Family Group Decision Making and Family Finding

Family Group Decision-Making (FGDM) is a meeting about your family. It brings together your family, friends, caseworker, and service providers to work as a team. Family Finding (FF) includes engaging, locating and actively involving your family, kin, and your community; surrounding your child(ren) with a lifelong network of supports.

Family Finding Act 118 of 2022 was put in place to involve families when children enter into the child welfare system to promote involvement and is the law in Pennsylvania. In addition to other professionals, the caseworker may ask about family and friends to help support the child and family. Both Family Finding and Family Group empower the family to be in the driver’s seat, giving them support in making decisions and providing support to all involved. More information can be found on the OCFC webpage here. (

FGDM is an option that may be offered to you by your social worker if your children have been referred to Children and Youth Services. The meeting is about your family taking charge, and the goal is to help you work out a safety plan to address the care of your children. If you choose a Family Group Decision-Making meeting, you are allowing the important people in your lives to share their knowledge, their concerns and the strengths they see in your family to help you in making the best decisions possible for your children. Click here to see the Family Finding/Family Group Decision Making brochure.

Core beliefs…

  • Families are the best place to raise children.
  • All families have strengths.
  • Families want to protect their children.
  • Families can make good decisions.
  • Agencies can support families.
  • Providers can help families to develop a safety plan.
  • Creative solution-making is the focus of the Family Group Decision-Making meeting.
Family dinner

Who Should Attend the FGDM Meeting?
Anyone you believe would be helpful in creating solutions for your family. This may include family members, relatives, trusted friends, tribal members, religious leaders, mental health providers, school staff, attorneys, medical providers, law enforcement or anyone else you feel would be beneficial in helping you create a safety plan for your children. Remember, the strength of the FGDM meeting is that family and friends put their hearts and minds together and create solutions they never would have thought of on their own. Children may be invited to the meeting depending on the particular situation of your family.

What Will I Be Asked to Do for the Meeting?
  • Help create a list of individuals who will attend.
  • Help select a safe, comfortable place and time to hold the meeting.
  • Come to the meeting ready to share your ideas with the group, and to listen to others’ contributions.
  • Be honest, open and respectful to others at the meeting.

What Happens at FGDM Meetings?
  • Everyone will come together, and the meeting facilitator will guide the discussion.
  • The purpose and goals of the meeting will be stated.
  • Family, friends and providers will share the strengths of your family.
  • Family, friends and providers will share any concerns they have about your family.
  • Providers will discuss support services available in the community.
  • The family and relatives may then meet alone to create a plan to address the concerns expressed earlier. The family then returns to the meeting, and the plan is reviewed and discussed with the social worker.

How Much Time Does All of This Take?
The actual meeting can take anywhere from two to four hours. Some run shorter, others longer. From the time you first sign your consent form, it will usually take between two and four weeks to plan the conference, contact all the people you want to invite and explain the purpose of the meeting to them. This may take some time, but we have found that it is important to talk to everyone prior to the meeting.

Parents find that a Family Group Decision-Making meeting gives them a voice in a process that may, at times, seem beyond their control.

Okay, We Have a Plan, Now What?
The plan that was developed by you and your family will now go to the judge for final approval. You may not know it, but all plans go to the judge, even the ones that are written by caseworkers. As long as the plan addresses the concerns that were identified, the judge will approve the family’s plan as the one that will become the “official” family service plan. It is important to follow the plan that has been created because the judge will ask about it at hearings.

Advantages for Families
  • Helps the family understand the agency’s role, and reason for involvement.
  • Families fully participate in planning for the safety and protection of their children.
  • Extended family, friends, the agency and the community combine their strengths to support your family in your efforts to care for your children.
  • The agency and the family work together, instead of “against” one another, to create a family plan.
  • The FGDM meeting will increase the accountability for all meeting participants.
  • FGDM meetings support placement of children with extended family members, when appropriate.
  • FGDM meetings may decrease the time children are away from the parents. They may also decrease the time the agency needs to be involved with the family.