This advice provides additional information about the case planning process.

Document ID number 2047, version 7, 31 December 2021.

Introduction

See case planning policy and case plan preparation and review following the making of a protection order for tasks that must be undertaken.

The SAFER children framework provides the foundation for case practice in child protection.

Case planning is a key child protection responsibility and a legislated obligation or responsibility of the Secretary.

Formulation of the case plan is informed by analysis of all information and evidence that has determined the risk assessment. Planning that is overtly derived from  current risk is essential to fulfilling child protection’s legislative obligations.

Planning and case planning in the child protection context

Planning is essential for effective child protection intervention. Without effective planning children may drift in the protection system with risks not being identified or managed.

Planning is the process of making significant decisions in relation to a child during child protection involvement, from intake to closure. Planning stems from effectively seeking information and the analysis of the information and evidence. Planning is informed by the current risk assessment and directly informs actions that need to be taken to reduce risk and increase safety and protection.

Case planning in child protection practice specifically relates to the processes of planning with children and their families following substantiation of child protection concerns.

Case planning includes legislative and policy requirements relating to the preparation, provision and review of case plans and specific requirements and considerations for case planning for Aboriginal children.

For advice relating to planning in the context of case practice, see SAFER children framework.

For policy and procedures relating to investigation planning, see Investigation plan.

Principles underpinning planning

All case planning processes must comply with the best interests principles in s.10 of the CYFA and decision making principles in s. 11 of the CYFA.

These principles set out the considerations that child protection must make when determining whether a decision or action is in the child’s best interests and requires child protection to actively and effectively engage families and children (in age-appropriate ways) in the decision making process.

Permanency objective

Permanency refers to the achievement of an ongoing care arrangement for a child that promotes a child’s safety, development and sense of belonging.

Permanency encompasses all decisions made about a child’s permanent living and care arrangement regardless of whether a child remains in, or returns to, parental care or needs an ongoing out-of-home care arrangement.

This concept strengthens the platform to focus child protection’s attention on the actions required to achieve this in a timelier manner with greater emphasis on what is in the best interests of the child.

Section 167 of the CYFA states that a case plan must include one of the following permanency objectives, which are listed in order of preference:

  • family preservation – the objective of ensuring a child who is in the care of a parent of the child remains in the care of a parent
  • family reunification – the objective of ensuring that a child who has been removed from the care of a parent of the child is returned to the care of the parent
  • adoption – the objective of placing a child for adoption under the Adoption Act 1984
  • permanent care – the objective of arranging a permanent care placement of a child with a permanent carer or carers
  • long-term out of home care – the objective of placing the child in –
    • a stable, long-term care arrangement with a specified care or carers, or
    • if an above arrangement is not possible, another suitable long-term care arrangement.

For most children involved with Child Protection, the most appropriate permanency objective will be to remain in the care of a parent.

For those children who come into out-of-home care, family reunification will almost always be the preferred permanency objective, subject to timelines.

For a small proportion of children with whom Child Protection intervenes, a permanent out of home care placement will be required to ensure their safety and wellbeing.  It is important the decision about whether this is the case, is made as soon as possible and within a timeframe that promotes the child’s developmental and emotional needs.

See procedures Identifying and achieving the permanency objective.

Permanency objective and case planning

The permanency objective and case planning are intrinsically connected.  As well as the legislated requirement of having the permanency objective stated in the case plan, significant decisions made by child protection for the child are to reflect, support and work towards meeting the permanency objective.

Identifying and recording the permanency objective is intended to keep a child’s need for permanency at the fore front of child protection intervention, whether this is with a parent or others. If the focus and momentum of intervention is lost, cases can drift, resulting in uncertainty and delayed decision making. Such delays can be harmful to children. This can be prevented by driving towards a permanency objective through continued momentum in purposeful intervention.

Case planning and court orders

The alignment of the permanency objective and court orders is required by legislation. This ensures clarity for the child and family in relation to the purpose and direction of child protection intervention.

The Children’s Court may disagree with the permanency objective and make an order that is inconsistent with the case plan.  In this instance the case planner, as delegate of the Secretary, will need to alter the case plan to be consistent with the order (unless there are grounds to appeal the Court’s decision).If the child’s circumstances subsequently change, the permanency objective may also need to change, in which case action needs to be taken to align the case plan and order again. The required action may be to apply to the Court for a different order.

