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Reisverslag A long day of information sharing on FGC
1 november 2013
A long day of information sharing on FGC
At 9.30 the meeting of the European Network on Family Group Conferencing (FGC) started with an introduction of the Serbian situation regarding FGC. (please note that family refers to extended family)
Zeljka Burgund told us about the Serbian implementation of the FGC-model. The Serbian organization for FGC is calles Family Circle, and is very young (founded last year). So far they have given trainings for FGC-referral, raised awareness at decision makers at policy level, and they provide FGC’s mainly in Belgrade and Novi Sad to prevent the institutionalization of children. There has been a big change in system of Social Welfare in Serbia and now the main aims are de-institutionalization and development of alternatives to residential care institutions. FGC proves to be efficient, uncomplicated and cost saving, which is liked by policy makers, but these are not the key strengths of FGC. It is important to raise a real understanding of the FGC-model. The Serbian FGC-organization (Family Circle) is impressed by the work done in other countries and wants to learn from that. They also want to expand the activities to areas other than child-care, such as mental health, restorative justice, education and any hard life-situation.
Then Jelena Pesic gave a presentation on the actual situation of Child and Family Care in Serbia. She told us that Serbia is an upper middle-income country with about 7 million inhabitants. The unemployment rates are high: 26% in general (50% of young people). There are 3 laws that are applicable: on Social Welfare, Family rights and financial support for families. There are 85 residential institutions in Serbia. Between 2000 and 2011 the number of children in institutions shrunk with 48% and is now amongst the lowest rates in Europe (which is very impressive). About 85% of these children are now in foster care. Several aspects contributed to this system change: supporting the development of skills of parents and foster care families, modernizing the system and EU-pressure which led to a change in legislation in favour of family support. Also there were many refugees, which created a need to transform the system and focus on life conditions and real social care. FGC is being promoted in 7 cities, and local governments even start to ask for it, which is positive. But the Serbian FGC-organization is young and in need of structural funding, to get beyond the project-based funding.
After this introduction of Serbia we started with the Country reports. For this we formed smaller groups to chat informally. Here is a summary:
In Russia in 2013, the main focus is on training specialists on FGC, so they can request it when they consider it useful. Irina is providing 3-day trainings to groups of 20 persons. She is the contact person for requesting FGC’s and also provides supervision to groups and individuals, and can be consulted whenever needed. Training professional is the first step, implementation of FGC will follow after that. Russia has various regions, and at the moment FGC is a legal right in the Republic of Komi. In the region of Murmansk the commission on minors and child rights declared FGC as obligatory. However coordinating FGC is a volunteer activity in Russia, it is unpaid. In 2013 the FGC trainings are expanded to other regions (central and Siberia) for which there is state support of 100.000 euro. In June also mediators were trained on FGC and the first FGC in jail was held (on how to deal with a family member during and after jailtime).
Then Rachida told something about the UK (London), and the Family Rights Group, which has done research to FGC-models and developed 27 standards which they now use to assess and accredit FGC-organizations throughout all of the UK (done by an independent panel). The University of Chester has developed a post-graduate certificate on coordinating Family Group Conferencing.
Then Swanhild, who works for the government of Norway on FGC elaborated on the review of all of the research that has been done on FGC worldwide (research, empirical data of practices and user feedback). What is missing is research into the long term effects (after 3 years) .
Rob and I briefly explained something about the Dutch FGC-practice. In the Netherlands FGC is rather widely spread, and The FGC-organization is rather big and resourced, compared to other European countries. After various projects in various areas, FGC is no longer promoted as a model or method for certain situations. There is now a focus on macro-dynamics: FGC is promoted as a citizen’s right to avoid state interventions: FGC should be offered first. FGC can bridge the gap between the life practice and the system-world.
In Austria, FGC is successful in Lower Austria: social workers can do it and FGC is paid for by the local government, without a limit. Social workers can refer to FGC, which is run by the independent coordinator: (another) social worker. This was quite a radical change in the practice of social workers: At first there was no belief in the power of families, and it appeared to be hard to take the social workers out of their comfort zone. As a pilot project 10 Family Group Conferences were held, and after 10 conferences, the ice was broken, and more conferences were planned. Social workers now say that even when the offer of FGC doesn’t lead to a conference, the situation already improved by the offer. In 2014 a German-speaking conference on FGC will be organized for Germany, Austria and Switzerland. There is also a bachelor-project for students on FGC. However, FGC in Austria still needs a more formal organization, by now it’s merely a loose network without a real structure (everyone is doing everything). But it is a powerful team of people who manage to inspire, raise understanding and pressure for change. They do miss evaluation and research.
