Cultural plans - advice
This advice provides further information about cultural plans.
Document ID number 2302, version 4, 22 December 2020.
See procedure Cultural plans for tasks that must be undertaken.
A cultural plan is one part of an holistic approach to planning for vulnerable children and young people in out-of-home care. The CYFA establishes cultural support as essential for Aboriginal children in out-of-home care to maintain and strengthen their Aboriginal identity and encourage their connection to their Aboriginal culture and community.
The case plan for an Aboriginal child in out-of-home care is required to address the child’s cultural support needs and reflect and be consistent with those needs. It contains significant decisions relating to the child. The child’s cultural plan includes various elements to promote and maintain cultural support for the child while they are in out-of-home care.
The care team prepares, implements, and reviews the cultural plan. While the case practitioner (child protection or contracted agency) has the responsibility for the cultural plan being given to the child, the care team is expected to lead and ensure completion of the plan.
Aboriginal community controlled organisations, funded by the department for the provision of cultural planning, are responsible for supporting care teams to develop cultural plans, check the plan for accuracy and appropriateness from a cultural perspective and sign the plan. This support is provided through the Senior Advisor – Aboriginal Cultural Planning role, which will actively trouble-shoot barriers to completing the cultural plan and provide the plan to their chief executive officer for endorsement. The chief executive officer may set the review date for the cultural plan earlier than the usual 12 months where important information is yet to be obtained or based on the circumstances of the child.
The case planner endorses the cultural plan, ensuring it is aligned to the case plan permanency objective, and is able to be implemented within the timeframes set and within budget.
Planning in the child protection context
Planning is an essential component of the best interests case practice model and is crucial for effective child protection intervention. Planning includes making decisions about what actions to take regarding the child’s need and risks, in relation to family strengths and capacities. Planning happens throughout child protection involvement, from intake to closure and it stems from effective information gathering and analysis of the available information. It is directly informed by the current assessment of the child’s situation, and directly informs any actions that need to be taken.
Case planning has a specific meaning in child protection practice. A case plan is defined in legislation as containing all significant decisions concerning a child relating to their present and future care and wellbeing, and including the permanency objective for the child, and cultural support for an Aboriginal child in out-of-home care. This specific case planning begins at the point where protective concerns are substantiated and continues until closure. Case planning is governed by legislative and policy requirements relating to the preparation, provision and review of case plans and specific requirements for cultural support for Aboriginal children in out-of-home care (s. 176).
For advice relating to case planning, see Case planning - advice.
Cultural support for Aboriginal children in out-of-home care
Cultural support needs
Where an Aboriginal child is placed in out-of-home care, their case plan is required to address their cultural support needs. It has to reflect and be consistent with the child's cultural support needs, in a way that is appropriate to the child's circumstances, so as to—
- maintain and develop the child's Aboriginal identity and
- encourage the child's connection to their Aboriginal community and culture.
The legislation provides that the child’s cultural support needs may vary depending on:
- the length of time the child has spent in out-of-home care
- the age of the child
- the length of time that the child is expected to remain in out-of-home care
- the extent of the child's contact with the child's Aboriginal family members
- whether the child is placed within their own Aboriginal community, another Aboriginal community or with non‑Aboriginal carers.
In relation to cultural support, a child's Aboriginal community is defined as one of the following:
- the Aboriginal community to which the child has a sense of belonging, if this can be ascertained
- the Aboriginal community in which the child has primarily lived
or if neither of these
- the Aboriginal community of the child's parent or grandparent.
The CYFA requires a child’s cultural plan be aligned with their case plan.
Principles underpinning cultural planning
As with case planning, when preparing a cultural plan, the best interest and decision-making principles in the CYFA apply. These are the principles that Child Protection and community services including Aboriginals Community Controlled Organisations (ACCO) must have regard to when making any decision or taking any action or providing any service to vulnerable children and families. The best interests of the child are always paramount, and protecting the child from harm, protecting their rights, and promoting their development must always be considered.
In preparing a cultural plan, the additional decision-making principles for Aboriginal children and young people also need to be considered. These recognise the principle of Aboriginal self-management and self-determination and set out requirements for both Child Protection and community services to actively engage relevant members of the child’s Aboriginal community or communities, and other respected Aboriginal persons, in the decision-making process.
