We Stand Together(3)

Innovative practice from Down Under: Family Group Conferencing

COFACE Families Europe attended a Brussels-based workshop organised but the Gironde Departmental Council, Family Rights Group (United Kingdom), Tulip Foundation (Bulgaria) and City of Stuttgart (Germany), in the framework of the ERASMUS+ project “European exchanges on Family Group Conferencing”. The project and the workshop aimed at promoting an innovative practice addressing children and families, called the Family Group Conferencing method (FGC).

FGC is a method of supporting families experiencing social difficulties. It originated in New Zealand, under the inspiration of the Maori culture, and was imported in Europe about 15 years ago. It has proven positive impacts, but for the moment it is relatively unknown and used disparately throughout the region.

Speakers shared their experience with FGC in different contexts, including the national level with in the UK that uses and promotes FGC since the 90ties, the departmental level in Gironde, the city level in Stuttgart, and the use of this methodology with Roma children in Bulgaria. Research and experience show that FGC helps produce positive outcomes for children and young people by keeping them within their family or community.

FGC is a voluntary project which empowers family members and communities, recognises their rights and responsibilities to make decisions about their children and provides them a framework to exercise this responsibility. The family makes the plan to meet the needs of the child/young person, after first being told what concerns and issues a plan will need to address, what resources are available and what will happen if the current situation does not change. It is a means by which the local authority and a family can work together to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people.

The FGC meetings are based on the belief that families can usually find their own solutions to their difficulties and that children and young people have a right to have their families involved in their future planning. FGC’s recognise strengths within the family and it is a method of maximising its resources. Feedback from children and young people and extended family members who have attended FGC’s has shown that they find them a far better way of getting their wishes and feelings heard.

FGC is especially used to limit the placement of children but can also be adapted to any public and regardless of the problematic: intra-family relations, child protection, disability, old age, difficulties in school life, the fight against precariousness, housing, social and professional integration.
The workshop was an opportunity to learn about this practice and to introduce the work of COFACE Families Europe to the other workshop members. We also held a separate meeting with the project partners, where we discussed possible future collaborations.

For more information, please contact Irene Bertana: ibertana@coface-eu.org

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