All families run into problems from time to time and often with the help of friends and family, things are sorted out. But sometimes a little extra help is needed and the Family Group Conference exists to help in these situations.
The conference is a meeting where you, your family and professionals (such as social worker, family support worker, GP, teacher, health visitor etc.) and a support person (who can speak for you if you don't want to) get together to work out a plan for your child/children, to make sure they are kept safe and well cared for. As part of this it will work to:
- improve family relationships
- keep a child with their family or in kinship care
- stabilise the living arrangements for children the council may be looking after
- involve the family in working out where it's best for the child to be permanently placed.
If you need help from a Family Group Conference, a coordinator will be appointed for you who will explain what will happen and be there to support you throughout the process. The conference lasts as long as is needed for a plan to be worked up. Here is what to expect.
Preparing for the Family Group Conference meeting
Ahead of the meeting your coordinator will work with you (the child's carer) and your child/young person to see who is part of your family network and needs to be involved. A convenient meeting time and place for everyone will be arranged and the coordinator will let people taking part know what to expect and how to prepare. Sometimes the coordinator can stop someone from attending if absolutely necessary – for example, if there's a possibility of violence. But anyone excluded can appeal and/or contribute in a different way.
The coordinator will also discuss with the child who their support person or advocate will be as well as arranging any other support that others in the family may need at the conference.
Finally the coordinator will also arrange for professionals directly involved or with important information, to come to the meeting with clear and accessible information on the family's strengths, their concerns, their legal standing and the resources available. Different people have different roles as part of the conference.
At the Conference meeting
The meeting is chaired by the co-ordinator and has three parts to it:
It starts with the professionals/agencies giving information they have on the child, their concerns and the help, services and resources available. The family then gives information and asks questions.
Private family time
The family is left on its own to plan in private. It will need to:
- agree a plan that meets the child/young person's needs
- agree a contingency plan
- and agree how to monitor the plan and review it.
The family can talk without the other conference members being around but the coordinator is always available if there are questions or more information is needed.
Agreeing the plan
Once the family has worked out a plan everyone else joins the meeting again to hear the details and work out the resources available. Timescales for things to happen are agreed along with who is responsible for each action and what the contingency and review arrangements are going to be.
To learn how those involved in Family Group Conferences have found them and to see examples of the situations they have been used in, visit our feedback and case studies page.
The Family Rights Group is an independent charity for families whose children are involved with or need children's services because of welfare needs or concerns. They can provide more information on the Family Group Conference.
To contact the Family Group Conference Service please email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.