How a cultural plan is developed
Cultural plans are developed by the care team supporting the child. For advice relating to care teams, see Care teams - advice.
It is important that the cultural plan, no matter the circumstances or permanency objective, is prepared as soon as possible, to maintain and encourage cultural connectedness. For children who have a tenuous or no connection to their Aboriginal community and culture, providing opportunities to develop cultural connection offers the potential for an additional protective factor in their lives. Where little is known of the child’s heritage, gathering information can be a goal of the first plan, along with goals and tasks to begin the process of encouraging development of the child’s general Aboriginal identity and connection. Once further information is gathered, the plan can be reviewed to strengthen direct cultural and community connection.
Refer to and consult with the Senior Advisor – Aboriginal Cultural Planning
When an Aboriginal child first enters out-of-home care, the care team leader must make a referral to the Senior Advisor – Aboriginal Cultural Planning (employed by a local ACCO) within three working days. The care team leader is to consult with the Senior Advisor – Aboriginal Cultural Planning about the composition of the care team, especially to ensure Aboriginal members are part of the care team, and how they will able to have meaningful input into the development of the cultural plan.
The consultation with the Senior Advisor – Aboriginal Cultural Planning needs to consider the child’s connection to their Aboriginal community and culture, including the extent to which the child and their family have knowledge of their Aboriginal heritage. For some children, knowledge of their Aboriginal community and culture will be limited, whereas other children and families will have a strong knowledge of and connection to their Aboriginal community and culture. Identifying the extent of information available about the child’s community and the child’s existing cultural connection will assist in understanding the level of cultural support required, as well as the level of input required to support the care team developing the cultural plan.
In certain circumstances, the Senior Advisor – Aboriginal Cultural Planning will be part of the care team developing a cultural plan. However, on occasions the Senior Advisor will provide consultation as required only. The senior advisor needs to consider:
- the child and their family’s connection to their Aboriginal community and culture
- Aboriginal family membership of the care team
- other Aboriginal people who could be part of the care team
- the likelihood of meaningful Aboriginal input into the care team
- the experience of the care team in developing cultural plans
- any other relevant factors.
The senior advisor will advise in writing if they will provide consultation and support only, including the rationale for this decision, and how they will provide this to the care team.
Care teams can suggest a formal review of this decision. This request should be made as quickly as possible ensure there are no avoidable delays in preparing a cultural plan. Should a care team hold any concern about the adequacy of the senior advisor role or participation, this should be discussed directly with the advisor or their supervisor. Requests for review of this decision should be made via child protection management.
Convening the care team
The care team is expected to meet within two weeks of a child entering out-of-home care. For Aboriginal children, this meeting should start preparing the cultural plan. Efforts need to be made to include the child’s family, especially their Aboriginal family, in the care team unless this would not be in the child’s best interests. This will promote continued familial care for the child and assist in maintaining the child’s connection to their family. It is imperative that an Aboriginal person is part of the care team, and where there is no Aboriginal person in the care team, this will be the Senior Advisor – Aboriginal Cultural Planning.
The first care team meeting
The first care team meeting should establish what tasks will be needed to develop the cultural plan, who will do them, and by when. Tasks will include engaging with the child (where age appropriate) about their cultural plan, and may include other tasks such as: identifying family members who can provide authoritative cultural advice; establishing which Aboriginal community/ies the child belongs to; further developing the child’s genogram, aiming to complete this to least three generations – and where this is not yet possible, setting out how the information can be found; identifying appropriate cultural connection activities; and so on. Consider a referral to the Aboriginal Family Finding service.
Developing the cultural plan
While Child Protection retains the legislative responsibility for seeing that a cultural plan is provided to the child, it is the shared responsibility of all members of the care team to develop it, and all are expected to contribute.
The child should be encouraged to be part of the process, in an age-appropriate manner. Younger children may contribute to their cultural plan through drawings that form part of their cultural plan, or even decorating the cultural plan document: young people may contribute to their cultural plan finding meaningful activities and goals that strengthen their connection to their Aboriginal community and culture.
