Family Group Decision-Making

The practice and philosophy of FGDM embodies a strengths-based, family-centered, child-focused and culturally sensitive approach to working with families in the child welfare system. Families are offered FGDM services to assist them with making critical decisions about their children to help alleviate the circumstances that brought them to the attention of the child welfare system. ASCI upholds best practices within its FGDM program and believes that the family is the primary decision-maker in the process, that the family members are the experts in the planning process and that strengths are the base and tools to solve family concerns. ASCI has been the lead agency practicing FGDM since 2009 in Philadelphia County.   

Specifically, ASCI provides case coordination and facilitation services, which follow the four phases in the FGDM practice.

Referral and Acceptance:

ASCI works with the Delaware County Family Engagement Specialist to determine appropriate referrals for the FGDM conferences. This is a participative process where the family is given the opportunity to understand what FGDM is and how they will be involved. Potential referrals will be considered for reasons including but not limited to: children at risk of placement, emergency and planned placements, placement disruptions, reunification of a child with their birth parents and youth entering group homes.

Coordination and Preparation:

After the Delaware County Family Engagement Specialist and ASCI Coordinator determine an appropriate referral, the ASCI worker conducts outreach to the family and begins to assist the family in identifying meeting participants for the FGDM. Specifically, the ASCI Coordinator:

  • Explains the process, purpose, roles and timeframes to the family by making face-to-face contact.
  • In collaboration with the family, secures and “widens the circle” of the potential participants.
  • Ensures all persons can participate safely.
  • Explains the concept of a support person.
  • Manages all logistical elements of the conference, including securing the location, food and transportation to the meeting.  
  • Identifies the family ritual prior to the conference.
  • Invites all participants.
  • Plans for a safe conference.
  • Conducts the pre-conference meeting with all necessary professionals.

The Family Engagement Specialist:

  • Provides the ASCI Coordinator with case background information and participant content information. Additionally, there may be a need to assist the ASCI Coordinator in meeting with the Delaware County worker for case background information and participant content information.

Facilitation and the FGDM Meeting:

An ASCI Facilitator will conduct the FGDM meeting. Specifically, the ASCI Facilitator:

  • Remains neutral throughout the duration of the meeting.
  • Ensures the safety of participants throughout the meeting.
  • Follows the facilitation guidelines of the FGDM practice.
  • Solicits strengths and concerns of the family.
  • Ensures all participants have an opportunity to speak.
  • Ensures the family understands the expectations of Family Private Time.
  • Ensures the privacy of the room is maintained.
  • Ensures the confidentiality of the conference.
  • Ensures participants complete surveys at the end of the conference.
  • Ensures the Family Plan is completed, presented and distributed following the conference.
    • A Family Plan should reflect the goals, objectives, tasks and assignments for the family. It is a specific plan that will list who, what, when and how the goals will be achieved. The family will create and present the plan to all participants. ASCI will provide the template for this Family Plan.  Should any modifications need to be made, this will be discussed with the Family Engagement Specialist.

It is expected that a Delaware County worker attend the FGDM meeting. A Coordinator pre-conference summary and FGDM case plans will be sent to CYS for review. 


Approximately 30-45 days following the conference, ASCI conducts a follow-up meeting with key members of the family. A 6-month follow-up is also needed for all cases with completed conferences. The ASCI Coordinator will reach out to the family to revisit the plan and note plan progress. The objectives and tasks of the plan are reviewed with the family. It is expected that a Delaware County worker be present during the follow-up meeting or provide feedback as necessary. If a worker is unable to be present at the follow-up meeting, input must be obtained from them on the success of the plan. A follow-up report is submitted to the Family Engagement Specialist within five business days after the follow-up meeting with the family.

For more information on FGDM, please contact:

Amanda Ruiz, Philadelphia Program Director