A workshop was held dedicated to the Family Group Conferences method from the 7th until the 9th March in Leeds, England. At the invitation of the Tulip Foundation, representatives of 11 Bulgarian non-governmental organizations, who are or will be trained to apply the method in Bulgaria, took part in it. A representative of the Know-How Center also participated in the event. The visit is part of the Tulip Foundation's program for exchange of Family Group Conferences experience with partners from the Gironde Departmental Council of France, Family Rights Group from Great Britain and NeuKolln von Berlin from Germany. The activities are co-funded under the Erasmus+ programme of the European Commission. The goal is for host organizations to explain the peculiarities and application process of the Family Group Conferences method through a series of meetings in France, the UK, Germany and Bulgaria.
In the framework of the workshop, colleagues from Family Rights Group UK presented their long experience of introducing the method from 1993 to now. Over the years, they have gradually reached the idea of accrediting and certifying the service and creating postgraduate qualifications in partnership with various British universities. Today, the method is open to all people - children, young people, pregnant women, elderly people, victims of domestic violence, children and people in institutions, etc. At present, over 85% of the municipalities in the UK offer the Family Group Conference service.
Furthermore, Lifelong Links is a pre-eminent Family Group Conference service for children and young people to come out of institutional care. It is a combination of the US-based family finder model and the New Zealand Family Group Conference model. Lifelong Links aims to identify and engage relatives and other supportive carers related to a child in care who are willing to keep in touch with the child throughout his/her life. Research has shown that the continuity and consistency of these relationships offer the child constant emotional support and strengthen the child's identity and sense of belonging. The model includes tools and techniques that professionals can use to search for and find family members (known or unknown to the child) and other adults (such as foster parents or teachers) who would care for the child. Then these people are invited to a Family Group Conference to make a lifetime support plan for the young person after leaving the institution. The group has the obligation to periodically review the plan - whether it works, whether the circumstances have changed and whether the plan needs to be amended. The local office should include the plan drawn up by the group in the child care plan, with social workers engaging with the young person and his support network during the transition to independence and maturity while leaving the institution.