Child welfare services' family group conference

A family group conference is a family-led meeting in which a child's family and friends network come together to make a plan for the child. Family group conferences support the participation of family members and other loved ones in the life of a child or young person who is a client of family social work or child welfare services, for instance.

In a family group conference, the family and other loved ones of the child or young person come together to think about how they could support the child's or young person's growth and development. Family members and other loved ones can provide support and help for the child, which is different from what the employees in child welfare services can.

The social worker and other employees who know the child also participate in the family group conference. The employees inform the participants of the relevant details and their own possibilities to support the child, family, and loved ones.

The family group conference considers the wishes of the child or young person. The aim is to draw up a unanimous and practical plan with the child's best interests in mind.

The family group conference consists of a preparatory phase, a family group conference and a follow-up meeting.

In the event of a crisis or an emergency placement, the family group conference can be arranged quickly. In this case, we are talking about an acute negotiation meeting.

You can apply for the service with your own social worker during the service needs assessment or during your child welfare, family social work or family counselling clinic client relationship.

The service is free of charge.

Phases of the family group conference

  1. Preparation phase

    The family and the designated social worker agree on the family group conference. The agreement indicates which matters relating to the child or young person will be covered by the plan and which employees will participate in the conference.    

    The process is supported by an external convener who helps the family prepare for the family group conference and chairs the meeting. The convener maps the child’s network with the family. The family decides which loved ones they want to invite to the meeting. The family gets acquainted with the summaries prepared by the employees and decides what matters they wish to share and discuss with their loved ones.    

    An advocate from among the loved ones is appointed for the child or young person. The convener instructs the advocate on supporting the child during the family group conference.   

  2. Family group conference meeting

    The convener chairs the meeting, ensuring that everyone is equally heard.   

    The employees tell the loved ones how they have worked with the child and the family and what they hope to change in the child’s life. The employees answer questions from the child, family members and loved ones.   

    The child can bring up any wishes, concerns and fears they might have, or the advocate can do so on behalf of the child.  

    The child’s family and loved ones discuss and agree on practical solutions to better the child’s life. Together they formulate a plan that shows how the solutions will affect the child and how the child’s wishes have been considered.   

    The loved ones present the plan to the social worker and discuss it together. The social worker assesses the plan and determines how its implementation can be supported.    

    The meeting ends with agreeing on how the implementation of the plan will be monitored.  

    The duration of the meeting is not set in advance. It usually takes 3–6 hours.   

  3. Follow-up meeting

    Those participating in the family group conferences will assess how the plan worked out in practice. The plan will be changed if deemed necessary.

    There may be several follow-up meetings.

    The meeting usually lasts 2-4 hours.