Family Group Conference
Family Group Conferencing (FGC) also known as Family Group Decision Making is a process that provides families with an opportunity to bring together larger family networks—aunts, uncles, grandparents, neighbors, friends—to make important decisions that might otherwise be made by professionals. Founded in New Zealand, FGC’s re-establish the family as the driver of change. This process of engaging and empowering families to make their own decisions and plans for their family members’ well-being seems to lead to better outcomes, less conflict with professionals, more informal support and improved family functioning (Merkel-Holguin, Nixon & Burford, (2003).
As professionals, we tend to look to the end result: What do we want it to be for a client or family? Naturally we want what is best for them, and sometimes we believe we know what program would be best suited for a youngster or what type of treatment would be most helpful. The problem is that we jump right to the solution. We don’t realize that the process of making the decision might be more important and more helpful to the client and family than the decision itself.
As FGC’s have been implemented throughout the world, several different practice models have emerged. The first was the New Zealand model of family group conferencing. In Pennsylvania and elsewhere, many states and counties have embraced a similar family unity meeting model, which originated in the state of Oregon, USA. (Rush, 2006)
CSC believes the “family alone time” is the key element of an effective FGC. The “alone time” is the period during an FGC when the family group is left alone, without professionals present, to devise a plan. Family alone time is what renders family group conferencing truly restorative, in that it re-establishes the authority to make change within the family.
FGC’s are increasingly being used in multiple agencies including the juvenile and adult court systems, child welfare, and with families addressing myriad of issues related to aging parents.
In the Gang Intervention Partnership (GIP), CSC has used the FGC model to help facilitate the process in which individuals and groups reconsider their participation in gang lifestyles and consider various options for different life-styles and identity.