Case planning without a protection order


Follow this procedure when undertaking case planning where there is no protection order.

Document ID number 1809, version 2, 2 February 2023.


Planning is an essential component of the SAFER children framework and is crucial for effective Child Protection involvement. Case planning in Child Protection practice specifically relates to the process of planning with children and families following substantiation of Child Protection concerns. Case planning involves the preparation, implementation and review of the child’s case plan when either working with the family by agreement (that is, without a protection order) or under a protection order granted by the Children’s Court of Victoria.

See Case planning - advice for detailed guidance.

See Case planning following the making of a protection order.


Section 168 (1) of the Children Youth and Families Act 2005 (CYFA) provides that the Secretary must ensure a case plan is prepared in respect of a child if a protective intervener is satisfied on reasonable grounds that the child is in need of protection. This means a case plan must be developed for a child where protective concerns have been substantiated.

The case plan is a succinct, high level plan that is prepared for the child. 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 placement of, and contact with, the child.

Section 166(3) of the CYFA sets out that a case plan for a child includes:

  • A permanency objective, and
  • In the case of an Aboriginal child in out-of-home care, planning for cultural support for the child.

When case planning is required without a protection order

Case planning without a protection order will be required when:

  • A child is not subject to a protection order, and
  • Child Protection concerns have been substantiated, and
  • A decision is made by Child Protection to pursue the permanency objective of family preservation for the child, and
  • A decision is made to attempt to case plan by agreement with the family to achieve sufficient protection for the child without initiating court proceedings, or
  • Court proceedings have been instituted by Child Protection, but the court is yet to make a protection order.

In these circumstances, a case plan is to be prepared (including endorsement) and given to the child and parents within 21 days of substantiation.

Section 168(2)(a) of the CYFA requires that a copy of a case plan made without a protection order must be given to the child and the child’s parent/s within 14 days of the preparation of the case plan.

Case plans are prepared according to the BICPM and are based on assessment informed by the SAFER children framework. The child, parents, carers and relevant professionals are to be involved in the development of case plans.

The case plan is to be reviewed when the child’s circumstances change. The new version is provided to the child and parents when any change is made within 14 days of the change being endorsed.

Under section 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.

A meeting is not usually appropriate when case planning decisions are required in the context of managing day-to-day changes in children’s circumstances. However, these significant decisions still need to be reflected in an updated case plan. The case planner will also need to be satisfied that the decision-making principles (sections, 11 and 12 CYFA) have been followed consistent with acting in the best interests of the child.

If a case planning meeting is required, a family-led decision making meeting, or Aboriginal family-led decision making meeting for Aboriginal children, is the preferred meeting process, particularly at substantiation.

The case plan must be endorsed by a case planner.

Review of a case plan or any other decision without a protection order by VCAT

Section 333 of the CYFA allows for a child, or a child’s parent/s to apply to VCAT seeking a review of a decision contained in a case plan without a protection order or any other decision made by the Secretary concerning the child. 

In this instance, the applicant seeking a review must either:

  • Apply to VCAT for a review within 28 days of the decision being made, or
  • Request a statement of reasons for the decision from child protection in writing, within 28 days after the decision was made. They may then apply to VCAT within 28 days after being given, or being refused, the statement of reasons by Child Protection if they wish. See advice Request for, and provision of, a Statement of Reasons for further information in relation to statements of reasons.

If a request is made by a child or a child’s parent/s to child protection to review a decision that has been made by Child Protection in relation to a case plan without a protection order, then the child protection practitioner must immediately inform the person who requested the review the following:

  • That child protection will not be undertaking a formal internal review of the decision/s,
  • That they may instead request a statement of reasons for the decision from Child Protection, instead of an internal review process, and then apply to VCAT for a review, or
  • That they may apply immediately to VCAT for a review of the decision.

Case practitioner tasks

 At substantiation

  • Record the substantiation decision in CRIS. CRIS will generate a blank case plan at this point.
  • Prepare the case plan.
  • Involve the child, parents, carers and professionals in developing the case plan.
  • Where the child is Aboriginal, ensure this is accurately recorded so the correct case plan template generates in CRIS, and refer for an AFLDM meeting within 24 hours of substantiation.
  • Use informal meetings and discussions to discuss the case plan where sufficient.
  • If a case planning meeting is required, where possible, arrange for a family-led decision making meeting to occur. See Family-led decision making program guidelines.
  • Convene a formal case plan meeting if required.

Formal case plan meetings are not necessarily needed to develop case plans. As far as possible, engage children and families in a conversation about the case plan and seek their input. The family-led decision making process can be very beneficial.  A formal, convened meeting may be appropriate when needing to harness wider family involvement, where agreement cannot be reached or at parent’s request.

  • Develop or arrange for the development of a cultural plan to be given to an Aboriginal child in out-of-home care and record the date given to the child in the case plan.
  • Ensure the case plan includes a permanency objective.

Child protection does not have the authority to make plans or decisions for parents. The court may include conditions to be observed by parents on an order, and these are provided with a case plan. Parents may make decisions about how they will respond to the protective concerns identified by child protection, and a parent’s decision may be reflected briefly in the case plan, with their agreement

  • Prepare the actions table that is to accompany the case plan.
  • Submit case plan for endorsement.
  • Provide the parents and child with a copy of the endorsed case plan within 21 days of the substantiation date.

When practitioners provide formal documentation to families, such as case plans and court reports, they should draw attention to the client details and ask the family to check that the information is recorded correctly. This will provide regular opportunities for children and parents to check their information is accurate, including about Aboriginal identity and update records if Aboriginality is identified further into child protection involvement. It is possible that families who have not previously identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander may wish to at a later time and practitioners need to be sensitive and accepting of this.

  • As soon as a child is identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, ACSASS should be advised of the report and consulted on all significant decisions. The CYFA requires that an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander child’s cultural plan aligns with their case plan.
  • Review the case plan when required. When working with a family by agreement the case plan is to be reviewed at 90, 120 and 150 day mark if the case is still open.
  • When endorsed, provide the new version of the case plan to the child and parents within 14 days of endorsement.

CRIS saves an endorsed version and any previous endorsed versions and allows you to develop a new version and save a draft version of the case plan.