Welcome - European Network on Family Group Conference

Democratizing help and welfare in Europe
„Forced“ to do a FGC

When I, as a "citizen" coordinator, got an assignment for a FGC, where the family more or less was „forced“ to do the FGC but didn't really want to, I thought: how is this going to work? Here's a story about it.

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Sandra and her brother Chris

Sandra’s brother Chris was supported by Family Group Conference last year. Adult FGC services got involved after complaints were made to the council by Chris’ neighbours. Sandra was not aware of Chris’ worsening situation due to the pandemic. During lockdown, Chris had become more isolated, and they discovered he had been cuckoo’d. 

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An FGC is quite exciting for everyone involved!

Participants of an FGC very often mention how exciting the conference was, recounting the events. Not only at the start of a FGC process, but right upto the eventual gathering, people experience excitement.

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When family is missing

Eva was born when her mother was no longer able to take care of her two older siblings and was placed in an institutional care. She celebrated her first birthday in a foster family where she spent ten years. After the death of her foster mother, short-term foster parents were found for Eva, to whom she confided that she would like to meet her biological family. The social worker thought of using FGC.

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Supporting my mother

Supporting my mother in her daily life started with shopping together. However, due to her age, she declined more and more. The amount of care she needed increased steadily. My mother's greatest wish was to be able to remain in her familiar environment.

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A bridge between the life world and the system world

The independence of the Eigen Kracht-coordinator in an Eigen Kracht-conference is essential. This week I heard about a situation that illustrates this clearly. A mother of two children requests a conference, because the family guardian has informed her that her children may be removed from her home and she disagrees with this decision. She does not want to discuss it with the family guardian.

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A family group conference in prison

Family group conference with an 21-years old inmate in remand in Germany, Stuttgart. He was imprisoned because of  a considerably crime. He had a job and tried to graduate from school, until he was imprisoned. With the  family group conference, we tried to receive his job and school and to improve his chance to get a probation from the judge.

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A Friday story from Sweden

There had been a report of concern from school to Child Protection Services where the school was worried about three siblings aged 8, 10 and 13 years old. The siblings had started behaving like they had never done before and had a hard time keeping up the the lessons.

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Making a plan in 5 days

A father called the family group conference office in Hamburg. He wasn’t allowed to see his children anymore, because the mother was scared that the children would not be safe if they stayed with hem. The father had a lot of trouble. When he was calling he had no place to live.

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Can it really be that simple?

The child protector was disappointed: ‘Plans that clients make together with their network, always contain elements that I couldn’t think of myself. That is the reason that I find it important that people make their own plan, without me being present. But this plan contains so few obligations that I don’t know what to do with it.’

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Family reunited

The Tait family were referred to the Edinburgh FGC team, due to concerns around drug/alcohol use, domestic abuse, and poor attendance at school. The family consisted of Mum (Carol), Ellie (7), Hannah (6), Robbie (4), Liam (6 months) and dad of Liam (James). Initially Carol and James did not engage with FGC.

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When I saw the little one, I knew she was ours!

When I help families prepare their family council and we reach a difficult point where we can't expand the circle of important people, I think of Sarah. At the age of four, due to poor care and subsequent health problems, she was removed from her mother and placed in foster care for a temporary period of time. However, the family was encouraged to find a long-term solution.

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A FGC in pandemic times

K. is a 13 year old boy. He is living together with his mother, the father died some years ago. K. didn't go to school last year too often and also in homeschooling (in the pandemic times, the schools were closed) he was more often missed than present.

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Not directly bothered, but directly involved

We have the tendency to focus on problems and then forget the strengths that are there, although not immediately visible. After many years of experience with ‘Eigen Kracht’ we dare to trust that there are always strengths. If you don’t see the strengths, you must look further and ask further until you find them. In a street in the South of the Netherlands there had been trouble for a long time.

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Privately experiencing an Eigen Kracht-conference as a social worker

In the Netherlands, over 10,000 plans have been crafted with the help of Eigen Kracht-conferences since the year 2000. Because of this, I sometimes meet people outside of my line of work that have experienced a conference. It also happens that a social worker requests their first conference because he or she themselves attended a conference privately. The latter happened recently.

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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.

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Not a new class, but new friends 

Peter, a 11 years old boy, faces difficulties at school. About a year ago he was diagnosed with dyslexia. His parents separated and divorced years ago. Since then he lives with his mother, who takes care of him. Couple of years ago she remarried. During the last school year, after a violent conflict at school, the class teacher demanded that Peter needs to receive professional help.

