A case conference may be held in intake for the purpose of assessing the risk to a child or determining an appropriate service provider, or, after classification as a wellbeing report, for the purpose of coordinating referral and closure.
Specific procedures apply where:
- a client is Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander
- a client is admitted to hospital with an unspecified illness or suspicious or non-accidental injuries (See Suspicious or unclear hospital admission or discharge - advice).
- there has been a threat to kill a child (see procedure Threats to kill for tasks that must be undertaken) .
A request for child protection to attend a case conference that is being arranged by another agency about a child who is not a current client is likely to constitute a report, and the child protection practitioner should obtain sufficient detail from the caller to determine that the issues do not, at that stage, necessitate immediate classification as a protective intervention report.
Where a case conference is convened in the intake phase before a report has been classified as a protective intervention report or a wellbeing report, information exchange must comply with s. 192 of the CYFA, that is, if Child Protection believes on reasonable grounds the information sharing is required to carry out its responsibilities under the CYFA.
A case conference may be appropriate where:
- there are a number of professionals and agencies already involved with the family
- there is differing information being presented by professionals regarding, for example, the physical presentation or behaviour of a child
- there are differing opinions regarding the nature, cause or the seriousness of protective concerns, for example, amongst medical practitioners who have examined a child who has a concerning injury
- involved professionals or agencies have differing opinions on the management of the situation
- a number of agencies or services may be involved in providing assistance in the future
- if the MARAM assessment determines a risk rating of serious risk or serious risk and requires immediate protection but the outcome of the intake risk assessment is for the case to close, consider an intake case conference. See Assessing and managing family violence in intake.
For information seeking and risk assessment
The purpose of a case conference prior to classification of a report will be to:
- share information and knowledge about the child and family relevant to the intake assessment
- consider the current and future risks of harm to the child's safety, development and wellbeing
- consider strengths that may be building blocks for increased protection and safety
- consider the child's needs and available resources or support services for meeting these needs
- share information under the Family Violence information Sharing Scheme (FVISS) and Child Information Sharing Scheme (CISS)
- discuss any previous MARAM assessments from partner agencies in order to undertake a risk assessment
- seek, store and then assess information in line with the SAFER children framework.
To determine how best to provide assistance
Where the intake assessment has resulted in a report being classified as a child wellbeing report a case conference may be an appropriate mechanism to determine how best to provide assistance.
The purpose will be to:
- seek and share information about the child and family relevant to determining best options for assistance
- identify support agencies and other resources who are involved or who could be referred to address concerns about the child's wellbeing
- clarify who has responsibility for case management and for providing assistance
- determine the process for re-reporting if child protection is closing the case
- gather information for the intake risk assessment.
Unborn child reports
Exchanging of information for unborn reports is permitted under the Child Wellbeing and Safety Act 2005 to determine the best options for providing advice, assistance or referral to the mother. Where the intake assessment has resulted in a report being classified as an unborn child report, a case conference or unborn planning meeting may be an appropriate mechanism to determine how best to provide advice, assistance or referral.
The purpose will be to:
- seek and share information to determine what, if any, advice should be provided to the mother
- identify what, if any, assistance needs to be provided to the mother
- establish what, if any, referrals should be made for the mother
- determine the process of re-reporting to Child Protection where the unborn case is to be closed.
Case conferences to achieve the above outcomes should be considered for all unborn cases, particularly complex cases. Child protection practitioners should consult with their supervisor on the decision to convene a case conference. The case conference must involve the mother and with her consent, the father or partner and extended family unless there are exceptional circumstances, or this would not be in the unborn child's best interests.
See procedure 1004 Unborn child reports
Considerations regarding key performance indicators (KPIs)
Coordinating a case conference at intake may affect the throughput of a report that may require investigation (that is, the 14 day KPI), particularly if key professionals are difficult to contact or cannot attend within the necessary timelines. If a case conference is a standard requirement or pivotal to decision making, there will need to be a discussion with your team manager regarding how to manage these conflicting demands.
See the intake section of Information sharing in child protection practice for details about when information sharing is permitted and restricted under the CYFA, and where the Child Information Sharing Scheme (CISS), the Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme (FVISS), and privacy law is relevant to child protection practice.
Child Protection are signatories to receive and share information without consent to prevent potential harm or help a child thrive under the MARAM Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme (FVISS) and Child Information Sharing Scheme (CISS).
The child protection practitioner convening a case conference should ensure that relevant information shared and all risk issues identified at the case conference are documented on the client file, including updating the essential information categories and intake risk assessment where necessary, and that the agreed action plan is circulated to all participants including those who were unable to attend.