Family Group Conference
A family group conference (FGC) is a family-led meeting in which the family and friends network come together to plan for a child or vulnerable adult. The process is supported by an independent coordinator who helps the family prepare for the family group conference. Children are usually involved in their own Family Group Conference (FGC), often with support from an advocate. The vulnerable adults can also get support from an advocate. It is a voluntary process and families cannot be forced into one.
Family group conferences can be used whenever a situation is sufficiently serious that a plan and decision needs to be made about a vulnerable child. They are now being used in the UK in all areas of child welfare including:
- Preventative services
- Safeguarding work including domestic abuse
- Court proceedings
- Looked after children and planning for leaving care
- Education (to address truancy and reduce exclusions)
- Anti-social behaviour and youth justice including restorative justice.
FGCs can also be used to address the needs of adult service users and their families including:
- Safeguarding work with adults including elder abuse
- Adults with learning disabilities
- Adults with mental health difficulties
- Release of prisoners from jail
- Discharge of adults from hospital
- Addressing homelessness and debt
The development of family group conferences
Family group conferences draw upon Maori culture, and their development was a response to the large number of Maori children being removed into state institutions. Family group conferences are now recognised in law in New Zealand, in fact it is a requirement that before any child can be taken into state care, a referral for a family group conference must be made.
The development of family group conferences in England began in the early 1990s, and since these are used in over 20 countries including Austria, Australia, Canada, Finland, Germany, Holland, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, the USA, and the UK.
Oxford ADR is a world leader in this field and pioneer Family Group Conference (FGC) Service not only in Bangladesh but also in South Asia. The Chairman of the organisation is a theorist and practitioner in this area since 1998.