Contact between child protection and client

Following substantiation and for the duration of child protection involvement, the level of contact to occur between child protection and the child must be recorded and maintained for each child about whom protective concerns have been substantiated on CRIS within the case planning component in the actions table under the planning area ‘Contact between CP and client’.

This planning area is to be reviewed at least quarterly within supervision, in consultation with the care team where appropriate.

Generally, for an allocated case, a fortnightly client visit is a reasonable minimum. Specific requirements apply for infants (weekly or fortnightly) and contacted cases (annually). See Infant risk assessment and response decision and Case contracting procedure. Additional contact may occur as required.

Where a case is awaiting allocation or an allocated child protection practitioner is on leave it will be necessary to determine how (when and by whom) regular direct contact with the child will occur, and to update the Contact between CP and client planning area. For more information on monitoring and managing cases awaiting allocation, see Monitoring and managing cases awaiting allocation.

Processes that support case planning with children and families

Good practice requires that case planning is conducted in a collaborative manner inclusive of all members of the child and family’s network.

The SAFER children framework provides practice guidance for the development of an effective case plan. Case plans must be proportionate to the risks identified, as well as any strengths, protection and safety factors. The interventions, goals and measurable outcomes must align directly with the risk assessment.

Case plans are developed in collaboration with children, families and the networks necessary to provide the widest possible assistance to the child and family. Case planning processes should encourage the parents, extended family, community, carers and professionals' involvement in generating and implementing solutions for the protection and care of the child. 

Case plans focus on the needs of individual children, with the interventions and goals aligned to consider the child’s:

  • stability and safety
  • physical, social and emotional development
  • education and health
  • rights
  • culture and identity.

Case plans must consider the needs of the parent(s) or caregiver(s), with the interventions and goals aligned to consider the parent or caregiver’s:

  • support needs
  • health and/or treatment needs
  • housing and economic circumstance
  • social network, community and connection
  • rights
  • culture and identity.

The case plan and actions table, combined with the risk assessment, should:

  • clearly articulate the protective concerns
  • identify a realistic permanency objective as set out in s.167 of the CYFA
  • articulate what needs to change
  • considers the initial consequence of harm judgement, case plan progression and any new information and evidence to review impact on the child
  • includes the voice of the child to create opportunity for the widest possible assistance
  • identify measurable outcomes
  • align with the relevant court order.

The actions table accompanying the case plan is critical to enacting, monitoring and measuring progress towards addressing protective concerns and permanency objectives.

All the plans that exist for a child must align with the case plan. Other plans may include:

  • cultural plans
  • reunification plans
  • looking after children plans
  • safety plans
  • care and placement plans.

Through the case planning process there may be disagreement between the family and child protection as to the key issues of concern 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 case planner.

Case planning meetings

Whether preparing a first or later version, a case plan may be developed through informal meetings and discussions between the child protection practitioner and the family, carers and other professionals as appropriate.The case plan can then be submitted to the case planner for endorsement.

An Aboriginal family-led decision making (AFLDM) meeting is to be offered to all Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children at substantiation.

There may be circumstances where a formal case plan meeting chaired by the case planner is desirable, including when:

  • genuine agreement cannot be reached about how the family and department will work together to protect the child
  • there is a need to review the current case plan because genuine agreement cannot be reached
  • the child or family requests a meeting.

Such a meeting should involve parents, significant family members, and other professionals and where appropriate, the child and the child’s current carer.

The role of professionals and service providers at a case planning meeting is to provide information and advice about issues of concern and the needs of the child, and to consider ways to support and assist the child and family. As much as possible, the approach should assist and support the family’s involvement in decisions about the child.

Recording planning discussions and meetings

Meetings can be recorded through minutes which can then be circulated to relevant parties. These need not be extensive, but should include a record of those present and absent, key discussion points and differing views, noting areas of agreement or disagreement, and decisions and actions. It can be helpful to have someone taking notes at a formal meeting who does not otherwise have an integral role.

Where the meeting contributes to the preparation or review of a case plan, this should be recorded.

Family-led decision making

Where possible, the family-led decision making (FLDM) model should be the process used to develop a case plan.

Using the FLDM model, 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.

Practice leaders, case planning may convene an FLDM meeting and are delegated to make case planning decisions. Proposed plans agreed through an Aboriginal family-led decision making meeting (AFLDM) meeting can be endorsed by the department’s AFLDM convenor. See AFLDM guidelines.

