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2.4 Family Group Conference

This chapter was added to the manual in July 2016.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Purpose, Values and Philosophy of the Service
  3. Criteria for Family Group Conferences
  4. Referral Process
  5. Family Group Conference
  6. Roles and Responsibilities
  7. Family Group Conference Plans and Child Protection Plans
  8. Family Group Conference and Accommodation Panels
  9. Closure of Family Group Conference Service Involvement
  10. Evaluation


1. Introduction

Family Group Conference were first introduced to the UK during the 1990s and are increasingly viewed as a highly effective means for empowering families to resolve and find solutions to their difficulties by utilising support available from extended family members and close friends. The concept of family is seen in its broadest sense, including non-related significant friends and neighbours.

At a Family Group Conference it is the family who make a plan to meet the needs of a child or young person, having been informed of the department’s concerns and issues that need to be addressed; information about available resources and the parameters of the conference. The role of the professional agency or agencies is to facilitate this process.

In Nottinghamshire, Family Group Conferences will be delivered by the Family Service. Facilitators will be Unit Leaders, Complex Case Managers or Community Social Workers.

The meetings can be held when concerns have been expressed for a child’s welfare or where a child’s relationship with parents/carers is at risk of breaking down.


2. Purpose, Values and Philosophy of the Service

The commissioned Family Group Conference provision will help to maintain children/young people within their birth or extended family, thereby potentially preventing them from entering public care.

Family Group Conference will help the department to fulfil its responsibilities in relation to the Public Law Outline by giving due regard to facilitating a Family Group Conference, prior to care proceedings.

Philosophy

Children and young people are usually best cared for within their birth or extended families and family group conferences will help to facilitate any transitional arrangements.

Values

  • Children and Young people’s welfare is paramount;
  • Commitment to equality of opportunity and inclusion for all;
  • Commitment to raising aspirations of all young people;
  • In principle the Facilitator should reflect the race and culture of the family;
  • The process is undertaken in the family’s first language and where necessary the professionals use interpreters;
  • The service needs to be flexible about when and where meetings happen to fit with the needs of the family.


3. Criteria for Family Group Conferences

  1. The family and child agree to participate in the meeting;
  2. PLO cases take priority as part of our legal obligations;
  3. Any child where there is a high risk of family breakdown;
  4. Any case where there are Child Protection concerns and legal proceedings are being considered;
  5. Cases where there is risk of kinship care placements breaking down;
  6. To help exit a child or young person from public care;
  7. A Child and Family Assessment of the child’s needs will need to be initiated;
  8. Where increased family contact may improve the child’s well being;
  9. Social work staff and managers are willing to put time and resources into the Family Group Meeting process.

Not all cases are appropriate for Family Group Conference, such as cases of children and young people remanded to LA care and Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children, given their nature and urgent need for accommodation.


4. Referral Process

The referring social workers/case managers should complete the “intervention” referral episode on Mosaicn. This should be done with the family’s agreement, as the success in facilitating FGCs depends on the family’s commitment and engagement.

The referrer will normally be contacted within 7 working days of receipt of the referral by the Family Service to arrange a meeting/or discuss the issues and concerns and potential family members/significant others to contact as part of the family’s network.


5. Family Group Conference

There are three distinct stages to a Family Group Conference, following the individual preparation conversations with family members:

The Facilitator and any key profession involved restate the purpose of the meeting and process then leave. This should entail a brief report (1 page) by the Social Worker or Case Manager outlining the reasons for the department’s involvement and the causes of concerns. It should include information about what action will be taken should the family plan not address the areas of concern. Information about available resources should also be provided at this stage.

The Facilitator and professionals leave the meeting, but remain available to the family to answer any questions. The family members have some private time to address the issues identified and devise an agreed plan that includes contingencies and arrangements for the family to monitor and review the plan. The family should be allowed to take their time in devising their plan and time for breaks should be allowed.

When the family have devised their plan, they invite the Facilitator and professionals back and present their plan. Issues regarding resources and input required to support the plan are also discussed and the Facilitator ensures the plan sufficiently addresses the concerns, includes contingencies, monitoring and review arrangements. The family plan will be accepted providing it does not jeopardise the child or young person’s welfare.

The Facilitator, family and social worker/case manager will meet to review the plan after an agreed period, but within 12 weeks and should be reviewed at least once. The Review FGC reviews the decisions of the initial FGC and provides the participants with an update of the family’s current situation in relation to the child/young person. Any changes to the family plan arising from the Review FGC will be accepted providing they ensure the child young person’s safety.


6. Roles and Responsibilities

The role of the Social Worker or Case Manager is to:

  1. To carry out all relevant duties as appropriate to the nature of the case;
  2. To initially prepare the family for the possibility of an FGC;
  3. To promote the benefits of FGC and provide information leaflet;
  4. To complete the FGC referral form and include any relevant assessment completed;
  5. To ensure effective communication with the FGC Facilitator, particularly during the preparation period;
  6. To record on Mosaic case notes that a FGC has been commissioned and all subsequent liaison with the Family Service;
  7. To ensure the family’s plan is uploaded on Mosaic documents and referenced in case notes;
  8. To write a brief, jargon-free report, for the ‘information giving’ stage of the conference, which includes the needs of the child/young person, and the Department’s non-negotiable position to share with the family members and FGC participants;
  9. To attend the FGC and be clear about what the Department will do if no changes are made, when this will happen;
  10. To provide information about resources available and the likelihood of accessing them;
  11. To agree the plan (with line management) and advise the family of validation, ensuring that decisions, recommendations and plans from the FGC meet the care and protection needs of the child/young person;
  12. To monitor the plan and attend any review meetings;
  13. To contribute to the evaluation of the conference;
  14. Arrange a translator, as appropriate;
  15. To arrange crèche facilities, if require;
  16. To arrange an advocate for the child or young person;
  17. To identify advocacy for the child/young person and other vulnerable family members.

