Family Group Decision-making in Child Welfare
- Child Welfare Workers
- Child Welfare Supervisors
- Caregivers and Potential Caregivers
Targeted Age Group(s)
- 18 or older
QIC-EY Engagement Model Components (i) The engagement model components were identified through the QIC-EY Environmental Scan as critical to the support of youth engagement in the attainment of permanence.
- Engage Specialized Staff
- Support Youth Empowerment
- Prioritize Legal, Relational and Cultural Permanence
Family group decision-making (FGDM) is a process to which members of the family group are invited and are joined by members of their informal network, community groups and the child welfare agency that has become involved in the family’s life. The family members define whom they claim as their family group. Based on traditional practices in many cultures, FGDM seeks to uphold individual and collective rights. It is advanced by government reforms and global social movements seeking to rebalance the power between families and public agencies by promoting open communication and democratic decision-making.
The term “family group decision-making” was coined first by Drs. Gale Burford and Joan Pennell during the implementation of a FGDM project in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, as a way to describe a process that was similar to but slightly different from the family group conference as legislated in New Zealand. FGDM affirms the culture of the family group, recognizes a family’s spirituality, fully acknowledges the rights and abilities of the family group to make sound decisions for and with its young relatives and actively engages the community as a vital support for families.
FGDM has the potential to energize hope, to guide change and to foster healing. Through FGDM, a broad support network is developed and strengthened, significantly benefiting children and their family groups. Government, local and tribal programs also benefit by learning from and relying on the family group and community as resources that strengthen and support families in ensuring that their children have a clear sense of identity, lasting relationships, healthy supports and limits, and opportunities for learning.
In FGDM processes, an individual known as the “coordinator” is responsible for preparing for and guiding the family meeting. There are differing schools of thought worldwide about the qualifications needed by coordinators. Some communities suggest that a MSW social worker should fulfill the role of the coordinator while some communities and countries outside of the United States may use volunteers or individuals with lesser or different educational degrees or no such degrees. There is agreement that the coordinators require sufficient training, supervision, coaching and mentoring and that their training should address core skill development. A manual describes how to deliver the program, and a training is available.
Guidelines were developed by the American Humane Association and the FGDM Guidelines Committee.