Involving children, families and other support people

Encouraging the voice of the child

Giving children a voice in planning and decision making which affects them, in age appropriate ways, is at the heart of the decision making principles of the CYFA.

Some children do not want to be involved in meetings and may see the development of plans as the role of their child protection practitioner in consultation with their family and other relevant adults. However, if a child is of an age and able to understand, they should be encouraged to participate directly in case planning and assisted to understand the importance of their role in the process. If a child chooses not to attend a case planning meeting, the practitioner could explore creative ways for the child’s voice to be heard.

For example, the practitioner might:

  • make a recording of the child to be played at the meeting  
  • ask the child to draw a self portrait to put on the wall during the meeting  
  • organise for a teleconference so the child can listen to the meeting from a distant location and say something if they want to
  • read something that the child has written (it might be creative writing or a statement of wishes).

The practitioner should engage the child in discussions about the formulation, progress and review of the case plan. Special care must be taken to ensure that the child understands the decisions made and what the case planning process means. The case manager should talk with the child about day-to-day care issues as well as the permanency objective and the goals and actions required to achieve the objective.

Children may need time to think about and reach a decision about their wishes. Case managers will work with care to find the balance between what the child wants and what is in the child’s best interests.

If case management is contracted to a community service organisation (CSO), the CSO case manager has responsibility for consulting with the child about important decisions and planning processes about the child. Case contracting does not remove child protection’s responsibility to ensure that the decision making principles of the CYFA are met and to make decisions about the attendance of a child at a case planning meeting or involvement in any review of the case plan.

Extended family participation

Involving members of the child’s extended family and community Elders can have significant advantages to the formulation and enacting of the case plan. Family and community support for the child and parents 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, encouraging families to share their problems amongst extended family can be important in terms of breaking down the secrecy within the family that provides an environment in which abuse can continue. Meetings using the AFLDM or FLDM model of empowerment, respect and engagement can be beneficial for all families.

Use of advocates or support people

The CYFA promotes the use of advocates or support people for children and their families, and it follows that advocates can help children and families participate in the decision-making process. While the attendance of advocates might be seen to be contributing to the sense that case planning meetings involve a ‘cast of thousands’, particularly in cases where the family is not in agreement with the overall direction of the proposed plan, advocates can help the family to understand and participate in the process. Plans that are collaboratively and respectfully formulated are more likely to be enthusiastically and effectively enacted.

The case plan

A case plan is to be prepared for all children where protective concerns have been substantiated – that is, where a protective intervener is satisfied on reasonable grounds that the child is in need of protection (s.168, CYFA).

The case plan is a succinct, high level plan. 

It includes the permanency objective and all significant decisions made by Child Protection in relation to the present and future care and wellbeing of the child, including placement of and contact with the child. Determining the protective concerns is a significant decision. These are set out in the case plan. It also covers significant decisions regarding cultural support; education, employment or child care; health care; and developmental support.

The case plan is completed on the client relationship information system (CRIS) and is available ready to be completed upon making the substantiation decision and recording the investigation and assessment phase outcome. When ready, it is submitted via CRIS to the case planner (CPP5.2 or more senior officer) for endorsement.

There is only one endorsed version of the case plan for a child. The case plan is to be reviewed and updated as circumstances change. Where a new version is being prepared this is a draft until endorsed when it then becomes the new version.  There can be one draft version at a time, but there can be more than one draft version in succession between endorsed versions.

The case plan does not include details relating to goals and tasks required to address the protective concerns and implementation of the significant decisions. These are detailed in the actions table, which should be provided to the child and family with the case plan.

It is critical that, where possible, decision making is conducted in a transparent manner, involving the child and the parents (where appropriate) and other significant parties. Where a  protection order has been granted by the Court, ensure  that the child and parents are informed of their rights in relation to the internal review of decisions. See procedure Internal review of a decision following the making of a protection order for tasks that must be undertaken.

A decision regarding the distribution of the plan to other people should be made in accordance with s. 192 of the CYFA which addresses disclosure and use of information. See Information sharing in child protection practice.

Wherever information or written plans are provided to third parties, practitioners should caution recipients that the information provided is confidential and should not be relayed to others except as necessary to implement the plan in the best interests of the child.

It is preferable that personal written information provided for meetings is retrieved from participants where it is not essential they retain it to accomplish actions required of them in the best interests of the child.

