This chapter was added to the manual in September 2022.
1. What is a Family Group Conference?
A Family Group Conference (FGC) is a family decision making and planning process, arranged and facilitated by an Independent Co-ordinator. It is a voluntary process and families must agree to the referral and commit to making changes before the referral can proceed.
They are based on the principles of partnership and are a means of engaging and empowering families. They are designed to promote extended family ownership of problem-solving and planning in the best interests of their children, within a professionally supportive framework. The process makes use of the family’s strengths and resources and seeks to respect each family’s own culture and values to devise and implement plans that support the care, protection, and well-being of the child.
The Meeting is in Three Parts
- The first part is chaired by the coordinator who welcomes everyone and asks the professional people to share their information. The family can ask questions and discuss the situation with them;
- Then the family is left by itself for the most important part of the meeting, the private family time when it will make a plan to help the child. The meeting is held in a neutral place, where the family wants it to happen and feels most comfortable. The process is very sensitive to the diverse nature of families. It is always in the first language of the family and takes place according to the particular wishes of the family translation is provided for those who cannot understand this language;
- The third part of the meeting is when everyone comes back together to agree on the plan and formalise the commitment to it. Nearly all plans are agreed by everyone at this stage. The family arranges a time to meet again and assess how well the plan is going and any changes that may need to be made.
Aims and objectives
- To explore alternative care arrangements within the family, enabling children to remain in their family network where safe to do so, with the aim of building long term supportive networks around families;
- To improve families resilience and decrease dependency on public services;
- To ensure the child’s views are heard in ways appropriate to their age and understanding;
- To ensure that care proceedings are not initiated without consideration being given to the appropriateness of convening an FGC;
- To provide a flexible, accessible, effective, and culturally sensitive service.
2. Referral Criteria
The service is targeted towards children, young people (aged 0-18) and their families. FGCs are not an emergency response. They are a planned process and the recommendation for a Family Group Conference should be made following an assessment of the case. The professionals involved should be clear about the desired outcomes and what options are not acceptable.
The service accepts referrals for:
- Children who have been taken into care on an emergency basis;
- Children for whom Public Law Outline Processes have been instigated;
- When the child protection conference or core group meeting has decided to ask the family to have a Family Group Conference to help develop the child protection plan.
For all cases, it is expected that families will be assessed as being likely to understand and engage with the Family Group Conference procedures and methods. The meeting is a key decision-making forum, alongside any legal or statutory requirements.
The FGC is accessible to family, family is defined to include the child, parents, extended family and significant others – including friends, neighbours and community support networks who may know the child but are not blood relations. The family’s plan should always be accepted unless it places a child at risk of significant harm or does not meet legal requirements.
3. Referral Process for Family Group Conferences
If a family meet the referral criteria and an FGC referral is considered to be appropriate, the family should have the process fully explained and be provided with information leaflets. The family must fully understand the process they are considering.
- The social worker should complete the referral for FGC in consultation with the family;
- The referral form should be sent to email@example.com to be screened, where the criteria are meet the referral will be sent to safe and sound;
- Upon receipt of the request, the FGC co-ordinator will contact the social worker to make further necessary arrangements.
The FGC coordinator is Katie Turner.
Tel: 01332 362120
Mobile: 07719 018264