Family group conferencing (FGC) is considered to be a promising method for empowerment and community building of people in need of care and their families. However, empirical studies on the effects of FGC show mixed results, and often fail to explain these. In this article, we critically reflect under which conditions FGCs may or may not become successful, on the basis of a small-scale longitudinal research of four cases in which FGC was used, supplemented by analysis of research on FGC, interviews with social workers and observations of trainings of social workers who intend to apply FGC. Our data point to four conditions for successful application of FGC, concerning (i) the presence of a (positive) network, (ii) the need for formal care in addition to informal care by way of the FGC, (iii) active protection against paternalism and humiliation and (iv) taking seriously client’s reluctance to ask social network members for help. The possible risks and conditions, we formulate, hopefully help social workers to decide case by case whether the use of FGC indeed promises to be helpful or, conversely, it may be harmful.