The charity is bringing Mike Doolan, former Chief Social Worker of New Zealand and recognised expert in child and family welfare to Scotland for the seminar series, which will bring together child care and social work leaders in Scotland to hear more about the system.
Family group conferencing (FGCs) brings families and professionals together to draw on the strengths of the wider family in finding solutions. Given resources, information and power, families will make safe decisions for their children. FGCs were pioneered in Scotland by CHILDREN 1ST who today offers FGC services in 12 local authority areas.
Maggie Mellon, Director of Children and Family Services, said:
"FGCs have been proven to keep children out of the care of the statutory services and safely with their wider families. They can avoid children having to be referred to a Children’s Panel or they can provide a workable plan to a hearing. They can keep children safe from abuse. The process is adaptable for many different problems. With the current review of social work and of the children’s hearings on-going in Scotland, and continuing concern about our child care and child protection systems, we believe that the time is right for Scotland to adopt this approach much more widely.
The outcomes FGCs can achieve are so crucial for children and their families that we believe that FGCs must have a central place in decision making about vulnerable children and families.
We therefore invited Mike Doolan to visit Scotland and highlight how completely FGCs fit with Scotland’s aspirations for children and families."
The charity is organising three events: in Edinburgh to raise awareness generally of FGCs; in South Lanarkshire, where it has run an FGC service for two years, to look at developing established services; and in Highland, where it is piloting an FGC service, to look at introducing an FGC service to professionals, children and families.
The keynote event in Edinburgh on the 25th October will be chaired by Willy Roe, Chair of the Scottish Executive’s 21st Century Social Work Review, and is attracting delegates from every corner of Scotland.
Social work representatives from the Shetland Islands to Dumfries and Galloway, professionals from key child welfare organisations such as SCRA, as well as from the voluntary sector and the prison system are all travelling to Edinburgh to participate.
The event in South Lanarkshire on 24th October will bring child welfare professionals together to look at extending existing use of FGCs in the area. CHILDREN 1ST delivers the South Lanarkshire FGC Service with funding from South Lanarkshire Council.
In Highland on 26th October, the focus will be on raising awareness and understanding of FGCs in action amongst child welfare professionals who could draw on the support of the new service. The service is being provided by CHILDREN 1ST in partnership with Highland Council who will host the event.
Chairman of The Highland Council's Housing and Social Work Committee, Councillor Margaret Davidson said: "I welcome our partnership with CHILDREN 1ST, which involves this significant conference, and the launch of Family Group Conferencing in Highland.
"Family Group Conferencing is about supporting families to find their own solutions. It is about parents and professionals working in partnership to find solutions that are likely to work.
"In Highland we have trailblazed partnership working across services for children.
CHILDREN 1ST brings a proven track record in this area of work. This has to be a recipe for success."
CHILDREN 1ST has established a Family Group Conference Development Unit, to promote and develop the model in Scotland, and to provide the necessary training and evaluation resources available to wide-ranging childcare professionals.
Maggie Mellon outlined what the charity is hoping the seminars will achieve:
"We want FGCs every child to have the opportunity of a family meeting when decisions are being made about their future It is such a simple but effective process, which doesn’t require a change in the law. We intend these events to be an important step towards having the potential of FGCs recognised and FGCs established across Scotland."