In Germany, FGC is embedded in the welfare system in Hamburg, simply because it saves money. The FGC-network covers all of Germany. At the moment, a total number of about 500 Family Group Conferences have been done. At some places there is a stagnation of the rise of FGC, as if the persons are tired and need new inspiration. In Germany they also wish for legislation that gives people the right to do FGC first before any intervention takes place. Also the first FGC without referral by social work has taken place, which is great, because families don’t necessarily need to go to social work first; FGC is owned by the family. Martina from Germany was very interested in learning more about the training of non-professionals (not caregivers) as FGC-coordinators.
In Bulgaria there are 28 trained coordinators, 20 key persons and 50 trained referrers (social work). FGC is included in the curriculum of social work, and trainings are given at Varna University for social management students. The project receives no government funding, but is funded by the Tulip Foundation. In the region of Haskovo, 3 mainstream school have adopted FGC as the first option when teachers notice problems (instead of reporting to authorities, which generally results in punishment, and instead of getting personally involved, for which they may not have the capacity, and instead of doing nothing and just wait). The idea is that children are in school, and not in social services, so the teachers identify when there is something wrong, and they enable early intervention not the social services. This is really an illuminating practice.
In the UK/Scotland, FGC is practiced with older persons who are diagnosed with dementia. It was recently ranked in the top 3 of good practices for persons with dementia. It has been researched that there is a cost-saving of about 4000 Pounds at every FGC. However, funding is still a problem. The Scottish FGC-organization has a website for their members, where they are spreading knowledge internally. They need government acknowledgement. In Child Courts the theory of FGC is recognized, but unfortunately social workers do not embrace the FGC model (yet).
In the UK/Wales, the funding of FGC varies across Wales, and the FGC-implementation varies as well. After a 2/3 budget cut from the government, the Welsh FGC’s are now creatively funded by the lottery. The Welsh FGC-organization was recently accredited by the Family Rights Group, and received the accreditation from a policy maker with influence, so they are now promoting the pictures of that moment, in order to secure governmental support and raise funds.
In Belgium, the FGC-organization is relatively small and operates on a voluntary basis. There have been 20 FGC’s. Also all independent coordinators work on a voluntary basis, and only the costs are covered. The coordinators generally take on about 4 FGC’s a year, so there is no routine-habit, but fresh aspirations. The funding comes on a project-basis. So far the Belgian FGC-organization only serves the Dutch/Flemish speaking part, and they are now expanding to the French speaking part of Belgium. The Belgian FGC-organization aims for FGC to become an option in the set of social work.
During the country reports we already had some very interesting discussions on the ins and outs of certain dynamics. After lunch the “group work in the Open Space” was scheduled, which meant that everyone could list issues that they would like to discuss, and then people would choose where they want to be. There were 8 topics that were brought up, such as: FGC with foster families, FGC-plan templates, FGC for older people, the mind shift at policy level, the European FGC-website, support programmes for FGC-trainings, and the involvement of stakeholders. I listed “FGC in mental health care” and I was scheduled as session 8 in the last time slot of the day.
First I joined the session on “how to create a mind shift” which comprised a very interesting and complex discussion about powers, dynamics, interests and attitudes. Changing mind sets can take many forms, but there is no one-size-fits-all solution to bring change.
Then at 16.00 my workshop on Family Group Conferencing in mental health care started. I was very honoured to have about 10 people (out of 30) joining my 1-hour workshop on Family Group Conferencing in mental health care. It was mainly a dialogue where I tried to answer all the questions. We discussed issues like: real social care versus forced treatments, medical versus social model, danger and safety, the prejudice on incapacity, fears and self-isolation, trust and the acceptance of the plans of families by the system, and fundamental rights. I’m already writing a more detailed summary of my session, but that won’t be finished today. (It’s now already past 2 AM in the night, so I will publish the detailed summary later.)
After this full day of exchanging information, we had a free hour, and then we all gathered in the lobby for the “Belgrade evening”. We went to a traditional Serbian restaurant with a tour-bus, where we had dinner and a cultural programme of traditional Serbian folk dancing, which was very energetic. At the end of the evening most of us were on the dance floor, including me, and we had a great time. It was a very long and interesting day. And now it’s time to get some sleep.
1 november 2013 10:00 | Door: Christien
En morgen weer naar huis!!!
Liefs en tot gauw,