Family Group Decision Making
Family Group Decision Making (FGDM) is the core or foundation system reform practice in the Permanency Practice Initiative. It focuses on identifying strengths, addressing concerns and a plan development process led by the family and supported by the agency.
FGDM includes all those who care for a child and family in the process and focuses on identifying solutions. While these ideas work for specific case plan development, they are also powerful concepts in reforming systems.
How FGDM Works
The process recognizes the importance of involving family groups in decision making about children who need protection or care, and it can be initiated whenever a critical decision about a child is required. In FGDM, a trained coordinator who is independent of the case brings together the family group and the agency personnel to create and carry out a plan to safeguard children and other family members.
FGDM positions the family group to lead decision making, and the statutory authorities agree to support family group plans that adequately address agency concerns. The statutory authorities also organize service providers from governmental and non-governmental agencies to access resources for implementing the plans.
Family Group Decision Making is not a conflict-resolution approach, therapeutic intervention or forum for ratifying professionally crafted decisions. Rather, FGDM actively seeks the collaboration and leadership of family groups in crafting and implementing plans that support the safety, permanency and well-being of their children.
Pennsylvania’s first exposure to Family Group Decision Making (FGDM) occurred in 1999, and as of 2006, included more than forty of the sixty-seven counties actively exploring meaningful ways to engage families in planning and service delivery. The PA FGDM process is a strengths-based empowerment model designed to unite a wide family group, including relatives, friends, community members and others in collectively making decisions to resolve an identified concern.
FGDM seeks the collaboration and leadership of family groups in crafting plans that support the safety, permanency and well-being of their children.
What FGDM Entails
FGDM in Pennsylvania is primarily based on aspects of the Oregon Family Unity Model and the New Zealand Family Group Conferencing process. FGDM conferences in Pennsylvania generally include:
- Extensive preparation
- An opening and sharing of strengths, concerns and resources
- Private family time (mandatory for FGDM)
- A family presentation of the plan and plan acceptance by the referring agency
- Plan review and approval (if appropriate) by the Court and plan implementation and monitoring
FGDM in Pennsylvania
With more than half of Pennsylvania’s sixty-seven counties actively implementing FGDM, it signals a significant shift in how families resolve concerns. Many counties report the infusion of strength-based, family-centered practice across their communities and the joining together of providers, government, families and communities through the implementation of FGDM. Counties also report the mobilization of the innate power within families and the collaborative power of systemic partnerships.
The FGDM Leadership team was created to coordinate statewide FGDM Implementation Team Meetings and to establish best practice standards to guide and support the implementation of FGDM across PA. Comprised of county child welfare and juvenile probation staff, state public welfare representatives, providers, Child Welfare Training Program staff, judges and Office of Children & Families staff, the PA FGDM Leadership Team has been meeting bi-monthly since 2003. For further information regarding FGDM in PA, please visit the Child Welfare Training website at http://www.pacwrc.pitt.edu/.
From Research to Application by Erin Wick, Esq.