Case plan requirements and timelines depend on how child protection is working with the family, whether by agreement or under a court order.

See Case planning policy and Case plan preparation and review following the making of a protection order for actions that must be undertaken in the development of a case plan.

The child’s plan

 The CYFA defines a case plan as:

A plan prepared by the Secretary for a child (s 166 (1)).

Child protection does not the have authority to make plans or decisions for parents. The Court may include conditions to be observed by parents on an order. The case plan prepared by child protection needs to be consistent with any conditions on the order. In the absence of an order, parents need to make decisions about how they will respond to the protective concerns identified by child protection. Their response will influence the decisions child protection makes about the appropriate permanency objective, and other significant decisions concerning the child. The parents’ decisions and intended actions will be reflected in detail in the actions table, through the goals and tasks established to implement the case plan.

What is to be included in the case plan

Section 166(2) of the CYFA provides that a case plan must contain all decisions made by the Secretary concerning the child that:

  • the Secretary considers to be significant decisions, and
  • relate to the present and future care and wellbeing of the child, including the placement of, and contact with, the child.

It sets out that a case plan for a child includes:

  • a permanency objective, and
  • in the case of an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander child in court-ordered out of home care, planning for cultural support for the child (see below).

Consistent with legislation, the case plan in CRIS is child focussed. It includes the permanency objective and all significant decisions made by the department concerning the child about their present and future care and wellbeing. It includes the following sections:

Current legal status

This section includes a statement identifying if the child is subject to a court order and if so, the name of the order; or whether a protection application has been made, or child protection is working with the family by agreement – that is, where no application has been made to the Court in relation to the child and protective intervention is occurring with the cooperation of the parents and the child.

Permanency objective

This section states the permanency objective for the child, which should be consistent with the current legal status and, where relevant, the court order. If there is any change to the permanency objective, the case plan will need to be reviewed to ensure that the significant decisions in place for the child are aligned with the objective. If the decision is made to change the permanency objective to one that is inconsistent with an existing final order, an application to Court will be needed to seek an order consistent with the selected permanency objective.

Protective concerns

This section identifies the protective concerns for the child’s safety and development that led to the protective intervener being satisfied that the child is in need of protection. The case plan aims to address these concerns. There are three general statements that can be used to introduce the list of concerns, depending on the current permanency objective:

  • For <child’s name> to return to parental care, the following protective concerns need to be addressed:

or

  • For <child’s name> to remain in parental care, the following protective concerns need to be addressed:

or

  • Due to the following protective concerns <child’s name> needs to remain in out of home care for the long-term:

The appropriate statement is to be followed by a dot-point list briefly setting out the protective concerns. The protective concerns relate directly to the evidence based factors within the essential information categories that have been confirmed or verified, and should be listed as such in the case plan.  

This section should not include detailed information about the concerns or the practitioner’s analysis or assessment of the concerns.

The protective concerns section informs the goals and tasks in the actions table related to addressing them.

Where there are family violence concerns, consideration needs to be given to how the perpetrator’s patterns of coercive behaviour has impacted on the child, including its effect on the affected parent’s capacity to care for the child. See Planning for children’s safety where there is family violence – advice for further information.

For children with a permanency objective other than family preservation or family reunification, the protective concerns continue to be relevant to significant decisions such as contact where, among other things, protection from harm and promoting development will be issues. The focus of the case plan will shift to achieving the permanency objective that is suitable in the circumstances to provide for the ongoing care and wellbeing of the child.

Significant decisions for care and wellbeing

Significant decisions relating to the present and future care and wellbeing of the child reflect the LAC domains. Some sections are required for all children such as current care arrangements, while others need not be completed, depending on the child’s circumstances. Detailed considerations supporting each decision need not be included in the case plan. The case plan is to include the decision itself, at a high level.  Significant decisions include:

  • Current care arrangements – the carers and the nature of the care arrangement, whether with a parent or in out-of-home care.
  • Contact – who the child is able, and not able, to have contact with, whether or not the contact is to be supervised, and frequency of contact. It is important to include contact with siblings if they are living in separate care arrangements. Information relating to contact arrangements are detailed in the actions table.
  • Cultural support – when a child is in out-of home care. Required if the child is Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander should be completed if the child is from a CALD community. Otherwise this is optional. If the child is Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander and a cultural plan has been developed and provided to the child, this information will appear in this section.
  • Education, employment or child care – significant decisions about the child’s child care, schooling, training or employment
  • Health care – significant decisions beyond accessing usual universal services.
  • Development support – significant decisions about meeting the child’s developmental needs.  This may include naming other agencies or services that will be involved with the child. This decision relates to the LAC dimension ‘emotional and behavioural development’.
  • Other significant decisions – these may be added if required. Examples includes significant decisions regarding crisis management, or a significant financial decision made on behalf of the child as a person with parental responsibility, such as applying for compensation to VOCAT.

