Family Team Decision Meetings

What is a Family Team Decision Meeting, or FTDM?

Family sitting together

BCDSS is committed to working together with families to address safety and well-being concerns. A Family Team Decision Meeting (FTDM) is an opportunity for the family, the family’s support system, and the BCDSS workers to sit down and work together to make a plan.

An FTDM is led by a specially trained BCDSS social worker called a facilitator who is an expert in bringing together families and agency staff for these meetings.

When there are concerns about the safety and well-being of a child in the family home, Family Team Meetings can be helpful in deciding on a plan that is in the child’s best interest. These confidential meetings are an important first step to helping families get the services, resources and support they need to create a safe, stable, and nurturing home environment. Often, an FTDM can prevent family separation and foster care.

Family Team Decision Meetings are also held at key decision points for children and older youth who are in out-of-home care. FTDMs are called when something happens and a child may need to move to a different home; when a different goal is being considered for a child’s future, or before the first permanency hearing before the court.

The facilitator will contact you to set the meeting place and time. FTDMs can be held in person or virtually, depending on the specific situation. Click here for assistance on how to connect to a virtual meeting.

In addition to FTDMs, there are two other types of family meetings.

A Family Meeting is a meeting led by the caseworker and involves the family and family’s support system. Family Meetings are used for many reasons, including to brainstorm solutions, adjust case plans and assign tasks and deadlines.

Sometimes, family meetings will be facilitated by other agency staff rather than the caseworker. These meetings are called Facilitated Family Meetings. Facilitated Family Meetings are held to plan for a child transitioning from foster care or when certain specialized placements are being considered. They can also be held when there are other situations that call for someone neutral to lead the meeting.

Attorneys for the parents and child may attend the FTDM or Family Meetings, but their attendance is not mandatory.

Why should I attend a FTDM or Family Meeting?

Family Meeting with Social Worker

Decisions about what happens to a child are best made when families can participate and tell their own story and when everyone who has information about the child is a part of the discussion. A FTDM brings together the child, parents, the agency social worker, foster and kin providers, attorneys, and other people in the community that know or can support the family to keep children safe and help them be successful.

Family involvement is critical when difficult decisions must be made that impact a child’s safety, permanency and well-being. FTDMs promote respect and collaboration and are used by child welfare agencies around the country to ensure the best possible outcomes for children.

How can a child or teen prepare for the FTDM or Family Meeting?

Meeting between two people

What you have to say is important. Still, it can be hard when you are in a room full of adults, all talking about you and your family. Here are some tips to help you prepare for the FTDM:

  • Talk with your case worker before the meeting. Discuss what’s going well, what you are worried about and what you would like to see happen before the meeting. While everyone would like to hear from you, if you are in the FTDM and don’t feel comfortable speaking, there is someone else that can share what is on your mind.
  • Ask to bring a friend or trusted adult. If you have an attorney, teacher, coach or friend that you would like to attend, ask your case worker to invite him or her to the FTDM.
  • Write down your thoughts before the meeting so you remember everything you want to talk about.
  • Check your schedule. Let the case worker know if you want to attend the FTDM and there is something that prevents you from participating. This could be school, transportation, internet access or something else. The case worker can help find a solution.

What happens at a FTDM?

Family meeting with Social Worker

After introductions are made, the facilitator will review “ground rules” to help all team members feel comfortable and safe contributing to the discussion. Team members are invited to ask any questions to clarify the process before beginning to discuss the case.

The facilitator begins by summarizing the situation that made it necessary to have a meeting, and team members take turns offering their perspectives. Each person is treated with dignity and respect. During the discussion the facilitator will identify:

  • threats to the child’s safety, well-being and permanence
  • services necessary to improve the situation
  • family strengths and supports
  • the best placement option

Team members work together to develop a plan that addresses the situation. At the end of the meeting, the facilitator summarizes the agreement, the recommendations, and the next steps that should happen. Everyone is given a copy of the plan prior to leaving the meeting so that the outcomes of the meeting are clear.

How is the decision made? What if there is disagreement about next steps?

The hope is that everyone can agree about what should happen. That is not always possible. The agency case worker will have the final say about the safety plan. Any team member may request an administrative review before the meeting ends if there is a question about the child’s safety.

If you have questions before or after the FTDM is held, contact the case worker.