Using Family Group Conferences to enable family-led decision-making

Published: 31/05/2024

How can families be supported to come together and make a plan for a child who is at risk of coming into care? One way of doing this is through a Family Group Conference.


How can families be supported to come together and make a plan for a child who is at risk of coming into care? 

One way of doing this is through a Family Group Conference (FGC) which is a family-led meeting involving family and friends making a plan for a child. The resources below are open access. They were developed following a national workshop by Sean Haresnape and Dawn Walsh from the Family Rights Group, working alongside Research in Practice.

The films

In these films, Sean and Dawn discuss the importance of genuine family-led decision-making in promoting a child’s welfare; the differences between family strengths-based meetings and the wide-ranging and long-standing evidence base around FGCs

You can find out more about FGCs on the Family Rights Group website.

Working in partnership with

The Family Group Conference process

A Family Group Conference (FGC) is a family-led decision-making process in which the family and friends network come together to make a plan for a child. The process is supported by an independent coordinator who helps the family prepare for the FGC. Children are usually involved in their own family group conference, often with support from an advocate. It is a voluntary process and families cannot be forced to have one.

The Family Group Conference process comprises four key steps. These are summarised below in a supporting graphic and Dawn describes these stages in more detail in the two videos below.

(Click image to enlarge view)

Comparing family strengths-based approaches

In this video Sean explores the degree to which different ‘strengths-based’ approaches enable families to take the lead in decision making. It sets out the fundamental differences in how genuinely the wider family is involved between family network meetings and family group conferences.

The research about family group conferences

Since the introduction of Family Group Conferences in New Zealand in the early 1990s there has been a wealth of international research concerning its effectiveness. In this video Sean discusses research findings in more detail.

Standards framework

The accreditation framework consists of seven quality standards which have been developed to assist families as well as professionals to understand what a family group conference is and what to expect if involved in one. They identify the basic requirements expected from those delivering the service.

In this video Dawn describes the seven quality standards in more detail, and they are also summarised in a supporting graphic.


(Click image to enlarge view)

Further related resources are available below.

Professional Standards

PQS:KSS - Relationships and effective direct work | Effective use of power and authority | Designing a system to support effective practice

PCF - Intervention and skills | Values and ethics