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Family Group Conferencing

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What is Family Group Conferencing?

Family Group Conferencing is a culturally-sensitive, alternative approach to child protection that engages and empowers families; bringing together family group members to craft a plan of care for their children that addresses concerns identified by child welfare/children’s mental health professionals. FGC gives the extended family group (i.e., nuclear family, extended family, and friends) a voice in the decision-making process about the safety and well-being of their children.

What is Involved in a Conference?

FGC is a process whereby family group members participate in the decision-making process to plan for a child or children at risk or in need of protection.

First, the Family Group Conference Coordinator meets individually with all the family group members and the service providers invited to a conference. The Coordinator explains the conferencing process and shares information about the family strengths and the concerns identified by the child protection professionals involved with the family.

After everyone is prepared, the Conference happens.  Conferences are usually held on evenings or weekends and last approximately 5-6 hours. The conference process includes an opening ritual or ceremony; information sharing of all concerns, reports and important considerations; Family Private Time to construct a plan that addresses the child welfare concerns and ensures the future safety and well-being of the child and finally, presentation of the plan to the child welfare team. The plan is accepted if the child protection staff is assured that the child's well-being and safety needs have been addressed.

For more detailed information about the Family Group Conference process, please click here.

Why have a Family Group Conference?

An extensive research study of the Toronto FGC Project, conducted in 2004-2005, illustrated many positive outcomes of the FGC program, including:

        •  A significant reductions in involvement with child welfare;
        •  A significant reductions in the number of child welfare investigations; and
        •  High percentages (89%) of children remaining within and returning to families both immediately              and in the long-term, on average 3 years.

Ongoing program evaluation shows a high degree (over 80%) of agreement from both family members and professionals on the following statements:
        •  Family members felt safe and were free to disagree and voice their opinions.
        •  The conference process respected the family’s cultural values.
        •  The conference process helped the family group members and the professionals get along.
        •  The family group made decisions that were respected by the professionals.
        •  A clear plan for the children was developed that would protect their safety and well-being.

For further information, please contact Inshirah Hassabu at 416-622-8833 extension 255 or ihassabu@georgehull.on.ca

Emma was a 17 month old baby who had been in foster care since she was a newborn.  Both her parents loved her very much but lacked the resources and supports to care for her.  The Children’s Aid Society recognized that with the right supports, the best place for her would be with one of her parents.  A Family Group Conference was held which included family members and close friends of the parents.   Each participant offered tangible support in order to ensure Emma’s safety and wellbeing.  The Children’s Aid Society accepted the plan to return Emma to Dad’s care with a pledge of on-going support by friends and other family members and Emma went home with Dad as soon as the conference was over.   Family Group Conferencing brings to life the adage, ‘it takes a village to raise a child’.

The Toronto Family Group Conferencing Project helps 60 family groups make plans for the safety and well-being of their children.

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