9 Choice and Change

Family Group Conferences (FGCs) play a crucial role in supporting families, individuals, and professionals. They provide a structured yet voluntary process to address concerns and develop actionable plans. FGCs are a family-led decision-making process that emphasises the empowerment of families, allowing them to take charge of their situations. As key facilitators, professionals collaborate with families to create sustainable solutions. This approach respects the family’s autonomy, fostering a sense of ownership and responsibility over the outcomes.

Families are experts in their own lives. Their knowledge and understanding of their unique circumstances should be respected throughout the FGC process. Negative assumptions from professionals can undermine the process, so professionals must approach FGCs with an open mind, free from preconceived notions, and genuinely listen to the perspectives and concerns of family members.

One of the advantages of FGCs is the choice it provides to individuals and families. Being a voluntary process, families can decide whether or not to participate. This autonomy ensures that any commitment to change is welcomed by the family members themselves rather than being imposed externally. However, for individuals and families to make informed choices about participating in an FGC, they must clearly understand the process. Comprehensive and accessible information about FGCs, outlining the conference’s purpose, process, and potential benefits, enables individuals and families to make informed decisions about their involvement.

When individuals and families are fully informed about the supportive nature of FGCs and how they can help address specific concerns, they are more likely to engage meaningfully. This engagement supports positive changes in their circumstances as the network works together on a plan tailored to their needs and goals, making them feel informed and prepared.

The success of Family Group Conferences hinges on informed choice and active participation. By ensuring that individuals and families are well-informed and understand the potential benefits of FGCs, professionals can support families in making empowered decisions that lead to meaningful change. The family-led nature of FGCs, with its emphasis on family input and cooperation, creates a supportive environment where concerns can be addressed holistically and effectively, making families feel more involved and valued.

After the coordinated FGC process ends, some families may choose to self-facilitate their own ‘Kitchen Table’ reviews. This continued empowerment demonstrates their confidence in making decisions independently. The impact of FGCs extends beyond the immediate process, with families feeling the effects when they have to make further decisions or respond to future circumstances. This instils a belief in their own agency and capacity to create positive change, reinforcing the sustainability of the FGC process.

Professionals must be prepared to give up some control of the FGC process. This entails trusting and respecting the decisions made by families and allowing them to take the lead in shaping their own outcomes. Belief in change is essential for a successful FGC. Professionals and family/network members must believe in positive transformation and growth potential.

FGCs empower family/network members to step up and proactively ensure their well-being. By supporting informed choice and encouraging active participation, FGCs help individuals/families create meaningful, sustainable change, reinforcing that they have the capacity and responsibility to change their situation.