- What is the role of the facilitator?
The role of the Village Family Service Center facilitator is to call and prepare all participants for the FGDM meeting, including the extended family members, community support people, and professionals/service providers. The facilitator is also responsible for addressing any safety issues that may impact the FGDM process and helping family members create a plan that will help them meet the needs of their children. The facilitator, who has had no prior involvement with the family, also facilitates the FGDM meeting. Since they are considered a neutral party, the facilitator has no vote or say in accepting or altering the family plan. The facilitator is also responsible for distributing final copies of the plan after the FGDM meeting.
- What is the role of the service providers at the FGDM meeting?
The service providers are responsible for providing key information to the family group. The service provider that made the referral summarizes the critical incident or decision point that led to the FGDM meeting and outlines the major safety and permanency issues that the family’s plan must address (if applicable). Other service providers contribute information to the discussion that helps the family create a plan, such as the strengths of the family, their concerns for the children, and their ideas/suggestions for the family plan. Family members have the opportunity to ask questions and get clarification from the service providers. While the family creates their plan in what is called “Private Family Time,” the service providers can help the family finalize and strengthen their plan to ensure all requirements are met (if applicable) and that the plan meets the safety and permanency needs of the children.
- What is the role of family at the FGDM meeting?
Family members and other support people are critically important to the FGDM process. With abundant knowledge of the family and children for whom the meeting is about, family members play the role of information providers. They are invited to identify the strengths of the family, share their concerns about the children and their needs, and suggest ideas for the family to include in their plan to address the safety and permanency of their children. Family members also participate in private family time and are responsible for developing their family plan. Along with service providers, the family also ensures that their plan meets all requirements set forth by the referring service provider (if applicable) and is responsible for implementing and monitoring their plan following the FGDM meeting.
- Who does the facilitator contact and what information is shared before the FGDM meeting?
The facilitator first talks with the parents to seek their agreement to contact individuals within their extended family/community and to share specific information about what led to the need for a FGDM meeting. The facilitator shares only information that is relevant to provide participants with a reasonable understanding of why a FGDM meeting is being held and to confirm their willingness to participate. Specific information sharing is left to the service providers and family members at the meeting. The people typically considered to attend the FGDM meeting include:
- Children or young people whose safety and well-being are at stake (if age appropriate)
- Parents, guardians, and/or caregivers of the children/young people
- Members of the children/young person’s extended family
- Service provider who referred the family
- Guardian ad Litem (if applicable)
- Other service providers that the children/young people or parents have been involved with that could provide information and support
- Any other person identified by the family as a support person for the children/young people (e.g., family friend, support person, neighbor, minister, etc.)
- Any person who has supplemental information that meeting participants need to make decisions (e.g., substance abuse counselor, mental health professional, domestic violence counselor, etc.).
- What information is shared at the FGDM meeting?
After introductions are made and the purpose of the FGDM meeting is clarified, the facilitator invites participants to discuss the strengths of the family. Participants share things that are going well within the family, identify positive supports for the children/family, and discuss any other factors that reveal the family’s ability to provide safety, care, and protection for the children. Next, the facilitator invites a discussion about the needs and concerns of the children/family (e.g., What concerns does the group have for the children?). The last discussion topic focuses on ideas and suggestions for the family to include in their plan that will address the identified needs and concerns. Service providers may offer information on the services their agency provides or other programs they know of in the community, and other participants suggest similar ideas and offer informal support.
The family is then given “Private Family Time” to create their family plan to address identified needs and concerns (i.e., Who will do what and when?). The facilitator and non-family members do not participate in this portion of the meeting. A separate space is available for them to wait comfortably until the family has reached a plan agreement. Once the family plan has been developed, the facilitator and non-family members are invited to re-join the family as they review and finalize the plan details. After the meeting, the facilitator documents the family plan and mails it to each meeting participant.
- Do children and young people participate in the FGDM meeting?
Typically, children under the age of 12 do not attend the FGDM meeting. The facilitator may ask the children and parents if the children would like to share information through a written statement or other form of communication, but ultimately this is up to the parents and the children. Children who are 12 years of age and older may choose to attend the FGDM meeting. It is the role of the facilitator to make sure the children understand the purpose of the meeting and the roles of those invited to participate in the meeting. Special attention is taken to protect the children’s safety, emotional and physical health, and comfort during the meeting.