Aboriginal communities are encouraged to localise cultural plans for their children and young people. The cultural plan template has been developed and endorsed by a representative group of Aboriginal people from Victoria, and the content of the document must not be reduced or significantly changed. However, communities may choose to add small elements that reflect their unique community and culture, including artwork and other elements.
As soon as possible a draft is to be given to the Senior Advisor – Aboriginal Cultural Planning for review, comment, input and advice.
Within sixteen weeks of the child entering out-of-home care, the cultural plan is given to the Senior Advisor – Aboriginal Cultural Planning, who will present the plan to their chief executive officer (CEO) for approval.
Where an activity associated with maintaining and strengthening a child’s connection to their Aboriginal culture constitutes a significant decision as defined in case planning policy, this is a case planning decision. For example, a return to Country trip will likely require travel approval, and ongoing regular contact with particular person, such as an Elder, will require approval of that contact. Where an activities involves a financial commitment beyond that covered by the carer’s care allowance, prior approval is required as usual. (Where cultural support brokerage funding is used, the appropriate record should be maintained.)
Involving children, families and other support people
The aim is for the cultural plan to be developed in a collaborative manner inclusive of all relevant members of the child and family’s network, especially their Aboriginal family and community. The process should encourage the child, parents, extended family, community, carers and professionals to be involved in generating ideas and implementing actions to maintain and strengthen the child’s connection to their Aboriginal community and culture.
It is possible there may be disagreement between the family and Child Protection as to the key needs of the child and the way forward. Where this is the case, engaging with families and mediating disputes can be effective ways of promoting consensus and collaboration. The practitioner should discuss approaches to engaging families and resolving conflict in supervision and with the Senior Advisor – Aboriginal Cultural Planning.
Aboriginal family-led decision making
Aboriginal family-led decision making (AFLDM) may assist in developing a cultural plan (note: developing a cultural plan is not the purpose of an AFLDM).
Using an AFLDM approach, AFLDM convenors work with parents ahead of the meeting to identify extended family and other community members who can attend and participate in identifying and implementing the actions that the family may decide upon and prepare participants.
During the meeting, the practitioner provides information about the issues of concern and requirements to protect the child. The family is given the opportunity to take the lead in proposing actions to address these concerns in private family time.
Encouraging the voice of the child
Giving children a voice in planning and decision making that affects them, in age appropriate ways, is at the heart of the decision-making principles of the CYFA.
Children are not part of the care team, but they can be involved directly or indirectly in this process. If a child is of an age and able to understand, encourage them to participate directly in cultural planning and assist them to understand the important role they have in the process. Explore creative ways for the child’s voice to be heard.
For example, the practitioner might:
- make a tape recording of the child to be played at a meeting where the cultural plan is to be discussed
- ask the child to draw a self-portrait to put on the wall during the meeting
- read something that the child has written (it might be creative writing or a statement of wishes).
Engage the child in discussions about the development, progress and review of the cultural plan. As the cultural plan is for the child, the child needs to be engaged in the process to share their aspirations for their cultural journey. There is provision for these aspirations to be recorded in the cultural plan. Special care must be taken to ensure that the child understands the cultural plan.
Children may need time to think about and reach a decision about their wishes. One of the issues for the care team to deal with in this process will be finding the balance between what the child wants and what is in the child’s best interests.
The allocated practitioner or contracted case manager has responsibility for discussing important decisions and planning processes with the child.
Extended family participation
Involving members of the child’s extended family and community Elders can have significant advantages. It gathers support around the child and parents that can be both practical and emotional; it can also add a degree of authority to the decision making process. While children and their families are entitled to privacy, where sharing information is in the child’s best interests this takes precedence. Encouraging families to share their problems amongst extended family can be important in terms of breaking down secrecy in a family that provides an environment in which abuse can continue. Running meetings using the AFLDM model can be beneficial in this regard.
See Information sharing in child protection practice for further guidance.
Involving support people
The CYFA enables support people to be involved where this will assist children and their families. This can help children and families participate in the decision-making process. While it might contribute to the sense that a meeting involves a ‘cast of thousands’, the presence of an effective support person could help the family to understand and participate in the process.
