The Family Group Conference (FGC) model has its roots in aboriginal cultures, where the care of and the decision making for children are the responsibility of the extended family and community. At Mi’kmaw Family and Children’s Services, FGC is a collaborative process which empowers families to make and implement decisions regarding the care and protection of their children experiencing child protection involvement. It is also a voluntary decision-making process which can help to avoid the need for court involvement.
Family Group Conferences can be used to help families reach an agreement on things like: how to keep your child safe, what services your family needs, where your child will live, reunification or planning for permanency and how your family and community will support you and your children.
The most important aspect of the FGC process is that it serves to strengthen and re-connect the familial and community relationships that encircle the child. This model is a powerful one as it engages the family system and community as a whole unit to take the lead in problem identification and resolution. The family, along with key family members they have identified, work in partnership with the Agency and other professional service providers to identify and carry out a plan to address the risks identified to the children. Family Group conferencing provides families with the chance to plan for their family’s future, to make sure their voices are heard within the child protection process and can result in building stronger relationships by giving families the opportunity to work out their problems together.
Each family has the option to include traditional cultural and spiritual practices in their efforts to restore balance and harmony and to ultimately break the cycle of abuse which is often intergenerational and an after effect of the residential school system. The foremost main objective of FGC is to keep children safe by preventing the occurrence and re-occurrence of child abuse and neglect by including family members in the creation of their own plan. When involved in this process, families own motivation to work toward a change increases as does their acceptance of services provided for them and their children.