Welcome - European Network on Family Group Conference

Democratizing help and welfare in Europe
How to give a child voice

A grandmother asked for a conference while her task of taking care of her grand-child 7 years of age, felt heavy.

His mother had had a cerebral stroke the day after his birth and has been severly handicapped since. A couple of friends of the father took care of the boy for one year. Then he went to his great aunt on mothers side.

When the coordinator starts the preparation, the great aunt doesn’t see much of the father. He seldom calls and she has even lost his number. The coordinator finds it within the larger family and goes to see him. He has moved far away and is resettled. When she talks with him, his reaction is that he’s glad because he was just thinking of taking the boy back. He has a job, a house and a new wife, he’s able now to take care of his own son.

The coordinator is shocked: the great aunt didn’t think about this eventuality at all.

What does she have to do ? « Transparency, honesty are key, is the general wisdom of a coordinator » so she decided to tell the great aunt. Both didn’t know what to do so they took their time to think. « Now it is in the air », the grandmother decided that it had to be discussed during the conference. Instead of « who can help me take care of Sebastian » the question became « what is the best way for Sebastian to grow up ? »

Because of the custody question, it became necessary to have juridic information. The coordinator knew someone, but he was very dry. Even adults sometmes found it hard to deal with him. The idea came up to ask him to explain everything to the small boy. Then everyone would hear and understand it too. Another person invited was his former childcare worker. The new one hardly saw him. The former one had followed him his very first years. So she came to sketch the beginning of his life. And at the end of the preparation time, Sebastian found his supporter and the coordinator and the boy went to see her together. She wrote everything Sebastian wanted down on post-its and on the day of the conference, there were even a lot more. They were pasted all over the walls.

His mother came, the wheelchair pushed by his halfbrother, the couple who took care of him the first year etc. The conference started and Sebastian was really in the center. In less than an hour, it was decided he stayed with his great aunt and was to go to his father during holidays.

No one knew before what was going to happen and all went well, Sebastian being the center for everyone. Greatly supported by the way the conference was organized.


A story from France

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