The cultural plan document
The cultural plan is a comprehensive record of the child’s Aboriginal cultural information, their cultural journey, and sets out the intentions, for the period covered by the version of the plan being prepared, to maintain and develop the child's Aboriginal identity; and encourage the child's connection to their Aboriginal community and culture.
The cultural plan includes information relating to the history and stories of the child’s Aboriginal communities and cultures, as well as the child’s own personal cultural journey and existing connections.
What the cultural plan includes
Following the template, the cultural plan includes:
- available information about the child’s culture, community, and family
- existing connections to culture, community, and family
- goals and tasks to maintain and develop the child's Aboriginal identity, and encourage their connection to their Aboriginal community and culture including─
- to address any gaps in knowledge or information about the child’s Aboriginal culture, community, and family, and
- a variety of direct cultural connection and socialisation activities.
- review date, and endorsement.
Where cultural information is limited
There may be limited information regarding the child’s Aboriginal heritage, and the child may have limited or no connection to their Aboriginal community and culture. In this situation, any information known should be included, and realistic and substantial goals and tasks to gather detailed information about the child’s culture, community, and family should be set.
A lack of knowledge about details of the child’s cultural heritage should not unduly delay endorsement of the first version of the cultural plan, as this can identify and support planning to gather unknown information, and enable at least general cultural connection to begin, while this occurs. As knowledge deepens, review and further development will enrich the next version of the cultural plan.
Direct cultural connection activities
A direct cultural connection activity is where the child undertakes an activity with their own Aboriginal community and culture. For example, a Gunditjmara child participating in a cultural activity with Gunditjmara Elders.
A cultural socialisation or social connection activity is where the child participates in an activity that is generally connected to being Aboriginal, such as a NAIDOC week activity but is not specific to the child’s particular community.
The cultural plan is completed using the template in Microsoft Word. This allows for the document to be shared appropriately, and to include items such as pictures. The document should be printed and signed by the chief executive officer of an Aboriginal community controlled organisation and the case planner. Once agreed to and signed, a scanned copy of the cultural plan should be uploaded into the client relationship information system (CRIS) and the original given to the child (or their carer where more appropriate). A copy should also be placed on the child’s paper file.
A cultural plan is be developed as soon as possible and within 16 weeks of the child entering out-of-home care. Approval and endorsement is to occur within three weeks of the plan being provided to the senior advisor for this purpose, made up of two weeks for consideration by the CEO and a one week by the case planner. In total the complete process should take no more than 19 weeks (less wherever possible), by which time the child should have been given their endorsed cultural plan.
See procedure Cultural plans for actions that must be undertaken to develop the cultural plan.
A review date
A cultural plan needs to include a review date. A review date may be proposed by the care team; however the date is to be set by the chief executive officer of the Aboriginal community controlled organisation approving the cultural plan. In most situations, this will coincide with the date of the next case plan review and should be no longer than 12 months. However, there may be circumstances where an earlier review date would be appropriate.
Where there are significant gaps in information about the child’s Aboriginal heritage, a shorter time frame for review may be appropriate, to monitor efforts to gather further information, and to enable a more comprehensive cultural plan to be developed once sufficient information is known.
Approval and endorsement of the cultural plan
Once prepared by the care team, with the support of the senior advisor, approval of a child’s cultural plan must be sought from the chief executive officer of the relevant Aboriginal community controlled organisation.
ACCO CEO approval
Cultural plans must be approved within three weeks by a chief executive officer (CEO) of an Aboriginal community controlled organisation (ACCO) before they can be endorsed by the case planner.
The Senior Advisor – Aboriginal Cultural Planning who has worked with the care team in preparing the cultural plan will prepare any documentation required by the chief executive officer to enable approval of the cultural plan, including any proposed review date.
Where the cultural plan requires further work prior to being approved, the Senior Advisor – Aboriginal Cultural Planning will act as the conduit between the chief executive officer and the care team.
The chief executive officer will set the date for review (see above).
The role of the chief executive officer may be delegated to another senior staff member (but not the Senior Advisor – Aboriginal Cultural Planning) where the chief executive officer is not an Aboriginal person, and the Board of the Aboriginal community controlled organisation choses to appoint an Aboriginal person to approve cultural plans.
