Navigating virtual participation in Family Group Conferences

Published: June 2, 2020

Research on the key enablers and barriers to Family Group Conference (FGC) attendance during COVID-19 and resulting guidance.


Improving FGC engagement is a priority for Oranga Tamariki. The Evidence Centre worked with BIT to look at ways to support FGC engagement in the COVID-19 environment and mitigate challenges of virtual engagement.

Through qualitative telephone interviews with FGC Coordinators, BIT researchers explored how FGCs can be coordinated effectively using a combination of virtual and in-person engagement. They applied a behavioural science lens to the analysis of the findings and developed this guidance.

The guidance outlines simple, evidence-based and low-cost actions that coordinators can apply to mitigate the impacts of virtual engagement. It will also be useful in hui-a-whānau engagements within the Care and Protection and Youth Justice areas of work.

Key findings

The guidance provides the following suggestions that coordinators can apply in their practice:

  • Build in breaks to keep participants engaged and alert, and allow coordinators to check in with individual people.
  • Use waiting periods productively by giving people activities to do during these times.
  • Check the technology ahead of the FGC to ensure that all participants are confident about the platform being used.
  • Continue the small personal touches that coordinators would have done under normal circumstances.
  • Give people individual attention prior to the FGC, particularly for building trust around privacy and confidentiality.
  • Increase pre-FGC communication by liaising between groups to enable participants to address the concerns of others.
  • Invite people to speak up about the challenges of participating virtually.