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“Where can Silvia and Maria find a new home?” “Family Group Conference & Guardianship” 

Silvia (14) and Maria (16) suddenly have an official guardian. Their parents have died in a tragic accident. Family and friends quickly find solutions in the acute situation together with the professionals from the youth welfare office, but there are different ideas about the future. The guardian proposes a FGC. In preparation, the FGC coordinator meets everyone and all of them are touched by the situation and want to help.

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New town, new school 

Adela is 10 years old, but even at this early age she knows what violence is. For years she has been a witness of domestic violence against her mother. The parents are divorced now. The father has a restriction order by the court, so he has no contacts with the girl and his former wife. The mother and the daughter have moved to live in another town, where they have some relatives.

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“Who visits Mr. Schmid?” Family Group Conference to care for an elderly gentleman. 

Mr. Schmid is 87 years old and lives in a nursing home; he is widowed and has no children. From time to time he gets visits from his former neighbor Mrs. Hügel and his pastor Mrs. Maier. He has a legal guardian, Mr. Armle, and a niece, Mrs. Schäfer; he hardly sees either of them. Most of his friends have passed away. Mr. Schmid is often confused and doesn't even know where he is.

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Being heard

‘In the end it is not about being right or about self interest, but about being heard and being treated fairly’, was the conclusion of an employee of the neighbourhood team who had made a referral for a community conference for the residents of two flats. There was a lot of agitation and the neighbourhood team discovered that many colleagues had clients in the flat, separately from each other.

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FGC during a separation

The parents of Paul, 9 years old, are going to be separated. The attempts to manage it together were unsuccessful, everyone is sad. The godmother proposes a FGC to support Paul now.

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I have a family plan!

Tony is 12 years old boy. He is aggressive and often gets into conflicts with his classmates as he challenges them into fighting and boxing. The teacher of the class advices the family to try FGC.

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‘You feel that people care about you’.

Researchers have published about their qualitative research on Family Group conferences for suicidal adolescents in ‘Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie’ (Magazine for psychiatry). They wrote about one of the cases they researched. It is an impressive story that shows the strength of this adolescent and his circle.

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Old hurts or let the children talk

"I haven't seen my kids in 7 months, I miss them. They say my daughter has started walking, the older boys are in kindergarten. They live with my ex-partner. We communicate only by email", the father told the coordinator during the personal meeting. The mother described her situation in the following words: "The father is not interested in the children. I have offered him several times that he can come to see us. He has not come even once. The best thing would be for him to give up fatherhood. He's been angry to us. The children are afraid of him and don't want to see him. Neither do I anymore. I have a new partner who loves us."

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Outside of a family context

Family Group Conferences can be used outside of a family context. They can be useful to deal with disputes between friends or between employers and employees. Jerome recently worked on a case that encountered both, where the boundary between friendship and work was confused.

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The story of a following family group conference

The first conference happend in the year 2019. The initiator of the conference was a single mom with a little baby, nearly one year old. The mother unfortunately had a chronical illness. She often had to go to the hospital or sometimes she had to call the ambulance in the night, when it was nessecary to have a doctor quickly. At the moment of the first family group conference the mother lived together with her sister.

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Petra and her grandmother

‘I want to take my granddaughter and educate her. Her mother shoved her out of the house and she has gone to live with the family of a friend. She’s sleeping in the living room’.

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Giving trust makes a big difference

‘A great example of giving trust’, said my colleague this week when she told me about a Family Group Conference for four children. She was talking about the trust that the Family Guardian had in a family, in a situation that was not simple and where the concerns were big.

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Tunnel dad

Cristina is a Family Group Coordinator who was struggling to get in contact with a father. He is a full-time activist, which meant he was either up a tree or underground in London’s tunnels, out of reception and reach. She was trying to contacting him to arrange a meeting.

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Seven years a plan

It was a sunny summer’s day, I still remember very well… I found a letter in our mailbox. To: volunteer Anke and to all the people of EKC, 7 years ago, an Eigen Kracht-conferentie (editer’s note: ‘an EKc’ is the Dutch translation of a FGC) took place for my foster daughter Saskia and her daughter Lotte. It was not simple, we were quite nervous.

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LISA – and her family group conference-

Lisa, a 16 year old girl, grew up in a strictly religious family in Germany. The elder she became, the less she felt understood and welcomed in her family, and she started doubting in the way of (religious) life her parents lived. She felt suppressed by her parent´s convictions and their ideas of life. Lisa started to rebel against her parents and their ideology.

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