Family Group Conferences for Families
The CDR is pleased to train and coordinate volunteers to offer family group conferences as part of Alternative Opportunities Inc.’s Regional Partnership Grant program, which provides treatment, education, support, and other services for families in recovery.
Family group conferences bring a family together with their relatives, friends, and other supportive people in their lives to develop a plan to support the parent in recovery and ensure the safety and well-being of the children involved.
This is not counseling or mediation; instead families are empowered to create their own plans to address problems and support the parents and children taking part in the program. Coordinators (working in pairs) are responsible for preparing family members for the family group conference and guiding the family meeting in a transparent, honest, and respectful way. Family group conferencing helps 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.
About This Program
Parents who wish to receive support in their recovery efforts sign up to be a part of Alternative Opportunities Regional Partnership Grant Program. This program provides treatment, education, support, and other services for families in recovery. As a part of this program, families are assigned a Program Advocate, who assists them in coordinating the various services they receive. One of these services is a Family Group Conference, which brings a family together with their relatives, friends, and other supportive people in their lives to develop a plan to support the parent in recovery and ensure the safety and well-being of the children involved.
Steps in the Family Group Conference (FGC) Process
1. Facilitators first meet with the core family for a pre-meeting. The goal of this meeting to begin to build the family’s trust, explain the FGC progress, prepare the family to talk about the issues and come up with an action plan, and plan the logistics of the FGC. Facilitators are not there to solve the family's problems or tell them what to do. Instead, they are more like “event coordinators,” helping them plan their FGC and come up with their own ideas and solutions to problems.
2. Next, facilitators prepare the extended family and friends for the FGC. This preparation will typically take place by phone. The goal of this preparation is to ensure the extended family understands the purpose of the FGC, are prepared to talk about the issue at hand and help develop a plan of action, and to help with the logistics of the FGC itself.
3. Once everyone is prepared, the family group conference is held. Everyone present will be asked to share what they see as strengths of the family; next they will share any concerns the family and children. After this time of sharing a Program Advocate will offer information about the parent's recovery plan (which includes intensive services provided by Carol Jones/Alternative Opportunities) to help the family understand the ways in which they can support the parent in recovery and ensure the safety and well-being of the children involved. Once this is completed, the family enters "private family time" where they meet to come up with their plan to address the identified concerns and support the parent and children while the parent is in recovery.
4. After the family has created their plan, the facilitators and Program Advocate review the plan to ensure it addresses all the core concerns. When everyone agrees that the plan is complete, the FGC is concluded. The family will have the opportunity to come back together at a later date to revise the plan if necessary.
Benefits of Family Group Conferencing
FGC facilitators make it possible for families to reap the incredible benefits of these facilitated dialogues. Years of research into FGC show that the process helps to improve family communication, especially about difficult issues; engages youth, family and community partners to meet the needs of at-risk individuals; address both individual and family issues – a key component of effectively supporting parents in recovery; focuses on family strengths – helping families to realize the power they already have; and develops plans that live on well beyond the involvement of the child welfare or other agencies.
Funds for this project are provided by the Regional Partnership Grant, a federal grant funded by the Children’s Bureau.