National Center on Family Group Decision Making

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Family Group Decision Making (FGDM) is rooted in the belief that families have a shared history, wisdom, untapped resources, and an unrivaled commitment to their children. It is about empowering families and their friends to think and plan creatively for their children, create community partnerships, and utilize family strengths to resolve child welfare concerns. It is also an invitation to families to be responsible for the outcomes of a plan of their own creation.

While the concept of family group decision making dates back to 1989 in New Zealand -- a country 6,000 miles from the western shores of the United States -- it wasn't until the mid-1990s that this child welfare practice debuted in America. With support from a national foundation, American Humane studied how this would work in a U.S.-based child welfare system, considering political, cultural, administrative, and societal factors. The results of that groundbreaking study encouraged American Humane to continue its work in this emerging practice. Our work includes providing training and technical assistance to countless communities, hosting the annual FGDM Conference, and advancing knowledge through our many publications.

In 1999, American Humane established the National Center on Family Group Decision Making with a mission to build community capacity to implement high-quality, effective FGDM processes that are philosophically congruent with the central values and beliefs of this approach. The staff of the National Center work in a number of areas toward this mission. We are dedicated to sharing resources, advancing family-driven practices, creating knowledge, and building links to improve the implementation and evaluation of family group decision making both in the United States and abroad.

The National Center offers a wide range of services, including but not limited to, the following:

Training and technical assistance

As the number of communities implementing FGDM and other family engagement approaches grows, the National Center understands that high-quality training and technical assistance significantly impacts the viability and effectiveness of the practice. Since 1995, American Humane and our collaborating partners have provided training and technical assistance to many diverse communities across the United States. American Humane has the staff capabilities and the network to assist communities with a variety of training and technical assistance needs, including, but not limited to:

  • designing community-specific initiatives.
  • implementing programs, including practice and policy development.
  • delivering community education seminars for diverse audiences.
  • developing and delivering competency-based, skills-building training for coordinators/facilitators.
  • assisting administrators in building community partnerships and agency-capacity to implement FGDM.

Helping supervisors to stimulate critical thinking and building practice competencies of staff

The National Center is committed to providing training and technical assistance to affect standards and to ensure best practices in FGDM and other family engagement approaches nationwide. While there are various approaches and models, American Humane believes that there are a number of elements that are essential to the efficacy of FGDM practice. These cornerstone philosophical elements distinguish family group decision making approaches from case staffing and other more traditional ways of partnering with families.

Annual Conference

The annual FGDM Conference, held in different parts of the country each year, provides the important opportunity for communities to learn from one another about their approaches, policies, and effectiveness. Building on the collective knowledge and wisdom gained from past Conferences since 1997, American Humane has created a forum that helps communities advance their abilities to develop, implement, and evaluate family group decision making and other family engagement approaches.


The National Center is committed to the development and distribution of quality publications and videos about FGDM and other family engagement approaches. In addition to American Humane's own published works, the National Center serves as the U.S. distributor for many other related products developed nationally and internationally. You can also explore the free resources available on this website.

Staff expertise

American Humane's National Center staff have a depth and range of experience in FGDM. Since 1995, staff and their partners have provided training, technical assistance, and consultation to over 100 U.S. communities. Collectively the National Center staff have presented on FGDM to over 300 national and international audiences, have authored/edited over 50 publications on this topic, and have coordinated/facilitated over 200 family group conferences. Click here for a more detailed description of our staff.

National Center Advisory Committee

To ensure that the National Center's priorities and activities address the needs of the communities implementing FGDM and other family engagement approaches, we have an Advisory Committee consisting of respected individuals in the field. They are asked periodically to consult on or review the National Center's goals, activities, and materials. Click here for a more detailed description of our Advisory Committee.

Become involved

American Humane welcomes you to partner with the National Center to achieve our goals. Please consider the following ways to collaborate with us:

  • Become a member of American Humane and receive discounts on publications and training opportunities.
  • Publish your FGDM-related materials (training curricula, practice and policy manuals, research studies) through American Humane's publications department.
  • Present at our annual Conference -- watch for the Call for Papers each Summer.
  • Visit the National Center website regularly.
  • Tell us how we can serve your community's interests and needs.

American Humane Association
National Center on Family Group Decision Making
63 Inverness Drive East
Englewood, Colorado 80112-5117
(303) 925-9421
(303) 858-0871 Fax

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