Family Group Conference

A Family Group Conference (FGC) is a mediated formal meeting between family members and other officials such as social workers and police in regard to the care and protection of the child who is being monitored by child protective services.

The Family Group Conference (FGC) is where the whole family and extended family members help make decisions about the best way to support the family and take care of their child. It is a formal meeting in which the family of the child and professional practitioners closely work together to make a decision that best meet the needs of the child. The process has multiple stages. At the initial meeting  professionals inform the family of the concerns they have, followed by private family time, where the family works alone to develop a plan to address the concerns that have been raised. The plan is then presented to the professionals who should support it if the concerns have been addressed and it does not put the child at risk. The meetings are facilitated and coordinated by people independent of casework decisions in the agency working with the family.

The Model: A Family Group Conference is a structured decision-making meeting made up of ‘family’ members. ‘Family’ is determined broadly, to include the children, parents, extended family and even significant friends and neighbors to the family who may not actually be blood related. This group of people are given ‘private’ time to reach a plan to facilitate the safe care and protection of a child or children in need. The professional is involved in information giving at the beginning of the process and in the assessment of the plan following a decision. All professionals are excluded from the private time, which is attended by family members only. 

Principles

The principles that underpin the Family Group Conference process are:

  • The child’s interests are paramount.
  • The child should have the option for his/her voice to be heard.
  • The child’s views, feelings and solutions are as valid as the adults participating in the process.
  • Children are generally best looked after within their families. Services should seek to promote this wherever possible.
  • Working in partnership with families is beneficial for children.
  • Families have the ability to make rational and sound decisions about their future and the future of the children involved.
  • Given the right environment and the correct information, families instinctively know what is best for the children.
Key Elements: There are five defining features of the Family Group Conference process:
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The Family Group Conference is the primary decision-making forum for the child.
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The Family Group Conference is made up of as wide a network of family members as possible including grandparents, siblings, uncles, aunts, parents, child, family friends who may know the child but are not blood relations.

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An independent coordinator facilitates the involvement of the child, family network and professionals in the Family Group Conference process.

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The family should always have private time at the Family Group Conference to produce their plans for the child or young person.
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The Family Group Conference plan should be agreed and resourced unless it places the child at risk of significant harm.

Target Population Services must be provided to any child and family referred to Windwood Family Services by services authorized by SCDSS. Clients are eligible for a Family Group Conference without regard to income. These services shall be provided to DSS clients whose children are in substitute care or have the potential of being placed in sub-care.

To learn more about this program contact Debbie Hanna at Debbie.Hanna@windwoodfarm.org or (843)737-3136

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