What happens before a Family Group Conference?
The child protection worker will contact the child (if old/mature enough) and their family to talk about holding the conference. The family will be offered some choice about who they would like to facilitate their conference.
Once a facilitator has been chosen they will contact the family to invite them to the conference. Other people who may be invited to the conference include support people for the child and their family, significant others, foster carers and service professionals such as teachers, social workers, counsellors and psychologists.
The facilitator may also appoint someone to act as an advocate for the child. An advocate is someone who acts on behalf of the child or young person and who is able to represent their views.
In addition, if the child or young person is a member of the Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander community, the facilitator may invite a representative from an Aboriginal organisation to attend the conference.
Child safety officers are also required to attend family group conferences.
What happens at a Family Group Conference?
The facilitator asks participants to introduce themselves and to talk about their involvement with the child, young person and/or their family. Child safety officers will clarify the nature of their concerns and outline the minimum steps that the family need to take in order to ensure that their child is safe. They will also provide the family with information about possible supports. Other professionals at the conference provide information about their involvement with the family and the potential supports they can offer. If the child is not at the conference or is not confident enough to speak, their advocate may speak for them. Family members are encouraged to ask questions. The facilitator makes sure that the family understands what safety issues or risks they are being asked to address in their plan.
The facilitator and those who are not part of the family (or close friends) will leave the room and give the family time to share ideas and come up with a plan for how they can best meet the needs of the child or young person. The child may also leave during this stage of the conference if
they are likely to become distressed. The child’s advocate may remain if this is what the child and/or their family want.
However, the family may request that the facilitator remains behind during “family time” if they are concerned about safety or need help writing their plan.
The family may take as long as they need to develop their plan.
The facilitator and child protection workers will remain close by in case the family need their assistance and/or have any further questions.
When the family is ready, the facilitator will bring the group back together to hear the family’s plan for the child. The family’s plan must be approved by either a Child Protection Manageror by the Children’s Court. The child protection workers at the conference will explain to the family who needs to approve their plan. After the conference, everyone will be sent a copy of the family’s plan. The facilitator will also give everyone who attended the conference a feedback form.
What happens after the Family Group Conference?
The family should speak to their child protection worker if they need to know what has happened to their plan after the conference.
Ideally, the family’s plan will be implemented as soon as is possible if approved by the Child Protection Manager and/or Children's Court.
Sometimes the family’s plan is only partially approved. However, those aspects of the plan that were not approved can be negotiated and/or modified so that the plan can be implemented.
The child or their family may request another family group conference if their plan is not approved at all. For more information, please click on the link below:
For more information about family group conferencing, please follow the links provided: