Family Group Conferences
We are committed to keeping children and young people connected to their families – and to families being central to decision making. We aim to work with relatives to gain the best outcomes for children and young people.
Having a Family Group Conference
A Family Group Conference Coordinator will contact you after a referral from your child’s social worker to the Social Connections Service. This could be:
- if a social worker is worried about a child being safe, and they want to seek the help of the wider family who may be able to provide practical and emotional support
- because a child has been in care and is returning home, or moving on to independence
- to make plans for parents to support a newborn baby
- to make plans of safety when children go missing from the family home or foster home.
An Family Group Conference is voluntary and starts with the promise that all relevant family and friends are invited to take part, especially the child or young person, if it is safe to do so. An advocate may support them to do this.
How we can help young people and families
Our video shows how we can help families.
The first half shows how Lifelong Links connects young people in care with family members.
The second part has a parent explaining how a Family Group Conference supported her to feel in control of the planning for her daughter.
Before the Family Group Conference
The preparation stage is around 30 days.
The coordinator will:
- get informed consent from those with parental responsibility to proceed
- help the family identify the important people to invite to the meeting. This goes beyond birth family and can include stepfamily, extended family, friends, and other significant relationships such as neighbours and church groups
- visit all key family members in person or call them, including the children the plan will be about
- talk to all those who will attend the meeting, both family and professional, to explain what the meeting will be like
- help the family to identify what they might want to put in their plan
- offer an advocate for someone who may not feel able to participate themselves or get views by phone, video or in written form from family members who cannot attend
- arrange the meeting including time, venue, transport, childcare, and refreshments.
Dealing with conflict
If there is conflict in your family, do not worry, the coordinator is trained to manage tension and will work with you and your family to make sure any meeting is safe.
At the Family Group Conference
The meeting has 3 stages.
- Information giving time - the relevant professionals give the family the information they need to make plans, such as their worries and what help they can offer.
- Private family time - the family network will be left alone to write the plan based on the information they have heard. If you need support to write the plan let the coordinator know.
- Agreement time - at the end of the meeting the social worker comes back to the conference to talk to the family about their plan and what the next steps will be.
During the Family Group Conference, the coordinator will:
- make sure the meeting is safe by setting clear ground rules
- ensure the child or young person is comfortable and their voice is ‘heard’ and is contained in the plan
- intervene and refocus the meeting where necessary
- maintain safety at the meeting, even if this requires adjourning or stopping the meeting completely
- make sure the family feel safe during the meeting. This might mean having separate meetings or breakout rooms where people can go if they feel cross or upset
- remain available for the family, during private family time
- help the family to present their plan, clarifying any unclear points and identify any unmet needs of the child or young person that might compromise their safety.
The family agree how the plan will be monitored and if it will need to be reviewed.
The family say who they would like the plan sent to, for example a solicitor, or a Special Guardian.
After the meeting
The coordinator will:
- circulate the plan as agreed at the Family Group Conference
- record the plan on the children's files.
The social worker will:
- help the family implement the plan as agreed at the Family Group Conference
- refer the family back to the Social Connections Service if the plan needs to be revised.
For more information:
- read our Social Connections Service leaflets
- go to the Family Rights Group website and read their advice to families about family group conferences
- talk to your social worker
- email us
- Social Connections Service South East firstname.lastname@example.org
Social Connections Service North West email@example.com.