Family Group Conference
NetCare are the leading independent training and consultancy organisation for Family Group Conference in the UK and Ireland. We are now the largest provider of accredited courses for Family Group Conference providing consultancy and training to organisations in Local Authority, the Voluntary Sector and Community since 2000 involving personnel from Child Care, Education, Community, Probation and Youth Offending.
We provide consultancy and support for organisations who want to:
Set up a new service, revamp their old, develop their referral criteria, improve practice standards or streamline their systems. We can assist in setting up your Family Group Conference Forum, strategy and steering groups.
We provide an independent and professional evaluation service to meet the organisational needs so that projects can target their resources more effectively and plan for the future needs of service users
The difference between a child protection case conference and a family group conference
If a child or young person has been identified as in need of protection, local authority Children’s Services are responsible for producing a child protection plan.
For that purpose, they will convene and run child protection case conferences, as required by the Framework for the assessment of children in need and their families (Department of Health, 20001). At these conferences, family members may attend, but the professionals are responsible for making decisions and drawing up the plan.
Family group conferences may be run alongside child protection case conferences to allow the wider family group (blood relatives as well as non-related significant family friends or neighbours) a greater input into the child protection plan.
The aim of the family group conference is to support families to find their own solutions to problems: the family members are the decision-makers rather than the professionals; the ‘family’ is the primary planning group.
Family group conferences may also be referred to as ‘family group decision making’ and they can be used in any area of family and child care practice, e.g. children in need and looked-after children, youth justice, and education.
Do family group conferences replace child protection case conferences?
Not all Children’s Services departments run or fund family group conferences as part of their child protection procedures, and they do not replace child protection case conferences.
Who organises family group conferences?
An independent coordinator (usually a professional recruited from local statutory and voluntary service communities) negotiates attendance and informs participants about the Family group conference (FGC) process. All members of the family are invited to attend, but in certain exceptional circumstances it may be necessary to exclude a family member, e.g. evidence of violent behaviour or incapacity due to mental health problems. Absent family members can input to the meetings in alternative ways, e.g. through letters or tape recordings.
Provisions made to accommodate specific needs
The coordinator has a duty to identify and address issues of race, gender and culture and to respond positively to any specific needs identified by the family. The FGC will be held in the first language of the family.
Any child or young person attending the FGC should be helped to identify a supporter, or advocate, preferably an adult from within their own social support network. The supporter may have an informal or formal role but must be a trusted adult chosen by the young person. Some FGC projects have identified problems with having an advocate from the family and have chosen instead to train independent advocates.
Who attends and what happens at the conference?
Only those professionals directly involved, or holding significant information, should attend the FGC. Information sharing takes place at the start of the meeting. The role of professionals in the FGC is to share information and knowledge about the child or young person and about services, resources and support that may be available. Families must be given the fullest information possible in order that they can make decisions that take account of professional concerns. This part of the meeting is chaired by the co-ordinator.
Unless the family request a particular professional to be present, they must then have private decision-making and planning time. At this stage of the meeting, the family must agree:
- a plan that meets the needs of the child/young person
- contingency plans needed if the original plan is unsuccessful
- how to monitor and review the plan.
The co-ordinator is available during this time if the family need clarification or further information.
Once the family have agreed on the plan and resources have been negotiated, it is passed back to the referrer, i.e. the professional who originally referred the case to the family group conferencing service.
Even if there is need for further agreement or negotiation of resources outside of the meeting, the plan should be agreed in principle by the referrer. The only reason for not agreeing the plan is if it puts the child at risk of significant harm. Timescales and responsibility for specific tasks are agreed at this point.
The outcome of the plan is dependent on the family and the professionals working together, and keeping each other informed about progress and problems.
Family Group Conference Co-ordinators Course (Accredited or non-accredited)
This FGC course has been running for over 10 years and is our most established programme. The first accredited course in FGC to run in the UK and Ireland it has become known for keeping to the true spirit and values of this process.
This course will cover:
- The value, ethos and philosophy of Family Group Conference
- Develop a working knowledge of FGCs
- Preparing for and setting up a FGC
- Managing the meeting and the process that follows;
- Recognising the complexities of family led decision-making
- Managing the complexities and conflicts in families
- Understanding the role of other professionals in the meeting
- Understanding the issues involved in supporting children’s participation
Participants are required to have a basic knowledge of the FGC model and child welfare.
Length of training: Five or three days
Course Content: Understanding Family Group Conference in the context of youth offending, the history, philosophy, changing establishment ethos, family dynamics, group work skills, introducing the concept into practice and the skills to facilitate conferences.
Materials include: A 70 page training manual and support for the first conference
To view our all our Family Group Conference training programmes click on training
Click here to view our training program
Vacancies: NetCare are constantly seeking trainers and FGC Co-ordinators to work through the UK and Ireland. If you are interested please send us a quick email
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FGC and youth offending - a YJB Evaluation