- Are individuals sometimes excluded from the FGDM meeting?
It is the role of the facilitator to ask information about whose participation in the FGDM meeting might compromise the emotional and physical safety of other meeting participants or could be detrimental to the decision making process. While the facilitator rarely excludes individuals from meetings, it is his/her responsibility, along with feedback from the family group, to finalize these difficult decisions. Excluding someone from being physically present at the FGDM meeting does not mean the person’s voice is not heard. The facilitator will make every effort to gather the person’s perspective (e.g., via letter or video) and share it with the FGDM participants. With permission from the family group, the facilitator may also advise the absent person of the meeting outcome.
- Are non-family members included in private family time?
Through preparation before the meeting, the facilitator works with the family to identify individuals to participate in private family time. At the FGDM meeting, the facilitator may ask family members to determine non-family members’ potential participation in private family time. Non-family members may be included if requested by the parents and are determined to play an important role in helping the family make a decision. Typically, the facilitator and service providers do not participate in private family time. However, they are available in a separate room, along with the facilitator, if the family should have any questions during this time.
- What happens if the family can’t agree on a plan?
While it does not happen often, there are instances when family members do not agree on the best course of action for their children. The family members have the opportunity to present their opinions to the service providers who did not participate in the plan development during private family time. After listening to all sides and answering any questions, the service providers encourage family members to take additional time in private to reach a consensus. If, after further discussion, family members still cannot come to an agreement, the family has two options: (1) a decision can be made by the service provider who referred the family; or (2) if the case is court-involved, various options can be presented to the judge for a decision. Oftentimes, families prefer playing a significant role in the decision and eventually come to an agreement.
- Is a FGDM meeting a one-time process?
The family creates a plan and a back-up plan (if necessary) at the FGDM meeting. If the initial plan is not implemented or followed, the family can move to implementing the back-up plan without arranging an additional FGDM meeting. If neither plan achieves the outcomes desired for the children, a follow-up FGDM meeting can be scheduled at the request of the family or the referring service provider. Follow-up meetings can also be scheduled if a family or referring service provider wishes to review the current status of the plan at a given time.
- How long are FGDM meetings?
Typically, FGDM meetings last about 3-5 hours. Overall, the length of the meeting is guided by the discussion of the group. The facilitator guides the group through each phase of the meeting and helps keep the discussion focused, productive, and as timely as possible.
- Where are FGDM meetings typically held?
The facilitator, in partnership with the family, identifies a venue that is perceived as neutral and non-threatening by all participants. Issues to consider in selecting a venue include accessibility to transportation, restrooms, and telephones; size of space; and accommodations for the handicapped. The Village Family Service Center may be used as a meeting venue, but locations such as libraries, community rooms, and churches can also be used.
- Is there help with child care and/or transportation?
If you have any barriers to getting your family together for the FGDM meeting, the facilitator and/or referring service provider may help find alternative ways to allow you to participate.
- What type of families should be referred for FGDM?
There is no certain type of family that benefits most from a FGDM meeting. However, the following key questions should be considered when deciding if FGDM is appropriate for a family:
- Is there a decision that needs to be made?
- Can a meeting be safely held?
- Are there enough family members to constitute a group?
- Is there a well-defined, open-ended purpose for the meeting and no pre-set plan?
While cases that involve child sexual abuse and domestic violence require more comprehensive preparation, even tough issues like these can be addressed safely at a FGDM meeting with positive outcomes.
- What is the difference between FGDM and FTDM?
The main difference between FGDM and FTDM involves the purposes of the meetings. In FGDM, there can be many different purposes for holding a meeting, as long as the goal of the meeting is to develop a plan to support the long-term safety, permanency, and well-being of children. In FTDM, the goal is to plan for the immediate placement or safety of children following an emergency removal from the home. For more information on the differences between the two types of Family Engagement meetings, see FGDM vs. FTDM.
FGDM and FTDM are based on the beliefs that:
- A team can be more effective in making good decisions than an individual.
- Families are the experts on themselves.
- When families are included in decision-making, they are capable of identifying their own needs and strengths.
- Members of the family’s own community add value to the process by serving as natural allies to the family and as experts on the community’s resources.