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  1. An Overview of Family Group Decision Making

  2. Terminology • Family Group Conference or FGC (New Zealand, 1989) • Family Unity Meeting Model or FUM (Oregon, 1990) • Family Group Decision Making or FGDM (Canada, 1994) • Family Conferences (Santa Clara County, CA, 1995) • Family Decision Meetings or FDMs (Stanislaus County, CA) • Family Team Decisionmaking or Team Decisionmaking

  3. History in the Making • Family Group Conference (New Zealand, 1989) • Disproportionate number of minorities in out-of-home care • Length of time children spend in out-of-home care • Multiple placements • Minimization of governmental interventions • Family Unity Meeting Model (Oregon, 1990)

  4. Philosophies • Families want, and have the right, to protect their children. • Responsibility and commitment • Families make good decisions. • Expertise, wisdom, and power • Professionals can ensure that decisions protect children. • Check and balance system/veto power • Community agencies can support family decisions.

  5. Benefits • Strengthens Families • Harnesses family responsibility • Counters isolation • Strengthens Decisions • More informed plans • Increases family’s sense of control and buy-in • Strengthens Systems • Community ownership of child protection and safety • Mobilizes natural and community resources • Decreases professional burden and responsibility

  6. Key Elements to a Strengths­based Approach • Respects the significance of “family” to human beings. • Assumes an inner competence and logic in everyone’s behavior. • Embraces an underlying faith that all families have strengths. • Assumes that focusing on strengths will activate them as resources for problem solving.

  7. Key Elements to a Strengths­based Approach • Highlights those qualities within the family and helping system that promote health, cohesion, and growth. • Acknowledges that the family’s own constructive solutions to problems are the ones that are the most effective and lasting. • Is both an attitude or value and a way of working.

  8. Strengths of the FGC Process in Creating Solutions • Assets—acknowledgement of strengths, resources and potential. • Resilience—perseverance in using unique FGC opportunity to create solutions to identified concerns.

  9. Strengths of the FGC Process in Creating Solutions • Partnership—family and non-family meeting together to share information and demonstrate caring about a child. • Mutuality—creating an atmosphere to communicate openly and respectfully about concerns.

  10. Strengths of the FGC Process in Creating Solutions • Optimization—goal is for family to take information about concern and generate solutions based on their strengths and capacities to create a well defined and achievable plan. • Hope—recognizing individual and family strengths that foster a sense of hope about what is possible and then embracing responsibility for helping the possible become the reality.

  11. Purpose of FGDM To establish a process for families to join with relatives and friends to develop a plan to ensure that children are cared for and protected from future harm.

  12. The Players • Family Members: Nuclear and extended family members. • Children: Guidelines – age appropriate and support person. • Support Persons: Preselected persons to provide emotional support for children under 16 years, for adults who have been victims of abuse or are at-risk, and for offenders.

  13. The Players • Resource/Information Providers: Persons with information and/or resources (professionals and community agency representatives.) • Friends: Non-biological family or “fictive kin”.

  14. The Players • Coordinator: Sets up the meeting, may serve as a facilitator. • Referring Social Worker: Presents case information to the family during the Information Stage and helps the family resource their plan in the Decision Stage.

  15. Four Main Phases Referral to hold the conference Preparation and planning activities Conference Post-conference events and planning FGC Stages Introductions Information sharing Private family time Plan presentation, consideration, and acceptance FGDM Process

  16. Phase 1.Referral • When in the life of the case? • Application of screening criteria? (e.g., type of case, family issues) • Timeliness between referral and conference? • Role of the Coordinator/Public Agency worker?

  17. One Distinctive Element of FGC is Preparation Demonstrates to families the service provider’s commitment to a process that strengthens families and refocuses the primary responsibility for children back on the family where it belongs (Merkel-Holguin & Ribich, 2001).

  18. Preparation Requires a Time Commitment • Research demonstrates that both the coordinator’s ability AND the quality of preparation and planning correlate with the overall success of the conference (Maxwell & Morris, 1993; Paterson & Harvey, 1991).

  19. Preparation Requires a Time Commitment • Although the amount of time it takes to adequately prepare families for an FGC varies, available data indicate that an average of 22­35 hours per FGC is necessary to undertake the comprehensive activities in this phase (Burford & Pennell, 1995; Crow & Marsh, 1999).

  20. Why is Thorough Preparation Important? • Shows a commitment to FGC philosophy and process. • Demonstrates a commitment to a broader network of family. • Helps families recognize their own strengths and importance in the life of a child.

  21. Why is Thorough Preparation Important? • Invites families to be responsible for a child they love. • Helps families create safety in a new partnership with social service systems. • Acknowledges the richness and diversity of a family culture.

  22. Why is Thorough Preparation Important? • Mobilizes family strengths, wisdom, history, commitment, resources, and expertise to support a safe and effective family group conference. • Mobilizes the strengths of others and gains their “buy-in” into the FGDM process. • Empowers workers and others in a more participatory process to see the strengths and capacities of families.

  23. Phase 2.Key Elements of Preparation • Informed Consent • Confidentiality • Neutrality • Explain Purpose, Process and Roles • Understand Family Culture • Achieve “Buy-In” • Create a Climate of Safety

  24. Other Important Preparation Activities • Immediate safety of the child • Working with family to define “family” • Inviting participants • Involving offenders and children • Soliciting the views of those not attending • Coordinating logistics/hosting

  25. Introductions Family culture/traditions Information Sharing Various ways to facilitate this stage No professional recommendations Phase 3.The Actual FGC

  26. Private Family Deliberation Consensus if non-family members stay Allotment of time Plan Presentation, Consideration, Acceptance (Also Called Decision) Professional presence Phase 3.The Actual FGC

  27. Phase 4.Planning and Decision • The Plan • Family presents plan to the Coordinator and Referring Social Worker and other resource providers • Back-up plan • Review, flesh out, detail and resource the plan

  28. Phase 4.Planning and Decision • If referring worker cannot agree with the plan for safety reasons, ask family if they would like further “private family time” • Create Monitoring Function • Plan Acceptance • Conclude Conference

  29. Post-Conference Events • Plan Recording and Distribution • Implementation and Monitoring • Evaluation • Follow-up Meetings

  30. Reflections

  31. Group Decision Making Methods • Autocratic or Directive Style of Decision Making • Autocratic With Group Information Input • Autocratic With Group’s Review and Feedback • Individual Consultative Style • Group Consultative Style • Group Decision Style • Participative Style • Leaderless Team