Family group conferences

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What is a family group conference?

A family group conference is an option of collaborative (shared) decision making where a child’s parents, relatives, close friends, or other community members meet about how to keep the child safe. A family group conference is sometimes called family group decision making.

At a family group conference, you and the others who are invited work together to develop a plan for your child’s safety and well-being. A coordinator organizes the meeting and helps everyone stay focused. You make decisions as a family. A family group conference gives you a chance to get help to work through issues and learn about how your family can get support. If you come up with a plan, a child protection worker will review it and talk to you about it.

When can a family group conference help?

A family group conference is helpful when a family knows that they need to plan for their child’s safety. Your family and the ministry must agree to use this option of collaborative decision making. A family group conference works well if you need the support of extended family (and/or the community) to make a plan and to follow through with it. Many people can be involved in a family group conference.

You can use a family group conference to help you agree on issues such as:

  • How to keep your child safe
  • What services your family needs
  • Where your child will live
  • How your family and community will support you and your children

How can I get started?

Once the ministry decides that your child needs protection, the child protection worker can offer to refer you to a family group conference coordinator. (See section 20 of the Child, Family and Community Service Act.) You can also ask your child protection worker for a referral to a family group conference coordinator. The coordinator is trained and works for the ministry.

You can use a family group conference at any time while your family is involved with the ministry — even if your case is already in court.

How does a family group conference work?

You work with the family group conference coordinator to decide who will participate. The coordinator meets with the participants before the conference to prepare them for the meeting.

  • On the day of the family group conference, you will all gather to talk about the reason for the meeting — the need for a family plan that deals with specific concerns about your child’s safety. You will learn about support services available to you and your family.
  • Next, the invited community members and professionals will leave the room. You and your family will have private time to discuss a plan for your child’s protection.
  • When you finish your family plan, a child protection worker has to look it over to make sure it addresses your child’s safety concerns.

Tip: For more information, talk to your child protection worker or family group conference coordinator, or see the Collaborative Planning and Decision-Making in Child Welfare page on the Ministry of Children and Family Development website.