A Closer Examination of Family Group Decision Making in
situation.157 Additionally, a well-trained facilitator leads each
conference, which is also attended by attorneys, social workers,
psychologists, and other agency workers involved in the child’s
Within this group conference setting, the family, community,
and staff attempt to develop a plan for the child, taking into account
his or her individual and cultural needs.159 This mutual decision
making and information sharing can be especially important in
helping families and communities feel a stronger attachment to the
child, as well as to feel empowered in the decision making process.160
Through the conference, the community develops a sense of duty and
responsibility for the care of each child.161 Additionally, a unique
bond forms between the families, communities, and the social
welfare staff, facilitating a more positive relationship built on trust
and understanding.162 Furthermore, FGDM connects families with
accessible resources in their own communities.163 In this way, FGDM
breeds a similar mentality to the one inherently found in American
Indian, Alaskan Native, and Ethiopian tribal clans, where the success
and well being of each individual is reflected in the community as a
whole. Therefore, the ideals and structure of FGDM are an effective
way to increase extended family and community care of orphaned
and vulnerable children.
157 See id. at 139 (describing the conference as a way to “bring together agencies
around a family’s needs” including: referrals, conferences, a family’s development
of a plan and agency’s approval, coordination of the plan to match budgetary
restrictions, and implementation).
158 Robinson et al., supra note 146, at 44.
159 REENTRY PRACTICES FOR TRIBAL YOUTH, supra note 149, at 2. New Zealand
legislation, as well as a majority of other programs implementing FGDM, stipulates
for private time for the family to develop a plan for the child, and then invite the
coordinator back to review the plan “to ensure that it [is] clear and comprehensive
and include[s] mechanisms for monitoring and evaluation.” Pennell & Burford,
supra note 147, at 140.
160 Crampton, supra note 145, at 191, 193.
161 Id. at 183.
162 Robinson et al., supra note 146, at 44.
163 CONNECTED AND CARED FOR, supra note 144, at 6.