2. Plan for a family group meeting

2.1 Initiate family group meeting

A family group meeting is to be a collaborative and participative process for the child, family, Child Safety and service providers, to develop a case plan that is child-centred, family-focussed, strengths-based and based on shared responsibility. It brings together family, extended family, services and support people in a forum that allows families to participate in planning for the protection of their children.

Under the Child Protection Act 1999, section 51H, Child Safety must convene a family group meeting, or have a private convenor convene a family group meeting, to develop the initial case plan for a child. This is to occur in a collaborative and participative process with the child, the child's family and other significant people.

Wherever possible, a family group meeting regarding an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child will use a family-led decision-making process. A family-led decision-making process to develop an initial case plan for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child subject to ongoing intervention will meet the requirements of the Child Protection Act 1999, section 51. For further information refer to Chapter 10.1, 3. Refer the family for family-led decision making.

For an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child:

  • Child Safety will arrange for an independent person to assist the child and family to participate in case planning decisions likely to have a significant impact on the child’s life, refer to Chapter 10.1 Decision-making about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children
  • as far as reasonably practicable, that decision-making processes involving an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person are arranged to allow for the full participation of the person and their family group and occur in a place appropriate to Aboriginal tradition or Island custom.

The Child Protection Act 1999, section 51S, outlines the requirements for developing a case plan in circumstances where either:

The purpose of a family group meeting (Child Protection Act 1999, section 51G) is to:

  • provide family-focussed responses for a child's protection and care needs
  • ensure an inclusive process for planning and making decisions relating to a child's well-being and protection and care needs.

A family group meeting may be initiated by Child Safety (Child Protection Act 1999, section 51H(1)) or directed by the Childrens Court (Child Protection Act 1999, section 68(1)(d)(i)).

A family group meeting may also be convened, but is not required, to:

  • review the existing case plan and prepare a revised case plan - refer to 5. Review and revise the case plan
  • consider, make recommendations about, or deal with another matter relating to the child's well-being and protection and care needs.

The family group meeting is to be held within 30 days of the decision that a child is in need of protection, or within the timeframe set by the court on an adjournment.

For further information about family group meetings refer to the Family group meeting convenor handbook (FGM Handbook). The FGM handbook provides convenors with a practical guide to:

  • the values and principles of the family group meeting model
  • the procedures for preparing and facilitating a family group meeting
  • the resources available to assist with the preparation and facilitation of a family group meeting
  • culturally appropriate practice skills and considerations to enhance the engagement of families who are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander or from a culturally and linguistically diverse background in the family group meeting process.

2.2 Provide information to the convenor

Complete a referral form to a convenor for a family group meeting

Every family group meeting will be convened by a person specifically delegated for this task under the Statutory delegations. This person is referred to as a family group meeting convenor (convenor), and includes:

  • a person appointed as the family group meeting convenor
  • a CSO, senior team leader or senior practitioner with the delegation to convene a family group meeting
  • an external person contracted by Child Safety to convene the family group meeting, including a family-led decision making facilitator from the family participation program.

The role of the convenor is to:

  • prepare all relevant people to participate in the meeting
  • facilitate the family group meeting
  • ensure the case plan is recorded on the approved form
  • distribute the endorsed case plan to the relevant people.

When the convenor is an external person, a Child Safety officer will record the case plan on the approved form and distribute it.

To initiate a family group meeting, complete a referral FGM referral form and provide it to the convenor. The referral must include the following:

  • the name of the person making the referral
  • the child's name, date of birth and address
  • the child’s cultural identity – and, where the child is Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, whether the child and family will have an independent person to help them participate in the family group meeting and if so, their details  
  • details of the child's views and wishes regarding their care needs and the case plan being developed at the family group meeting (if they have been obtained)
  • details of how the child is going to participate in the family group meeting
  • the parents names and contact details
  • the details of the person currently caring for the child
  • information about the current situation, including:
    • a summary of the background, reasons for Child Safety involvement and the child's protection and care needs
    • the ‘non-negotiables’ for case planning, refer to 1.4 Determine the intervention required to keep the child safe
    • details of service providers currently working with the child or family
    • details of the parent or child's direct legal representative or child's separate representative
    • whether separate family group meetings are required
  • details of any other significant family member or other services

When a referral is being made to a family group meeting using a family-led decision-making process and convened by staff from the Family Participation Program, complete the referral on ARC.

Provide additional information to the convenor

As soon as possible following the completion of the referral, provide the convenor with copies of the following:

  • all relevant information from the 'approved' investigation and assessment, including the safety assessment and family risk evaluation
  • the child's strengths and needs assessment
  • the parental strengths and needs assessment (if the case plan goal is reunification, or if the child remains safely at home)
  • any other relevant information that has become available since the referral, including details of any additional significant family members or other persons that have been identified.