The role of Managers is essentially:

  1. To agree and support referral at an appropriate decision making stage;
  2. To assist the referrer to be clear about the Department’s non-negotiable position, and make this a clear statement to the FGC;
  3. To ensure referrer is clear about resources;
  4. To support the referrer through processes, including attendance at FGC with the social worker, if deemed appropriate and agreement with family;
  5. To agree the plan;
  6. To ensure implementation through supervision;
  7. To provide accountability.

The role of the Family is to:

  1. To attend the FGC – to be prepared to look at what needs to be different to meet the needs of the child/young person;
  2. To develop a plan that addresses the concerns and meets the needs of the child/young person;
  3. To write up the plan (with the assistance of the Facilitator if they choose);
  4. To make monitoring arrangements to check if the plan is working;
  5. To consider arrangements for reviewing the plan;
  6. To carry out the plan as agreed;
  7. To contribute to the evaluation of the conference.

The role of Foster Carer/Residential Carer is to:

  1. To positively support the child/young person throughout the process;
  2. To remain focused on the needs for the child/young person in helping him or her to prepare for the FGC;
  3. To assist the child/young person to be clear of his or her views, and how to express these for the FGC;
  4. To be available if requested to support the child/young person at the FGC (this will usually mean being available to the child/young person if they leave the private family time);
  5. To contribute to the evaluation of the conference.

The role of other professionals is to:

  1. To provide information to FGC – either verbally or in a clear jargon-free report, as agreed with the Facilitator;
  2. To take part in the information giving stage, if needed;
  3. To provide services within the plan;
  4. To carry out or contribute to assessments as necessary;
  5. To contribute to the evaluation of the conference.

The role of the child or young person’s advocate is to:

  1. To help prepare the child for the conference;
  2. To support the child or young person’s participation in the FGC process and meeting;
  3. To promote the child or young person’s views during the conference;
  4. To ensure the child or young person has an opportunity to have ‘timeout’ should he/she wish;
  5. To ensure the FGC provides a safe forum and the language and behaviour of participants does not adversely impact on the child or young person;
  6. To ensure the child or young person understands what decisions are being made at the FGC;
  7. To ensure the child or young person understands the arrangements for monitoring and reviewing the family’s plan;
  8. To contribute to the evaluation of the conference.

The role of the Facilitator is to:

  1. To ensure referrals are acted on promptly and that the family are well informed at the preparation stage about why the FGC is being held;
  2. To prepare all participants for the FGC, prior to the day (usually by telephone);
  3. To book the venue for the FGC, arrange refreshments and any transport arrangements required;
  4. To ensure children/young people with disabilities or additional needs are communicated with in a manner that allows their full participation;
  5. To inform the referrer of the participants of the FGC at least 5 days prior to the FGC;
  6. To convene the meeting;
  7. To share the social workers report with the extended family network after contents have been agreed with the child/young person and the adults with Parental Responsibility);
  8. To explore the wider family network;
  9. To ensure family members have clear information from professionals;
  10. To keep all participants focused on the issues and purpose of the FGC;
  11. To chair the information giving stage;
  12. To ensure the child/young person’s wishes and feelings are heard at the FGC;
  13. To help clarify the plan;
  14. To pass the plan to the social worker and other family members;
  15. To pass back to the referring practitioner identified child protection issues for decision/clarification;
  16. To ensure a typed record of the family’s plan is distributed within 7 working days of the FGC;
  17. To ensure a review date is set with the participants within 12 weeks of the FGC;
  18. To ensure an evaluation of the conference is completed;
  19. To provide a completed evaluation to the social worker.

The above is a broad outline of the roles of the people involved and should not be viewed as an exhaustive list. The Facilitator has the right to exclude individuals if absolutely necessary. The grounds for doing so should be explicitly stated, although the family member should have the right to contribute in a different manner, such as outside the conference/meeting.


7. Family Group Conference Plans and Child Protection Plans

FGC Plans do not replace any Child Protection Plan that the child or young person may have, rather the family will need to give due regard to the Child Protection Plan when devising their own plan. The core group responsible for implementing the Child Protection Plan will need to be aware of the family’s plan and may have a role in monitoring the family’s plan.


8. Family Group Conference and Accommodation Panels

In cases where there is imminent risk of a child or young person needing to be accommodated, then the accommodation panel should continue to be followed and it may mean an FGC is recommended to take place as a result.

In some cases, where we are able to plan more effectively, a FGC should take place prior to an accommodation panel but this does not preclude the need for an accommodation panel in the future, should imminent risk arise for a child or young person needing to be accommodated.


9. Closure of Family Group Conference Service Involvement

Involvement of the facilitator will end after the first review but further cycles may be commissioned by the Social Worker/Case Manager when necessary. It is the responsibility of the family’s social worker, case manager or core group, if the child or young person is subject to a protection plan, to monitor a family’s plan and to work with the family to ensure that the plan remains effective.

A re-referral to the FGC Service can be made in situations where a family have had previous FGC Service involvement and their case is closed to the FGC Service. This should only be done in circumstances where the family are fully committed to the process and there is likelihood of success, borne out from an assessment rather than as a further means of offering FGC service as an additional resource for its own sake. FGC are a significant resource commitment for SCH and re-referrals within a 12 months period will need the agreement of the Children’s Service Manager.


10. Evaluation

All cases referred for a FGC should be evaluated as a means to gauge the impact of the FGC in achieving positive outcomes for children and young people. The Family Service will be responsible for completing the evaluation, but departmental staff have a responsibility for contributing to the evaluation which will help to ensure an effective service is being provided.

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