Cultural considerations

Whenever child protection is involved with an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander child their cultural connection needs to be considered and encouraged.

Section 176 of the CYFA sets out the requirements for cultural support where an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander child is in out of home care.

The child’s cultural support needs are to be addressed in the case plan and the case plan is to reflect and be consistent with these needs, having regard to the child’s circumstances, so as to maintain and develop their Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander identity and encourage their connection to their Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander community and culture (s. 176 of the CYFA).

The Act establishes that a child’s cultural support needs may vary, depending on:

  • the length of time they have spent, and are expected to remain, in out of home care
  • their age
  • the extent of their contact with their Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander family members
    • whether they are placed within their own Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander community, anotherAboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander community, or with non-Aboriginal carers.
  • For the purposes of this provision, the child’s Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander community is:
  • the Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander community to which the child has a sense of belonging, if this can be ascertained, or
  • if not, the Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander community in which the child has primarily lived, or
  • if neither of the above apply, the Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander community of the child’s parent or grandparent.

The child’s cultural support needs are recorded in this section, by including comments on how the significant decisions made concerning the child reflect the child’s cultural support needs.

A cultural plan is to be provided to each Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander child in out-of-home care that aligns with the child’s case plan.

See advice Cultural plans.

A review date

A case plan must include a date by which it will be reviewed. See Reviewing the case plan section of this advice for details. (s. 169 (1) of the CYFA)

Preparation of the plan

This section includes links to any meetings that have been held to prepare the case plan and who was involved in preparing the case plan. This information is not included in the case plan document, however practitioners are required to note any different perspectives on the plan, including noting if a parent does not agree with a decision, for example, the mother does not agree with contact being supervised by the child’s aunt.

Other relevant information

This section includes information that is to be provided with the endorsed case plan, as follows:

  • About child protection case planning - information sheet
  • Review of a case planning decision - information sheet
  • Court order details, if a court order is in place
  • Latest version of the actions table.

There may be other documents relevant to the child’s case plan, depending on the circumstances such as:

  • the Child and Family Cultural Details document, and the cultural plan, if the child is Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander and in out-of–home care
  • a specific, detailed crisis management plan
  • and so on.

From time to time it may be helpful to go through the Child/Young Person’s Profile document with the family, to check that the information held in CRIS is accurate.

Preparing the case plan

Preparing a case plan involves:

  • discussing the protective concerns and the child’s developmental and care needs with the child (where age appropriate), their parents and other family, carers and relevant professionals
  • engaging them to develop the case plan and associated actions table and having the case plan endorsed by a team manager (or an equivalent or more senior officer).

The SAFER children framework provides guidance on how to use the information and evidence gathered and analysed prepare the case plan.

It is important that the case plan, no matter the circumstances or permanency objective, is prepared promptly, as this will enable focused protective intervention, and timely closure when appropriate. If a protection application is required, it will give a clear indication of the purpose of a protection application, and support identifying and reaching the appropriate permanency objective when working under a court order.

A case plan is to be prepared (endorsed) and given to the child and parents within 21 days of substantiation. While the timeframe is not legislated, this policy requirement reflects the intention to plan and intervene as early as possible, and is consistent with family-led decision making program guidelines and adjournments for the preparation of court reports.

A case plan to protect a child by agreement

Case planning by agreement focuses on the safety of the child where it is considered that the child has been or is likely to be at risk of significant harm, but there is sufficient safety and protection within the family and extended family to ensure the child’s ongoing safety without having to seek a court order.

Give careful consideration to whether agreement is genuine. Look for insight about the harm the child is experiencing, and genuine acknowledgement of a need for change, when determining whether protective intervention in the absence of a court order will effectively address the protective concerns.