Meet with the convenor prior to the family group meeting

In preparation for the family group meeting, the CSO will meet with the convenor to discuss in more detail:

  • the reasons for Child Safety involvement, the ‘non-negotiables’ for case planning and the critical areas of need
  • the views of the child and family about the case planning options
  • the view of the CSO and senior team leader regarding the child and family strengths and how these may be incorporated in the case plan
  • information about the child’s ability to participate in the family group meeting and how to overcome any barriers to enable their participation
  • the likely venue, duration and format of the meeting
  • any significant issues that may impact on the family’s participation, for example, a history of violence, language or disability needs
  • any cultural considerations
  • how to create a culturally safe place for a meeting in relation to an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child
  • what may be required to ensure a successful meeting for a child or family from a culturally or linguistically diverse background
  • any people whose participation in the meeting would not be in a child’s best interests, or would be contrary to the purposes of the family group meeting
  • if a young person is eligible for transition to adulthood planning, details of the planning that has been commenced and the likely actions and outcomes that could be included in the young person’s case plan to meet their current and future needs.

2.3 Prepare for a family group meeting

Thorough preparation of those attending the family group meeting is essential to allow the participants to understand the concerns, the identified strengths and needs of the child and parents and participate to the greatest extent possible to achieve an agreed case plan at the meeting. It provides participants with time to discuss and consider options for planning, prior to the meeting.

Decide who will attend a family group meeting

It is the responsibility of the convenor to decide who will attend the family group meeting. In every case this determination is based on whether the participation or attendance of a person is in the child's best interests and whether the person is likely to make a useful contribution to the development of the case plan.

The child, where developmentally appropriate, and all people who are significant to the child must be given a reasonable opportunity to attend and participate in the family group meeting. The case plan should reflect and combine the knowledge, strengths, resources and supports of the child's family and support network with the professional expertise and resources of Child Safety representatives and other service providers.

The following people must be given the opportunity to participate in the family group meeting:

  • the child, where age and developmentally appropriate
  • the child's parents
  • extended family members, who are likely to make a useful contribution to the case plan (Child Protection Act 1999, section 51L)
  • any legal representative for the child
  • a member of the recognised entity for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child
  • anyone else who the convenor considers likely to make a useful contribution to the development of the case plan at the meeting, for example a service provider
  • any support person nominated by the child or parent
  • a Child Safety representative if the convenor is a private convenor.

For an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child, consider whether, in addition to the child, family and significant community members, the following individuals or agencies should also be given the opportunity to participate in case planning, including the cultural support plan:

  • a cultural practice advisor
  • individuals or services nominated by the child and family
  • the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander placement service, if relevant
  • the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Family Wellbeing Service, if relevant
  • other relevant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander agencies that are delivering services to or are in contact with the child and family.

The convenor or nominated person may invite other participants to the family group meeting, for example:

  • the foster or kinship carer or care service staff
  • Evole staff
  • other relevant support service staff.

The convenor or nominated person may use the relevant FGM invitation letter (depending on whether the convenor or nominated person has been able to consult with the participant prior to sending the letter).

Prepare for the meeting

To prepare for the family group meeting, the convenor will:

  • arrange a venue, date and time for the meeting - for a meeting involving an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child or adult, as far as reasonably practicable, hold the meeting in a place appropriate to Aboriginal tradition or Island custom.
  • consider all relevant information obtained during the review of ICMS, other case material and the meeting with the CSO and senior team leader, including the identified ‘non-negotiables’ for the case plan
  • contact the child, family and independent person, where applicable, to obtain cultural advice about the most appropriate way to engage Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child, and their family in the family group meeting.
  • ensure that the child is consulted about how they wish to participate in the family group meeting process, what issues, needs and goals they would like addressed at the meeting and whether they would like a support person to attend the family group meeting (if relevant)
  • consult with the child’s parents about the goals and actions they wish to have included in the case plan and whether they would like a support person to attend the family group meeting
  • consult with all the family group meeting participants to prepare them for the meeting, and provide them with essential information, for example:
    • the purpose, function, principles and process for a family group meeting and case planning, including an explanation of concurrent planning and an outline of permanency principles
    • the child’s protection and care needs and the reason for Child Safety involvement
    • the meeting details
    • the ‘non-negotiables’ for case planning
    • their obligation to maintain confidentiality
    • information about complaint and review processes
  • decide whether a person or persons are to be excluded from the meeting, if required
  • obtain and record the views of any person, who is unable to attend or is excluded from attending the meeting.
  • organise an interpreter if required.

For further information about speaking with the child, refer to the Family group meeting convenor handbook, the practice resource Participation of children and young people in decision-making (PDF, 342 KB) and the Children and young people participation strategy.

Consult with a parent who is unwilling to participate in the meeting

If a parent is unwilling to meet with the convenor, or is unwilling to attend the family group meeting, the convenor must make active efforts to engage the parent through other avenues, such as the parent's legal representative, a service provider or another family member.

The convenor will attempt to ascertain why the parent is unwilling to participate in the family group meeting and identify any strategies that could be put in place to secure their participation. A parent's decision not to participate in a family group meeting will not prevent the meeting from being held and the case plan being developed.