Family Group Decision Making

Children 1st brought the Family Group Meeting (sometimes known as a Family Group Conference) to Scotland in 1998. Children 1st is the largest third-sector provider of FGDM services in Scotland.

Family Group Decision Making can help a child’s wider family to come together to agree a family plan to support their child, before a life-changing decision is made about their future.

Boy cuddling a babyWhat is a Family Group Meeting?

Every family, at some time, needs to make big decisions about their children.

A Family Group Meeting is a way for families to come together to discuss a concern or problem which involves children or young people in the family. Family could include grandparents, aunties and uncles, and even close family friends.

The aim of the meeting is to make a plan to support that child or young person. The family choose whether, or not, they want to have a meeting. 

Children 1st staff organise Family Group Meetings in all sorts of circumstances. This can range from help for a family early on when they are beginning to have difficulties, right up to when families are involved with social work and child protection services and are making big decisions about how to keep a child safe or where a child should live.

Research briefing: Learning from Family Group Conferencing

Dr Mary Mitchell has undertaken research in collaboration with Children 1st and the Centre for Research on Family and Relationships at the University of Edinburgh asking about the contribution that FGC makes to longer- term outcomes for children at risk of being accommodated in Scotland and for their families.

Her research in has identified the importance of giving outcomes identified by children and family members equal value to those identified by professionals.

Download a copy of the research briefing paper (PDF).

Kelly's story: A Family Group Meeting in action

(Please note: this video was made several years ago and features old Children 1st branding which has not been updated). 

How to ask for a Family Group Meeting

For more information about Family Group Decision Making services, please contact Children 1st using the form below.

Quotes from family members

“It cut through all the individual conversations and phone calls. We all got together as a group and said what we needed to say.”

“I felt more equal as we were telling them what the plan was going to be”.

“The Family Group Meeting allowed the families to work together and strengthened our resolve to make sure the children will now be safe. I felt empowered as opposed to my input being dismissed.”

Quotes from workers

“It was like six months work done in one evening because all of the right people were there at the same time”. 

“Before the meeting I was anxious and unsure only as I did not know the extended family and felt at times they were angry at me.  This disappeared as I was able to speak with the family and I felt relieved as they listened.”

Coffee cups

More information about Family Group Meetings

There are three parts to a Family Group Meeting:

  • Information sharing: workers who know the family talk with them about the strengths that they see and hopes for the family. They also share any worries they have and anything that they think might make a child unsafe e.g. contact with a particular person.
  • Private family time: the family group are left to bring their own thoughts together and talk about the information from workers and make a family plan.
  • Agreeing the family plan: the family group, coordinator and workers agree on the family's plan (as long as it is a safe plan and meets the child’s needs).
  • Families are experts on themselves. They are often the best people to make safe plans for their children.
  • It offers a chance to take time out from busy family life, to talk about what is best for the child.
  • It’s an opportunity for everyone to hear and understand one another.
  • It’s an opportunity for a child’s voice to be heard.
  • Children have said they feel special when their families come together to help them.
  • It gives families control of decision-making.
  • It helps families to find their own strengths and solutions to their problems.
  • They are blame-free. 


      • The family decides who will be invited. Family members will discuss and reach an agreement about who should be involved.
      • Usually people are chosen who know and care about the child. This often includes parents, step-parents, aunties, uncles, grandparents, next door neighbours and close family friends.
      • The family also chooses which workers they would like to invite to the meeting – usually those people who can help with information, advice or support.
      • If a professional worker has suggested a Family Group Meeting then they would normally be invited to attend. This is particularly true when a social worker has requested a Family Group Meeting because they are worried that a child is at risk of harm.

The meeting is organised by a coordinator, whose job is to make sure that the Family Group Meeting runs smoothly.

The coordinator is independent. That means that they will not already be involved in supporting or making decisions about the child or family.

The coordinator will work with the child and their parents or carers to plan the Family Group Meeting.

This will include talking about:

  • who the child and family want to invite
  • what they want to say at the meeting
  • where and when the meeting should be
  • what food and drinks there will be
  • what needs to happen to make the meeting safe and comfortable for everyone.

The coordinator will visit everyone who has been invited to help them understand how the meeting will work, how to have their say and ensure everyone feels respected and included.

Children and young people usually take part in their Family Group Meeting. Their thoughts and feelings are very important when decisions are being made about them.

The coordinator will offer the child or young person the chance to have someone to help them with their Family Group Meeting. This person is sometimes known as an advocate or meetings-buddy.

Adults are also allowed to have an advocate or meetings-buddy.

The family group decides if anyone else should receive a copy of the family plan. 

The family and workers will work together to put the plan into action.

The coordinator arranges a review meeting, usually a few weeks to a few months after the original Family Group Meeting.

The review meeting lets the family come together to:

  • celebrate what has worked
  • make sure everyone is still following the plan
  • make tweaks and changes to the plan
  • add new parts to the plan.

If anyone is worried that the plan is not working, or if there is a family crisis, they can ask the coordinator to organise a review meeting as soon as possible.

Download our leaflets

Click on a cover to see useful information that you can download and print: