CPS April 2010
The staff of the Family Group Decision Making (FGDM) program provide the support needed for families and caseworkers to benefit from the FGDM process. The support includes adhering to the following core values, beliefs, and best-practice principles:
• All families who are involved with DFPS are offered the opportunity to voluntarily participate in the FGDM approach.
• Outcomes for children are best:
• when families are recognized as having an expertise and wisdom (not possessed by DFPS staff; and consulting professionals) to create and mobilize social networks and other resources to care for and protect their own children; and
• when the expertise and wisdom of families is respected.
• Families define their own members, which may extend beyond the birth family.
• Families are the most valuable resource in a child's life.
• FGDM is provided in a culturally competent, family-driven, family-friendly manner, and the plans that protect children are developed within this framework.
• FGDM works to empower the family, extended family, fictive kin, and community instead of empowering professionals.
• DFPS staff and other persons involved receive training on the FGDM approach and on their role in the FGDM conference.
Roles and Tasks of FGDM Staff
The stages of the FGDM process are:
Stage 1. Referral and Selection
Stage 2. Coordination
Stage 3. Facilitation
Stage 4. After the FGDM Conference
The following roles and tasks of FGDM staff apply to all models of FGDM, allowing for variances in agenda and process.
Stage 1: Referral and Selection
All families with a child who has been removed from the home are assessed by FGDM staff or their designee to determine whether FGDM is the most appropriate and safe mode for developing the service plan.
FGDM is available to all families during all stages of service, provided adequate capacity exists.
Each DFPS region has a process for ensuring that the regional FGDM specialist or designee receives a copy of every Affidavit of Removal and other case information within 24 hours or one business day of the child's removal.
In counties that offer FGDM through contracted service providers, the DFPS region for that county has a process for ensuring that the FGDM contractor also receives a copy of the Affidavit of Removal and other case information within 24 hours or one business day of removal.
To decide whether to offer a FGDM conference to a family, the FGDM specialist or designee contacts the caseworker overseeing the child's removal to obtain the facts of the case.
Examples of when a family may not be offered a FGDM conference are as follows:
• The location of the parents is unknown.
• The location of extended family members is unknown.
• The case is designated as a Baby Moses case (see 2351 Baby Moses).
• The safety of the FGDM staff or designee cannot be reasonably assured.
Stage 2: Coordination
Effective coordination is the key to conducting a successful family group decision making conference.
When possible, one staff person coordinates and facilitates the same conference.
• makes the initial offering of using the FGDM approach to the family;
• explains the FGDM process and how it offers the family the opportunity to make decisions about their child's care; and
• helps family members identify and communicate what they need and want during the decision-making process.
Families whose introduction to FGDM is coordinated in this way are far more willing to participate in the FGDM process.
The FGDM specialist or designee facilitates family participation as follows:
• Offers families the opportunity to voluntarily participate in an FGDM conference.
• Asks families to list potential participants in the conference, including immediate family, extended family, and others who are important in the life of their children, such as church members, neighbors, school personnel, friends, and fictive kin (such as close family friends). See the Services to Kinship Caregivers Resource Guide, under Definitions.
• Asks family members who will participate to sign and abide by the privacy agreement (Form 0621 FTM/FGC Conditions of Participation and Privacy Agreement).
• Ensures that families are well prepared for the conference and are committed to devising a plan for the children to ensure safety, permanency, and well-being.
• Invites parents and children to attend face-to-face coordination visits that are designed to best facilitate a successful FGDM conference.
• Asks family members to commit to participating in person. When that is not possible, the family members and CPS coordinator determine the best alternative, such as participating by conference call, SCAN call, videotape, audiotape, or letter.
• Asks parents to voice their approval for the FGDM conference logistics and agree to fully participate in the conference.
To minimize barriers to participation, logistics are planned to meet the family's:
• transportation needs;
• child care needs;
• language preferences;
• literacy level;
• need for wheelchair accessibility;
• need to accommodate developmental disabilities;
• lodging and meals;
• concerns about safety or other issues; and
• any other potential needs.
The FGDM conference is held in a neutral location that is comfortable for the family and is determined by the family's needs.
The family's culture must be respected at all times, including when making decisions about the:
• location of the conference;
• food served at the conference; and
• timing of the conference.
Consideration must also be given to any ritual the family may prefer for beginning the conference, such as starting with a prayer, or allowing a certain family member to speak first.
After the parents approve the logistics for the FGDM conference, FGDM staff notify the participants about the logistics, typically by telephone or e-mail.
An FGDM conference is held at a CPS office only when necessary to address safety concerns.
Stage 3: Facilitation
The facilitator must remain independent when preparing or facilitating the FGDM process.
It is preferred that all conferences be conducted by a facilitator and a cofacilitator. If someone other than the facilitator coordinates the conference, that person should be the cofacilitator.
During the conference, the facilitator:
• opens with a welcome and introduction;
• invites the family to begin the conference with a family ritual, such as a prayer or an opening statement by a certain family member;
• explains the conference process and directs the participants as they progress through it;
• explains what the conference is meant to achieve and describes the role of each conference participant;
• encourages the full participation of all participants;
• initiates a discussion of the family's hopes and dreams, concerns, strengths, and community resources; and
• Provides the family with information regarding private family time.
During private family time, the facilitator remains available, in a separate room, to assist the family at their request. Family private time is always included, unless extreme circumstances prohibit it or require variation. The family dictates who will participate in private family time. Families are given all of the information and time they need to make informed decisions for their children.
A CPS representative (either a supervisor or a person designated by the supervisor) attends the entire conference and approves and signs the family service plan. The plan is presented to the group by the family spokesperson following family private time. If needed, CPS and the family negotiate changes to the plan to meet the goals for the safety, permanency, and well-being of the child.
All participants sign the approved service plan as an acknowledgement of their role in the planning process.
If the service plan is not approved during the conference, the child's primary caseworker assumes the responsibility for the service plan.
Best practice at the conference calls for family members to outnumber the participants who are not family members.
• ensures that all parties sign the family service plan; and
• provides the necessary copies to parties.
The facilitator mediates any differences between CPS and the family regarding the family service plan and informs the participants about next steps, including case management by CPS and the provision of services.
Stage 4: After the FGDM Conference
It is preferred that all families be offered an opportunity for additional FGDM conferences during the provision of services by CPS.
The FGDM coordinator or facilitator and the primary caseworker are available to the family for support and advocacy throughout the case. The family members, other conference participants, and CPS staff may also request a new conference at any time.
The coordinator or facilitator contacts the family at certain times in the case to determine whether the family desires a new conference.
To further the effectiveness of FGDM, it is important that all stakeholders are educated on the process of FGDM, as well as on their individual roles in the process. Proper training ensures that the participants understand and adhere to the underlying core values, beliefs, and practice principles of the FGDM philosophy.
• respond to requests for presentations and training from internal and external stakeholders;
• provide the training and support CPS caseworkers and supervisors need to fulfill their roles within the FGDM process;
• maintain current knowledge of the FGDM process and practices; and
• develop and maintain relationships with internal and external stakeholders and resource providers.