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2.6 Family Group Conferences Statement of Purpose

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

In any decision making process in respect of children it is essential the child, and their parents are fully involved. The Family Group Conference approach to planning believes the best people to make decisions about the life of a child or young person are usually their family including their extended family and friends. They should be central to the planning and decision making about the child's life, even if the child lives elsewhere.

A Family Group Conference (FGC) seeks to help the child's family find solutions to their problems in meeting the child's needs. The decision making is done by the child and family, supported by professionals, ensuring that the power and responsibility for the child's life stays with his or her family.


Contents

  1. Key Principles
  2. What are Family Group Conferences?
  3. Why use FGC's?
  4. Aims of FGC's in Devon
  5. When can FGC's be used?
  6. When will an FGC not be appropriate?
  7. Who could an FCG be about?
  8. How are FGC's set up and run
  9. Roles and Responsibilities


1. Key Principles

  • The needs of the child are paramount;
  • Children benefit from a sense of identity, roots and belonging;
  • Decision making is done by the family, who can make plans sensitive to and reflective of their culture;
  • The FGC plan must allow the child's needs to be met safely and appropriately;
  • Professionals will accept the plan if it meets the needs of the child;
  • Agencies and families work together, in partnership;
  • Co-ordination of the conference will be done by a person outside of the child's family or professional network.


2. What are Family Group Conferences?

Family Group Conferences (FGCs) are a way of involving children and young people's family and friends in making decisions about the young person's life. Professionals contribute by providing information, expertise and knowledge of resources. FGC build on existing strengths within the family and encourage working partnerships between professionals and families.

In Devon FGC referrals can be made by the Children and Young People's Service,( CYPS) or other agencies, for children with serious safeguarding issues, those being Looked After or facing the prospect of being Looked After. It is a Level 3 service for children (See Multi Agency Threshold Descriptors Procedure) and young people. Self referrals from families will be considered. FGCs were developed in New Zealand in 1987, where they are used as part of the legal system. In the UK they have been used since 1992, increasingly successfully by many Local Authorities.


3. Why use FGCs?

International research shows outcomes improve for:

Families:

  • gain a better understanding of the agencies' concerns, available resources and options;
  • are empowered to take decisions which affect them deeply.

Children:

  • Have increased contact with members of the extended family;
  • Feel powerful and listened to;
  • Have increased stability following FGC;
  • Have improved relationships with family members.

Agencies:

  • Have improved decision making processes;
  • Have a clear agreed plan for the child;
  • Have reduced number of crises requiring intervention;
  • Increase the chances of the child staying in their family home.

National and Local Standards

The Family Rights Group and National Standards have agreed families in FGCs should:

  • Have clear appropriate information;
  • Be involved in the planning of the meeting;
  • Be acknowledged as decision makers;
  • Have private "family" time and a safe, supportive environment to make plans;
  • Have safe plans agreed and resources (wherever possible);
  • Be involved in the development of the FGC model;
  • Be respected and valued;

    And
  • Be offered FGCs wherever a child/family have significant difficulties, from prevention to crisis level;
  • That their FGCs should be taken seriously by Agencies.


4. Aims of FGCs in Devon

  • To deliver FGCs within CYPS county-wide for children with profound needs, including in need of Safeguarding, Looked After Children, those who are at risk of being Looked After or at risk of homelessness;
  • To be community based and work with local people and the social work teams that provide a service for them;
  • To offer advice, consultancy and training;
  • To set up a Family and Friends Groups to involve children, young people and families in the development of FGCs;
  • To develop a Devon FGC Steering Group that coordinates a Devon County Council wide strategy for FGCs.


5. When can FGCs be used?

When:

  • Families need support to care for their children;
  • Children are at risk of being Looked After;
  • Children are Looked After and there is a need or possibility to re-establish links with the wider family;
  • Where there are Safeguarding concerns;
  • Young people at risk of offending or re-offending;
  •   CYPS cases become long term and entrenched with little change.

There should be clear reasons why an FGC is not being considered in these circumstances. The list is not exhaustive. Generally the earlier in the planning and decision-making process the extended family can be involved, the better.


6. When will an FGC not be appropriate?

When:

  • The family is not interested;
  • CYPS or the Police in consultation with the FGC Service consider FGC is not appropriate;
  • The family is part of network, organised abuse or multi generational abuse;
  • Abuse by professional is alleged or actual.

An FGC can still take place where (an) individual(s) has been excluded by a co-ordinator


7. Who could an FGC be about?

  • A child who has difficulty at school or at home;
  • A child who has a disability or illness which leads to difficulties in care or behaviour;
  • A child whose parent(s) have significant health, mental health or substance abuse difficulties;
  • A child/young person involved in offending or anti social behaviour;
  • A young person at risk of homelessness.


8. How are FGCs set up and run?

  • Referrer makes initial enquiry to FGC Service;
  • Referrer discusses the idea of an FGC with the child and family;
  • Referral form completed;
  • Referral discussed with FGC Services;
  • Information Form for the family completed and agreed by them and the referrer;
  • Co-ordinator allocated;
  • FGC prepared by the Co-ordinator, held and if appropriate reviewed.


9. Roles and Responsibilities

Child and Family

  • Prepared and included in pre-conference arrangements;
  • Attend the FGC;
  • Develop a Plan which meets the needs of the child/young person;
  • Write up the Plan;
  • Carry out the Plan as agreed;
  • Monitor the Plan;
  • Consider any reviewing arrangements.

Co-ordinator

  • Convene the meeting;
  • Help explore the wider family network;
  • Consult with all family members;
  • Identify an advocate to support the child/young person and vulnerable adults;
  • Be aware of child safeguarding and confidentiality issues;
  • Chair the Information Giving Stage;
  • Help clarify a Plan;
  • Enable the Family to feedback the Plan.

Referrer

  • Prepare the child and family for an FGC;
  • Carry out any necessary assessments;
  • Continue with statutory duties (visits and reviews);
  • Attend the FGC;
  • Provide the FGC with clear, good quality information and knowledge of resources;
  • Be clear what their agency requires to meet child's needs;
  • Be prepared to answer the family's questions ;
  • Agree the Plan;
  • Support the family to carry out the Plan and request resources. Contribute to monitoring and reviewing.

Other Professionals

  • Carry out any assessments necessary;
  • Provide information to the meeting;
  • Support the family to carry out the Plan and request resources;
  • Contribute to monitoring and reviewing.

Managers

  • Agree to referral;
  • Assist referrer in giving clear information;
  • Ensure referrer is clear about resources;
  • Agree the Plan;
  • Supervise its implementation.

End