Family Group Conferencing

Safe and Sound help vulnerable members of our society, particularly children and young people including those at risk of being taken into local authority care.

One of our programmes is our Family Group Conferences (FGC) service  – we help to deliver a process through which the child’s extended family create their own plan of how they will all come together to look after the child.

Throughout this process, the family is given full and accurate information and extensive guidance and support. Once approved by social services or the courts, the plan is enacted and monitored to ensure that the child is well cared for. So children remain cherished, safe and happy within their own extended family, rather than being entrusted to the care of strangers.

Working closely with Local Authorities and other stakeholders we are happy to answer any questions you may have. Contact the Safe & Sound Team, today on 01332 362120 or email [email protected]

About Family Group Conferencing

A Family Group Conference is a meeting of the extended family network and friends together with those working professionally and directly with the family, including a qualified coordinator who facilitates the entire FGC process. It is essentially a decision making and planning meeting which takes place to address a particular concern about one or more individuals. 

Central to the process is the empowerment of any child or young person who is vulnerable, or who may have difficulty expressing their views. This may be a child, a victim of abuse, or someone with a disability. A crucial element of Family Group Conferences is ensuring that the voice of the child/young person is heard and that they are enabled to participate fully in the process. This may be with the help of a trained advocate, or through the support of a friend or family member who will be prepared by the coordinator to help them undertake this role.

Preparation for the Family Group Conference

One of the key elements of the FGC process is the preparation period. The coordinator will visit the child/young person and the family members they wish to involve, introduce themself, explain the process, and identify and help overcome any barriers to a productive meeting. They will discuss the concerns that need to be addressed, and who should be invited to take part. The child/young person and family will be asked to consider where and when they would like the FGC to take place. They can also ask for the information they feel will help them make their decisions and plan at the FGC.

Preparation is very important and usually takes around 2 to 4 weeks. It can be quicker in extreme emergencies, but preparation must be thorough, whatever the timescale. It is also during this time that the coordinator will discuss with the child/young person if anyone needs an advocate or support person to enable their participation. If so, an appropriate person will be identified and helped to prepare for this vital task.

Underlying principles

Family Group Conferences (FGC) are based on a clear set of basic principles and beliefs that include the following:

  • Members of the extended family have intimate knowledge about their own family, including who is safe and who is not safe around vulnerable people.
  • Members of the extended family tend to have a life-long commitment to each other.
  • All committed to carrying out plans for our own welfare and for that of our family if it is us who make the decisions, rather than being expected to carry out the decisions made for us by others.
  • Good intentions are made on the basis of accurate information, and that meetings, therefore, need to have the benefit of openness, honesty, and clarity.
  • People work better together if there is a principle of mutual respect, which is an important statement of our humanity
  • We identify and work with the strengths of a family, we are more likely to achieve a good outcome.

 Click the links below for more information: 

Information for Families ↓

What is a Family Group Conference?

A family group conference is a meeting of the extended family and friends to make decisions and plans for resolving problems around a child, young person or vulnerable adult.

This may involve, for instance, support for a lone parent, families struggling with alcohol or drug abuse, domestic violence, elder abuse, offending or potential offending behaviour of a young person, or problems with school attendance or behaviour.

The Meeting is in Three Parts:

  1. 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.
  2. 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, young person or vulnerable adult. Nearly always these plans are far more creative and wide-ranging than any made by a group of professionals who do not have the intimate knowledge and lifetime commitment of grandparents, children, aunts, uncles, cousins, and close friends.
  3. 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.

The meeting is nearly always held in a neutral place, where the family wants it to happen and feels most comfortable. This can be in a community centre for instance. There are always refreshments, which indicates both the importance and significance of the meeting and is a normal and positive way in which families celebrate being together.

FGCs – What is the Process?

The process starts with the very careful preparation of everyone for the meeting. This is done by the coordinator, who will try to visit everyone to be invited and discuss what is involved. He or she will try to smooth out any problems that might deter someone from attending.

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. For instance, some cultures may wish to start with a prayer. Others may wish an elder to open the meeting. It is always held in the first language of the family and translation is provided for those who cannot understand this language.

The principles on which this process is based include the belief that any plan made by a family themselves is much more likely to be successful than one that has been imposed on them by outsiders. It helps all family members to have a voice in what happens. This includes the child, young person or vulnerable adult for whom the meeting may be held. It respects the importance and dignity of everyone.

It also brings in a whole network of people other than the immediate family to share the problem and offer solutions. These include the wider family network and also often the local community. For instance, a youth leader, local church members or someone from a local voluntary organisation may be invited by the family.

It builds on the strengths of families and communities rather than leaving individual family members to struggle on their own.

The model is based on empowering the widest possible network of extended family members and friends to participate in decision making about a member of their own family. It recognises that family members have a life-long commitment to each other, and an intimate knowledge of family history that goes back a long time. It encourages and enables family members to bring a wide range of their own resources to the meeting.

The coordinator will ensure that high-quality information is presented to the meeting for sharing and discussion. This includes information about the issue to be resolved, and also information about professional resources that are available to the family. Because the family chooses what they feel to be the most appropriate to their situation, there is a much higher chance of everyone being committed to the plan. It is difficult to be committed to a plan that has been devised by others for you to implement.

The active participation of children, young people and vulnerable adults in their own FGC are central to the model. In respect to child welfare, for instance, there is a consistently high proportion of children and young people who attend their own meetings and feel that they were heard by the adults present and treated with respect and dignity. This is in stark contrast to professionally biased meetings, such as Child Protection Conferences.

Download a Guide for Children and Young People

Download Young Person Feedback Form

Download a Guide for Family and Friends

Download Family and Friends Feedback Form

Information for Professionals ↓

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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

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 protected] 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

Download Referral Feedback Form

KYLIE’S STORY

At 15, she was sexually assaulted by an older boy who she regarded as a friend. He was given a community service order rather than a custodial sentence which devastated Kylie as she thought she had not been taken seriously.

Our Services:

Awareness

Our awareness sessions are delivered to schools, families, community groups and professionals. By raising awareness we can help prevent exploitation occurring.

One to One Support

For children or young people who are at risk of being exploited, we give them a dedicated support worker who works with them individually to address their risk factors.

Disruption & Youth Work

Complimenting our support services, our Youth Work team will introduce children and young people to positive activities like sport or music enabling them to socialise in a safe environment and build their resilience to risk.

Transition

Some children and young people who have had their risk of exploitation addressed still need further help. Our transition process provides them with life skills, mentoring and a longer period of help as they move back to normal day to day life.

Education

In partnership with the University of Derby, our Education Worker will develop new resources and offer educational sessions with a real focus on hard to reach groups and those with special educational needs or a disability. This will include a greater presence online. By improving understanding at an early stage, we can help keep the most vulnerable children and young people safe.

Family Support

Our independent family support service recognises the impact that exploitation can have on the whole family. This work helps families to understand what has happened to their child, provides them with emotional and practical help and empowers families to work with us to disrupt exploitation whilst ensuring their wider needs are met.

Outreach

Outreach enables us to engage children and young people who might otherwise struggle to access our services or don't know about the support we can offer. By being visibile in the community we can actively raise our profile with children and young people whilst also discouraging potential predators.

Training Professionals

For many years we have been keen to share our experiences and best practice ideas with other professionals working in Childrens Services and related professions

CONTACT US TODAY

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