We believe families are able to make better decisions about their children than we as professionals can.

A Family Group Conference (FGC) is a process led by family members to plan and make decisions for their child.

FGCS’s put the children and young people at the heart of the decision making process. They are extremely effective in making safe plans for children, improving outcomes and promoting positive changes.

Taking part in a FGC is a voluntary process, and although families cannot be forced into have a FGC the process has lots of benefits.

All children with a Social Worker can access a Family Group Conference at any point.

The Family Group Conference process

Stage 1: The referral

The process starts with a referral being made directly to us, by a child’s Social Worker.

In order for a referral to be made:

  • A parent or carer with parental responsibility or a young person aged 16 or 17 years old with sufficient maturity agrees the referral and to the sharing of information

Once a referral is made, you will be allocated a co-ordinator.

The co-ordinator will help you to plan the meeting and will also chair the meeting. The co-ordinator is different to the referrer and acts as a neutral person. They will not influence any particular decision, but will help you think about the decisions that need to be made.

Stage 2: Preparation

The co-ordinator will organise the FGC in partnership with the child / young person, parents with parental responsibility and /or the immediate carers, identifying who is in the family network for the child. This can include close friends.

The co-ordinator will:

  • Discuss with the child / young person how they can be helped to participate in the conference and whether they would like a supporter or advocate at the meeting. The supporter / advocate will then meet with the child / young person in preparation for the meeting
  • Meet with members of the family network, discuss worries or concerns, including how the FGC will be conducted and will encourage them to attend
  • Liaise with the referrer and other relevant agencies to ensure family members have appropriate information about any child welfare and / or protection concerns and services that could help the child or family
  • Negotiate the date, time and venue for your FGC, send out invitations and make all of the required practical arrangements

Stage 3: The conference

There are three stages to your FGC:

Information giving

This part of the meeting is chaired by the co-ordinator. The will make sure everyone is introduced and that everyone understands the purpose of the meeting, and establish any ground rules. During this stage, service providers will give information to the family about:

  • The reason for the conference
  • Information they hold about the child and the family that will assist the family to make a plan for the child
  • Information about resources and support they are able to provide
  • Any child welfare concerns that will affect what can be agreed in the plan (e.g. that the child must not have contact with a particular person)
  • What action will be taken if the family cannot make or plan or the plan is not agreed

The child / young person and family members may also provide information, ask for clarification or raise questions.

Private family time

During this part of the FGC, only family members will be present to talk and come up with a plan that addresses the concerns raised – there is no need to hurry as you decide on the best solution.

Plan and agreement

When you have made a plan, the referrer and the co-ordinator will meet with you to discuss and agree the plan, including any resources.

It is the referrer’s responsibility to agree the plan, it is very important that this happens on the day of your FGC. Any reasons for not accepting the plan will be made immediately, and you will be given the opportunity to respond to the concerns and change or add to the plan.

It is important at this stage to ensure that the children involved have a clear understanding of what has been decided and that their views are understood.

During this stage contingency plans, monitoring agreements and how to review the plan will be agreed.

The co-ordinator will distribute the plan to the family members involved and to the social worker and other relevant professionals.

It is really important that everyone involved in your FGC implements their parts of the plan within the agreed timescales and communicate and address any problems that arise.