A parent being able to challenge authority figures, such as child protection, may be a positive indicator. It may be a strength that a parent can express anger about child protection involvement directly to the authority figure. Conversely, those adults who feel themselves intimidated by authority figures may present as pleasant and cooperative, while suppressing rage that will later be expressed against the weakest members of the family when authority figures are not present. Whilst experiencing expressions of disagreement or frustration can be unpleasant for practitioner, it is important to recognise the very nature of statutory intervention and develop the skills needed to work in this context.

Where, at the conclusion of the first visit, a safety plan is developed with the family, the actions for the perpetrator to address their patterns of coercive control behaviour can be detailed and recorded in the actions table, along with actions to address the other protective concerns and needs of the child. It can then be utilised as case planning progresses. The need for a safety plan is an indicator that the practitioner has determined that at least some protective concern has been substantiated – that the child is at risk and a plan is required to secure their immediate safety. Safety plans should be time limited to cover the immediate to short term, and always have a review date.

For further information see Planning for children’s safety where there is family violence – advice and for detailed information on the purpose and content of a safety plan see Working with families where an adult is violent (pdf, 1.17 MB).

The permanency objective will be family preservation, even if the child is in the temporary care of a relative agreed to by the parent, or on a voluntary placement through a Community Service Organisation. The focus of the plan will be ensuring that the child and family are supported by extended family or services so that the parents can provide adequate care and protection for the child without ongoing child protection involvement.

A case plan for protection in the community following closure

When there is no need for further protective intervention, the permanency objective will be family preservation and the case plan may make reference to services and supports to be engaged with the child and family. The case plan will become the closure plan.

A case plan where a protection application has been issued by notice or an IAO is in place

Where a protection application has been issued, and a protection order has not been made, Child Protection is required to have a case plan for the child and will continue to engage with the family to the fullest extent possible, consistent with the endorsed case plan. There may be particular challenges in this situation as relationships may be strained due to disagreement about the protection application. However, planning to meet the child’s needs must continue.

Where the child remains at home, the permanency objective will be family preservation, but where the is placed in an out-of-home care subject to an interim accommodation order, the permanency objective will usually be reunification, although there may be rare situations where one of the permanency objectives consistent with ongoing alternative care is appropriate. 

When an order under which a child is in out-of-home care is first made, time in out-of-home care begins to accumulate.

Section 558 of the CYFA requires any case plan prepared for the child must be included in a disposition report. The permanency objective and other aspects of a case plan included in a disposition or addendum report need to be consistent with the recommended order. The child’s endorsed case plan is attached to the disposition report document. The actions table, setting out how the case plan is to be implemented is not part of the case plan itself and is not provided with the court report. The actions table should always include conditions of the court order.

A case plan under a protection order

A case plan is required under the following protection orders:

  • family preservation order
  • family reunification order
  • care by Secretary order
  • long term care order
  • therapeutic treatment (placement) order

When a protection order is made, the practitioner recording the order details is to determine whether the order is consistent, in terms of permanency objective and other decisions, with the type of order and any conditions made by the Court. If not, in accordance with the CYFA, a new version of the case plan must be, prepared and a copy provided to the child and the child’s parents within eight weeks of the order being made

The actions table will also need to be reviewed with those involved to reflect how the revised case plan is to be implemented.

Enacting the case plan

Actively working with the family, community and other professionals to enact the case plan will be essential to achieve the permanency objective for the child in the way that it will be sustained.  Maintaining momentum towards the permanency objective requires active monitoring of the case plan and actions table. Goals, tasks and timelines need to be understood by all those involved. Active monitoring of progress is required to guard against case drift.

See procedure Enacting a case plan for tasks that must be undertaken

Actions to enact the case plan (goals, tasks and timelines)

Previously known as the goals and tasks table, the actions table sets out the goals and related tasks to be undertaken to implement the case plan. It identifies timelines, who is responsible for which tasks. It provides the basis for review of outcomes by describing what will demonstrate that a goal has been met.

As a separate table, young people, parents and practitioners can use it to keep track of appointments, significant dates and arrangements. It can be updated as required. Changes to the table do not constitute a change to the case plan for the child.

Child protection aims to create sufficient safety for children and young people. In each family that child protection works with, achieving sufficient safety requires acting on clear goals and specific tasks required to reach those goals. Those goals need to be expressed in terms that can be understood by the family so they know what is expected of them.

