Family Group Conferences (FGCs)

What is a Family Group Conference (FGCs)?

A FGC is a process led by family members to plan and make decisions for a child who is at risk. Children/young people and vulnerable adults are normally involved in their own FGC, although often with support from an advocate. It is a voluntary process and families cannot be forced to have a FGC.

FGC 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 in a number of different contexts. The FGC is a process that draws the family together with professionals, to share information and help the family draft its own plan by keeping them at the center of the process. The FGC ensure the resources and strengths within the family network are explored for the benefit for the child/young person and adult.

FGCs are more effective when used at an early stage where there are concerns about the safety and welfare of a child/young person or adult. Evidence and research suggest that FGCs have proven to be beneficial for social care and families by reducing the number of children entering state care. 

Why have a FGC?

We believe that families know more about their situation than professionals and can often make better decisions and plans for their children, young person and vulnerable adults. Our aim is to support families to find their own solutions to problems: the family members are the decision makers rather than the professionals and the ‘family’ is the primary planning group.

Some examples of FGC Referrals include support for:

  • a lone parent,
  • families struggling with substance misuse,
  • domestic violence,
  • elderly abuse,
  • young carer,
  • offending or potential offending behaviour of a young person,
  • problems with school attendance or behaviour,
  • reducing the number of children entering state care,
  • helping relatives to care for children or young people
  • contact arrangements for parents, non-resident parents or extended family members,
  • family members due to problems caused by divorce or separation
  • rehabilitation of children to the care of their family,
  • families caring for children with disabilities or complex health needs,
  • parents with terminal illnesses,
  • adults with mental health issues,
  • parent/s with a mental or physical disability
  • children and young people leaving care and a transition back home,
  • concerns around neglect

These are a few examples of where FGCs have been held. FGCs can work in any situation and circumstances. The question you need to ask yourself is “WHY have you not had a FGC?” 

FGCs – What is the process?

Before the conference

There is agreement between the family members and the referrers that a FGC should be held. An independent coordinator is then appointed who will set up the meeting and prepare the family members.

A FGC Coordinator:

  • Will meet each family member to help them prepare for the meeting
  • Decide who should be invited and when and where the meeting should take place.
  • Will support children and young people to play a central role in the meeting.

All information shared with the coordinator will remain confidential unless it poses a risk to someone.

The Meeting is in Three Parts:

Stage 1: Information giving

The worker involved will explain to the family:

  • Why they are worried about the children/young person or vulnerable adult
  • What resources and services are available to support the family.

At this stage the family may also ask for any additional information they need to help in drawing up a plan to resolve the problems.

Stage 2: Private family time

This is time for the family to talk in private so that they can:

  • discuss the information provided
  • work out and agree a plan
  • decide who will be responsible for each aspect of the plan
  • decide what support they need
  • decide how they can check the plan is working
  • come up with a back-up plan in case it is needed

Stage 3: Agreeing the plan

Once the family have agreed the plan:

  • This is then shared with the coordinator and the referrer.
  • The plan will be accepted unless it places the child/young person or adult at risk or does not address the original concerns.

After the conference

The plan will be written up by the coordinator and copies will be sent to everyone involved in implementing the plan. A review will be arranged within 12/13 weeks of the original plan. 

What If there is no agreement at the FGC?

If families cannot agree a safe plan it may be possible to hold another FGC. If this is not possible alternative ways of resolving these concerns will be made by the referrer and the coordinator. 

How can I get an FGC arranged?

You can ask your social workers, solicitor or any other organisations that you are working with or you can contact us directly.