South West Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures
South West Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures South West Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures

1.3.2 Family Group Conferencing

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter describes The Family Group Conference (FGC) procedure in Torbay. This is a nationally recognised process designed to assist and empower families to make decisions for their children that are safe for them and promote their best interests.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Expected Outcomes of Family Group Conferences (FGC)
  3. Key Elements of Family Group Conferences
  4. Principles
  5. Standards
  6. Relevant Legislative Guidance
  7. Indicators for Referral
  8. Allocation Prioritisation Criteria

    Appendix 1: FGC National Standards

    Appendix 2: FGC Recording Policy

    Appendix 3: Coordinator Guidance (The Torbay FGC Process)


1. Introduction

A family group conference is a decision making process led by family members (including relatives and close friends) to plan and make decisions for a child where there are concerns for their welfare. Children and young people are normally involved in their family group conference, often with support from an Advocate. It is a voluntary process and families cannot be forced to have a family group conference.

Families, including extended family members are assisted by an independent family group conference coordinator to prepare for the meeting. At the first part of the meeting, social workers and other professionals set out their concerns and advise what support could be made available. In the second part of the meeting family members meet in private time to make a plan for the child. The family is supported to carry out the plan, unless it is not safe.


2. Expected Outcomes of Family Group Conferences (FGC)

  • FGCs will promote partnership working between workers and families;
  • FGCs will actively involve the child and ensure their voice is heard as plans are made for their lives;
  • FGCs will enlist extended family help and support; and harness family energy into finding solutions;
  • FGCs may unearth a wide range of family information and expose family secrets;
  • FGCs will either show that a family can safely support their child, or will show that they can’t so that other arrangements outside of family can be made.


3. Key Elements of Family Group Conferences

  • The FGC will be facilitated by an independent coordinator;
  • The FGC will be made up of as wide a network of family members as possible including grandparents, siblings, uncles, aunts, parents, and the child, as well as family friends who may know the child but are not blood relations;
  • Children and young people will be provided with an advocate to help them take as full a role as possible in their FGC;
  • Pre-meeting preparation is KEY to success of the process and will take up most of the coordinators' and advocates time;
  • Social workers will set the agenda and safety parameters; within which the extended family group are given the opportunity to make important decisions about their children;
  • The family will have private discussion time at the FGC to produce their plans for the child.


4. Principles

  • The focus of a FGC will always be to make the safest plan for the child; with the child’s best interests being the paramount consideration;
  • The FGC plan should be agreed and resourced unless it places the child at risk of Significant Harm;
  • Children are generally best cared for within their families. Services should seek to promote this wherever safe and possible.


5. Standards


6. Relevant Legislative Guidance

“A family group conference (FGC) can be an important opportunity to engage friends and members of the wider family at an early stage of concerns about a child, either to support the parents or to provide care for the child, whether in the short or longer term. In either case, FGCs can reduce or eliminate the need for the child to become looked after. In presenting a care plan to the court in any application for a care order, the local authority will be required to demonstrate that it has considered family members and friends as potential carers at each stage of its decision making.” (Paragraph 3.8 The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations - Volume 1 (revised) 2008).

“Before reaching such a decision, (to apply for a Care or Supervision Order) the local authority should have taken such steps as are possible, perhaps through a family group conference or other family meeting, to explore whether care for the child can be safely provided by a relative or friend, have assessed the suitability of possible arrangements and have considered the most appropriate legal status of such arrangements.” (Paragraph 3.24 The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations - Volume 1 (revised) 2008).

“FGCs provide a mechanism for families to be empowered to make informed plans to keep their child safe, hence the referral should be made as soon as there is evidence that the local authority’s concerns, often identified in the context of child protection planning processes under s.47, are not being adequately addressed and further support for the parents is needed. The referral should certainly be made no later than the issue of the ‘Letter before Proceedings’ and sufficient time then needs to be allowed for the FGC to be properly convened so that the family plan can be considered by the local authority before a definite decision is made to proceed with issuing care proceedings. (Using Family Group Conferences for children who are, or may become, subject to public law proceedings: A guide for Courts, Lawyers, CAFCASS and CAFCASS CYMRU officers and Child Care Practitioners. Family Rights Group, CAFASS, Family Justice Council, October 2008).


7. Indicators for Referral

  • Referral for Family Group Conference must be considered in all cases where there is a risk of a child becoming Accommodated;
  • Referral for Family Group Conference must be considered in all cases where the progress of a Child Protection Plan is poor and care proceedings may be considered;
  • Referral for Family Group Conference, where possible, should be pro-active and made in well in advance of decisions to accommodate a child being made;
  • Referral for Family Group Conference may be considered in any child welfare circumstance where enlisting the support and help of the wider family for the child’s care and or protection would be beneficial;
  • Families can often be successfully engaged in the FGC process, irrespective of family conflict, low ability, poor co-operation, the degree of hostility in the family’s relationship with the department, or their stage of involvement in child protection or court proceedings. These are not reasons for not referring.


8. Allocation Prioritisation Criteria

  • Cases where children are at risk of becoming looked after or at risk of becoming the subject of care proceedings will receive allocation priority.


Appendices

Appendix 1: FGC National Standards

Appendix 2: FGC Recording Policy

Appendix 3: Coordinator Guidance (The Torbay FGC Process)

End