Once approved by the chief executive officer, the cultural plan is to be returned to the department for endorsement by the case planner. Their role in endorsing the cultural plan is to ensure it aligns with the case plan, consistent with sections 167 and 176 of the CYFA, and that it is financially viable.
Recording the cultural plan in CRIS
Once signed, the cultural plan is be scanned by the case manager, and a copy uploaded in the child’s CRIS file, in the correct location. This is important, as reports that monitor compliance with the legislative requirements will draw from these fields.
Providing the cultural plan to the child
The CYFA requires the cultural plan to be provided to the child. This is an important step in the process, as the cultural plan belongs to the child. This task should be undertaken by the case manager, and with the child’s carer. The cultural plan should be stored in a special place for the child. Where appropriate to the age of the child, the cultural plan should be able to be accessed by the child.
Implementing the cultural plan
Actively working with the family, community and other professionals to implement the cultural plan will be essential to maintain and strengthen the child’s connection to their Aboriginal community and culture. Goals, tasks and timelines need to be understood by all those involved. Active monitoring of progress is required to guard against case drift.
For some children, a collection of cultural items can be an important aspect of their cultural journey. The collection needs to be appropriately cared for and accessible to the child as they wish. Record in this table each significant item that forms part of the collection. A suitable container may be purchased to safely store the collection. Consider involving the child in choosing the container. One example could be a sturdy archive box that can easily be decorated by a child.
A care team member needs to be responsible for the child’s cultural collection. This will often be the child’s carer. If the child moves, the collection is to go with them intact. The collection is to be kept intact, and the child is to be able to access it as they wish. A record is to be made in CRIS of the who is responsible for the collection and the date they assume that responsibility. There should be no break in the chain of responsibility. If the child changes placement, the cultural collection, in it special container, is to go with the child. When the child leaves out-of-home care, the collection in its container, needs to be given to the child if age appropriate, or their parent.
Cultural activities log
The care team is to maintain a simple record of cultural activities in which the child has participated, using the cultural activities log template. The carer may be best placed to do this, involving the child where appropriate.
Periodically, a summary of the cultural activities log is entered in a table in the cultural plan page in CRIS, showing the number of activities during the period. Each activity is categorised as either a socialisation activity or a direct cultural connection activity. This information will assist in reviewing the implementation of the cultural plan.
Socialisation activities are experiences and events where the child is able to participate in Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Island culture. These activities are more general cultural experiences, not specific to supporting the child’s direct connection with own community.
Direct cultural connection activities are experiences and events where the child directly participates in cultural activities within their own Aboriginal community. These activities will enable the child to learn and practice their specific Aboriginal culture. This may include, for example, return to Country experiences, connecting with Aboriginal Elders from the child’s Aboriginal community, or rite of passage activities.
A copy of the cultural activities log for the period being recorded is to be attached, as a record for the child, and as evidence of the summary data.
Reviewing the cultural plan
The care team must review the cultural plan in the lead up to the planned review date, with the support of the senior advisor. Consistent with requirements for case plans, the cultural plan should be reviewed earlier if there is a significant change in the child’s circumstances. For example, if the child was to change placement from a non-Aboriginal carer to an Aboriginal carer, or vice versa, a review of the cultural plan is warranted.
The review process should emulate the preparation process, involving the child, their parents, their extended family, their Aboriginal community and the care team. The reviewed cultural plan is to be approved by the chief executive officer, be endorsed by the case planner, provided to the child and recorded correctly in CRIS.
Considerations for good practice
SMART goal setting
Goals need to be:
- Specific (clear and understandable)
- Measurable (how can the changes be measured?)
- Achievable (within the family’s ability to complete with support)
- Related (to the assessed concerns)
- Timely (incorporating regular review).
Sequencing goals and tasks
In the planning process it is completely legitimate and useful to sequence SMART goals in order to achieve the overall goal of the case plan.
Some of this sequencing may reasonably take place before any formal planning process and is linked directly to current assessment, key decisions and actions.
Preparation for the future after care
Preparation for life after care begins from when a child enters care. For Aboriginal children and young people, having a strong and positive connection to their Aboriginal community and culture will assist them throughout their life. When developing a cultural plan, consider how long it is anticipated the child will be in out-of-home care. Think about how important elements of the cultural plan are able to continue once the child leaves care.