FREE volunteer training in Family Group Conferencing will be offered February 8-9, 2014 - REGISTER NOW!
The CDR coordinates Family Group Conferencing services for both juveniles and adults. In our Networks for Girls program we coordinate FGCs for young women who are struggling with juvenile delinquency or facing other behavioral issues. In our Regional Partnership Grant we work with Alternative Opportunities Inc. to provide family group conferencing for children with a parent in recovery. Both of these programs work to develop and strengthen a family’s support network, significantly benefiting children and their family groups, while putting the family at the center of decision-making as they create plans that fit their unique circumstances.
What is Family Group Conferencing (FGC)?
Family Group Conferencing is a practice that recognizes the role and long tradition that families have the best understanding of how to care for their members. It respectfully invites families to come together as the best possible people to make decisions on how to support each other and deal with problematic behaviors in young people.
Family Group Conferencing Family Values
- Family members should be the primary decision makers for their family
- All families have the greatest investment in seeing their children be safe and successful
- Family members know their families best
- Families should choose which relatives, friends, and providers will attend their conference. For example, you could invite anyone who supports your family or your daughter - such as a teacher, coach, counselor, minister, or family friend – not just “relatives.”
- All families have some resources and support people that they can count on to help them in times of need
- Children are best cared for in families.
- Families should be respected.
- Workers should be sensitive to the needs, culture and feelings of the family. Workers should have the best interest of the family at heart.
How is Family Group Conferencing different than other agency services?
In FGC, the family decides how they are going to address the agency’s concerns. In traditional services, the agency worker (caseworker, probation officer, school official, etc.) sometimes tells families what needs to be done, by whom, and by when, to address the concerns. Sometimes traditional services focus on what is wrong. FGC focuses on what is working in the family and uses this as a starting point toward family-identified solutions.
What is it like to volunteer to facilitate Family Group Conferences?
Volunteers with the Networks for Girls program conduct Family Group Conferences (FGCs) and receive extensive training in how to help families talk about the specific issue the FGC has been convened to address and create an "action plan" to help everyone move forward in a positive way. The meetings also work to improve communication and address conflict issues within the families. Volunteers receive training that includes the history, philosophy, and theory of FGC, family dynamics, the FGC model, and FGC facilitation skills and practice.
Volunteer FGC facilitators are assigned to cases in pairs and always work with a co-facilitator. Most volunteers will work one case each month.
When assigned a case, volunteers first meet with the core family to talk about the FGC process and explore the logistics of their family group conference. These meetings, as well as the FGC itself, may be scheduled at times that are convenient for both the parties and the facilitator, including evenings and weekends. At these meetings facilitators do the following:
- Explain the FGC process.
- Help the family make a list of relatives and friends who care about their daughter and family to invite to the Family Group Conference.
- Help choose a date, time and location for the Family Group Conference.
- Discuss with the family how they would like to welcome members.
- Prepare the family to attend the Family Group Conference, share their views, and openly listen to others.
- Help ensure that everyone is safe to participate in the meeting
- Explore if it would be helpful for the family to have any resource presenters attend their Family Group Conference to provide information as they work on their plan of action to address their daughter's problematic behaviors.
Next, facilitators contact the extended family and support people identified in the pre-meeting and explain the Family Group Conferencing process to them and prepare them to participate in the family meeting. This may take place in person or by phone.
At the Family Group Conference the following activities take place:
- Facilitators greet everyone and the family conducts an opening ritual (if they wish).
- The family members share their perceptions of the youth’s strengths and also their concerns given the current situation.
- If applicable, a casework or service provider may share information that may be useful to the family as they make their plan.
- After the information sharing part of the meeting, the family gathers together for private family time to discuss the information shared and to develop their plan to address the concerns for the youth. The facilitators wait outside of the room while the family has their private family time.
- The entire group then comes back together and the family presents their plan to the facilitators.
- The facilitators send the plan to the Center for Dispute Resolution (CDR). If the family is involved in the court system, the plan will be presented to the court.
After the conference, the family implements their plan with the support of the CDR and community.Additional family meetings can be held to celebrate successes or tweak the plan to continue to meet the needs of the children and family.
For more information on how you can become a FGC facilitator, please call 417-836-8831 or email CDR@MissouriState.edu.