We are all born and live in families. Every family is unique with its own culture, personalities, individual dynamics and history. Every family goes through difficulties and problems every now and then. There are difficult situations related with children, youth, parents, older people in the family which might be sorted out easily with the support of relatives and friends. There are also cases when some help from health specialists, educational institutions, social services or other agencies could be necessary.
The Family group conference is a way to find out solutions to various problems when children, parents, members of the extended family, friends come together to make a plan. It is based on an old traditional and easy to understand concept – the power of the family circle. The family conference provides an opportunity chance for the family to get together, mobilize its own strengths and resources and to make the best possible plan to overcome the problems of a child or another member of the family. The members of the family take the decisions and the responsibilities. The professional do not decide – they provide the necessary information, support and services.
Tulip Foundation laid the fundament for the application of the method Family Group conference in Bulgaria in 2011 with the Trust in the Family Programme with partnership of Eigen Kracht Centrale. Tulip Foundation is an active member of the EU FGC network.
In November this year, we are going to mark 30 years from the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. It was adopted by the General Assembly on 20 November 1989. It is ratified by the Bulgarian Parliament on 11 April and has entered into force on 3 July 1991.
During the same year 1989 the Children, Young Persons and their Family Act has been adopted in New Zealand. The main focus in this law is on the importance of maintaining and strengthening the relations between children, young people and their wider network of families and friends. The family group conference (FGC) is the mechanism that provides structured environment for such most important for children and young people support.
The EU FGC network presented an open letter to the members of the Committee on the Rights of the Child on the occasion of this double anniversary. Tulip Foundation is an active member of the network since 2011. We call on the attention of Governmental and Non-governmental organisations on the initiative for improvement of the rights of children which is based on the experience of tens of organisations in Europe. We know from our practical work that in cases when intervention from the state is considered or has already happened in the life of a child the network of the extended family brings unique expertise.
We call on Governmental and Non-governmental organisations is to seek ways to improve the understanding and the sensibility for assessing the risk of (institutional) intervention in lives of children and families. Our appeal is to look for ways to identify, support and use the resources of the families.
The model FGC is been applied in Bulgaria for a few years. The results from the organised few hundred family meetings confirm the conclusions of research – children and families heel heard, children and families stay together, children have a long-term support from the family network even in case4s of severe problems. Members of the family and its network realise their main role in taking decisions for their own lives. Unforeseen resources become available. Cooperation between families and professionals improves. The family group exercises its right to take decisions and bear the responsibility. That is a role model of democracy that starts at home.
The rights of children should start and be exercised in the family!
The family group conference is a unique instrument for achieving this.