This may include the cessation of family violence as a goal. Actions may relate to:

  • the perpetrator being referred to a behaviour change program
  • perpetrator to undertake mental health evaluation and comply with any required mental health program, including medication
  • child protection to supervise contact between the child and the perpetrator.

It is important for practitioners to keep the essential information categories up to date on the client information system so that the actions table reflects the current situation for the child and family and remains focussed on addressing the current protective concerns that have been confirmed or verified.

Working where a protection application has been issued by notice or an IAO is in place

Where the Court is yet to decide the outcome of a protection application and the matter is adjourned, child protection’s case planning responsibilities continue.  The parent’s responses to the child’s case plan should be documented and included in an addendum court report where relevant. Changes to the case plan may be made where the child’s circumstances change during the adjournment period Where the Court is to be provided with the latest endorsed version with an addendum court report.

Working under a court order

For a child who has been placed in out-of-home care implementation of the case plan needs to be timely and regularly reviewed to identify any delays in progress towards the permanency objective.

Whether the permanency objective is reunification, or requires establishing ongoing alternative care, the objective will take time to achieve and in the meantime, the child will be experiencing uncertainty about their future care.

Practitioners need to be very clear and specific about what needs to change in order to address the protective concerns or before a child can return to parental care.  If referrals to services are required the purpose of the referral needs to be clear, who is making the referral, what assistance will be available to families to attend services and how this will be provided, and how outcomes will be assessed.

Where the permanency objective is reunification, strong emphasis in the actions table will be given to addressing contributors to safety concerns, and strengthening parenting capacity, to maximise opportunities for reunification.

Where reunification is no longer the objective, the focus will be on establishing and sustaining a permanent or long term out-of-home care arrangement for the child.

In focusing on promoting children’s permanency, attention must be given to preserving and promoting children’s relationships with primary carers, siblings, significant adults in their lives, and friends.

See advice  Looking After Children.

Reviewing the case plan

Under s. 169(1) of the CYFA a case plan must include a date for the review of the case plan not more than 12 months after the date that the case plan is made and once reviewed, not more than 12 months after the date of the review. Practitioners are encouraged to complete a review risk assessment at the time of reviewing the case plan to ensure the case plan is in line with and addressing the risks identified in the review risk assessment.

Section 169(3) states that a review of a case plan must include a review of the progress being made to achieve the permanency objective in the case plan. There is also a requirement to review the cultural support needs of an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander in in court-ordered out of home care.

The case plan is to be reviewed when the child’s circumstances change.

Often a meeting will not be required where a review is occurring in the context of the need for a change to a significant decision, however the case planner will need to be satisfied that the decision-making principles (ss. 11 and 12, CYFA) have been followed consistent with acting in the best interests of the child. The key here is that case planning is a process which involves inclusive discussions, meetings, telephone conversations, and home visits.

The case plan should be updated and with a new version provided to the child and parents when any change is made.

Working by agreement

Where there is no court order in place, the review date is to be consistent with policy regarding timeframes for protective intervention without court involvement , that is, a review of the case plan will be required at the 90, 120 and 150 day mark if the case is still open.

Working under a court order

Where an interim order is in place a case plan should be reviewed within 12 months, or earlier if the child’s circumstances change.

The case plan must be reviewed if the child has been living in out-of-home care for a cumulative period of 12 months, if:

  • the child is subject of an interim accommodation or protection order, and
  • the permanency objective is family reunification.

The case plan must be reviewed after the making of a protection order if the order is different to the protection order anticipated by the endorsed case plan.

The case plan must also be reviewed prior to the expiration of a protection order, and at least annually for orders greater than 12 months. The review focuses on progress towards the permanency objective. The updated case plan will need to reflect current significant decisions relating to the present and future care and wellbeing of the child.

If, as a result of the review, there is a change to the permanency objective that is inconsistent with the current order, action will be required. This may mean directing the parent to resume parental responsibility for the child to the exclusion of the Secretary, where family reunification has been achieved, or making arrangements to end an order or to apply for a different order.

Regular case plan and risk assessment reviews will assist in maintaining momentum towards the permanency objective, and help  to  motivate  and keep families on track to address the protective concerns and any emerging concerns that issues that need to be included in the case plan and actions table.

Identifying delays in provision of services earlier rather than later will enable issues to be addressed promptly and alternate options including provision of flexible funding to be considered.

Practice Dictionary Definition

cancel