Family meetings

Family group decision making

Family Group Decision Making aims to bring a child's extended family together to plan and make decisions for their care and welfare.  

Our objectives are to

  • draw on the strength of the extended family and include them in the decision making and planning process for children. 
  • reduce the number of children cared for outwith their own families and increase the number of kinship care placements.

What we do 

We set up decision-making meetings between families and professionals.

Before the meeting we meet with all those attending to prepare. Family meetings are blame free, solution focused and centred on the child's best interests. 

Meetings last for around three hours and have three stages:

  • Information sharing gives professionals the chance to share concerns with the family and gives the family the chance to respond.
  • Private family time gives family members space on their own to discuss the concerns raised and come up with a plan to address concerns drawing on their own family strengths.
  • Agree the plan gives families the chance to share their plan with the professionals. This plan must be agreed by the referring worker unless there is a safety concern or the child is placed at further risk.

Evidence suggests that preparation and time help ensure we create a successful family plan. We aim to hold family meetings within eight weeks of our first contact.


In emergencies the team can offer emergency network meetings. Less time is given to the preparation stage, with a view to gathering the family together within one week.

These meetings are only used when a child is being considered for accommodation on an emergency basis and will be followed by a full family meeting.

Babies service

In Edinburgh there is an automatic referral to our service for all unborn babies, subject to a Pre-Birth Child Protection Case Conferences or Social Work Assessment and for all infants up to 12 months.  Best Practice is that we aim to offer a Family Meeting prior to the Initial Case Conference or between this and he Review Child Protection Case Conference.

We support families and the wider network to come together, with the aim of creating a safe and robust plan that can be taken to Case Conference and so family have the opportunity to present this if there is potential for an alternative to foster care which could be assessed and tested out prior to the birth of the child. Alternatively, it can identify, previously unknown protective factors within the network to alleviate concerns that professionals have about potential risks to the baby.

All Social Work Practice Teams have a Link Team Leader who ensures that all Babies going to pre-birth case conferences and babies up to the age of one are automatically referred to the FGDM team. The role of the coordinator would be to make direct contact with the parent/s, following discussion with the key professional to make an offer of a Family Meeting.

Lifelong Links

Lifelong links supports care experienced Children and Young People to safely maintain and re-establish relationships that are important to them . This can be people that they have lost contact with or family they do not yet have a relationship with. Co-ordinators use a range of tools and techniques to identify and engage with families, including full family research using Scotland’s People.


To make a referral you can e-mail the team or call us on 0131 221 2210

Useful websites 

Children1st family group conferencing

Family Rights Group information on family group conferencing

Videos explaining the FGDM process

The Eigen Kracht  

Family group conferencing in the Netherlands where every family must be offered a family meeting at the point of referral to social work. 

Recognition Matters

In 2019, a group of six women came together to create the Recognition Matters project. They had a shared perspective on child welfare and protection, but had arrived at this perspective in different ways. They wanted to bring together their knowledge to strengthen practice and improve the experiences of families.This film tells the story of that work.

Azaria's Story

In this film a young mother recounts her experiences of pre-birth child protection and being part of a Family Group Conference for her child. She explains how important the relationships she built with professionals were for her, and for her family.

Family group decision making

Telephone: 0131 221 2210