narrates a history of brave innovation confronting family violence at its roots in Newfoundland and Labrador. It empowered First Peoples and First Nations to innovate in ways that allow us all to learn from their wisdom, and from histories of our colonial suppression of that wisdom. Evocative theoretical themes include feminist kin-making that moves patriarchal family structures from taking to tending. Joan Pennell draws upon deep wells of feminist activism in the shelter movement. She is an inspiring visionary, returning social work to its Hull House origins of doing with, away from doing for, from doing to."

John Braithwaite, University of Maryland and Australian National University; Distinguished Professor Emeritus, School of Regulation and Global Governance (RegNet)

"A Restorative Approach to Family Violence: Feminist Kin-making provides strong evidence for how, among other things, resetting externally imposed cultural narratives and re-centering the value of kinship ties are necessary steps towards addressing family violence. These steps may potentially change how child welfare systems engage with communities in which solutions can most effectively be found within their cultural roots."

Kwesi Brookins, Professor of Psychology and Africana Studies, North Carolina State University; Director, Center for Family and Community Engagement

"In this fantastic book, Professor Joan Pennell offers an exciting theoretical re-framing of the well-known Newfoundland and Labrador FGDM project led by Professor Gale Burford and her in the 1990s. The passage of time allows the author to reflect back and to add rich, multi-dimensional and state-of-the-art layers of theory to the program, which was ahead of its time when implemented. The book is a "Must read" for anyone working in the field of family violence, child protection and restorative justice: The "mother" of family group decision making re-organizes the building blocks of the project’s long-lasting success, and constructs a new framework that combines feminist, intergenerational, relational, cultural-sensitive and regulatory theories together. With this new framework, the strengths of the restorative justice approach become even more apparent; the development of new programs becomes more structured; and the evaluation of operating programs can be far more robust."

Tali Gal, Head, School of Criminology, University of Haifa, Israel

"In this valuable and timely book, Joan Pennell persuasively addresses one of the dilemmas confronting the modern development and application of restorative practices—family violence. Among RJ practitioners, the application of restorative values, principles, and practices to family violence has been thought to be very risky. It was feared that it might result in revictimization by those responsible due to power imbalances, subtle communication cues, and later retaliation. Based on an early demonstration project by Gale Burford and Joan, this book demonstrates that while careful preparation and coordination are necessary to decrease the odds of additional harm, Family Group Decision Making rooted in restorative practices may be uniquely suited to help families heal the harms, change attitudes and behaviors, and allow respectful relationships to be reestablished."  

Michael J. Gilbert, Professor Emeritus of Criminology & Criminal Justice, University of Texas at San Antonio; Executive Director, National Association of Community and Restorative Justice

"This important book is written by one of the key developers of our practice and thinking around restorative approaches to family violence. It draws on both contemporary research and the author’s reflections on the trail-blazing use of restorative approaches in Canada in the 1990s. Characteristically, the book does not duck the challenges of family violence but is founded in a feminist kinship approach that carries hope and belief in families’ and communities’ abilities to address it, with the right support. The book also brings an important focus on the centrality of narratives to this work—the importance of questioning narratives which create stereotypes that disempower families and communities, and the revolutionary power of personal narratives as a means of grasping agency and making meaning from experience."

Robin Sen, Lecturer, Social Work, University of Edinburgh, Scotland; Editor, Practice: Social Work in Action

"Joan Pennell pioneered Family Group Conferencing. She has envisioned and evaluated countless innovations in family and child welfare. The book is about human connection. It interweaves the perspectives of kin-making, restorative principles, cultural world-views, feminism, movements harmful to families such as mass incarceration, masculinities, resilience, and trust. Within this context, Joan critiques and envisions new directions for nurturing troubled relationships. The reader comes away with a newfound respect for humble listening, faith in the power of people and families, and revitalized hope for a hybrid of allies."

Mary P. Koss, Regent’s Professor of Public Health, Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health at the University of Arizona, USA

"In reflecting on her thirty years of experience with Family Group Decision Making, the revolutionary approach to family violence that she helped to create in Canada and the U.S., Pennell demonstrates why this culturally- and family-based restorative justice process is uniquely suited to respond to the needs of families with a history of violence. Pennell brings her characteristic thoughtful analysis to the critical question of how to support anti-violence in families who have suffered ongoing colonial, racial, and economic injustice. This is a must-read for child welfare reformers, feminist anti-violence advocates, community organizers, restorative justice supporters – and all who are concerned with building a peaceful and just world."

Professor Donna Coker, Dean's Distinguished Scholar, University of Miami School of Law, Florida, USA

This new book arrives at a time when calls for change have reached a crescendo with voices from families and professionals in agreement that our current adversarial responses are not serving families who experience violence well. Many families report experiences of harm when interacting with systems rooted in colonial and patriarchal values. A Restorative Approach to Family Violence: Feminist Kin-Making charts new paths that can help us move towards human and family-centered responses of care defined by feminist and relational approaches and the recognition that families can take steps to heal and that these steps impact this generation and those to come.

Nancy Ross, PhD, RSW, Assistant Professor, School of Social Work, Dalhousie University, K’jipuktuk Halifax, Nova Scotia and Principle Investigator of a research project funded by Justice Canada titled Trauma and violence-informed and family-centered responses to intimate partner violence: Charting a new course for Nova Scotia