For further information see Protection order phase-advice.
The protection order phase begins when the Children’s Court makes a protection order.
This phase aims to:
- meet the statutory requirements of the CYFA
- reduce risk to the child
- promote the child’s safety and development, provide for their present and future care and wellbeing, and achieve permanency for the child.
A child in this situation has been found to be in need of protection in accordance with the provisions of the CYFA. Statutory involvement is needed to ensure the child’s safety and ongoing wellbeing.
The protection order phase focuses on administering and monitoring compliance with the court order in accordance with a case plan for each child.
During this phase, if family reunification is planned, child protection practitioners should work towards empowering the family to function independently.
The case plan is a succinct, high level plan.
Child protection practitioners are required to formulate a case plan and enact the case plan activities of the SAFER children framework, which are the relevant risk assessment practice activities for case planning.
The child's case plan is a key document which sets out the protective concerns for the child, because determining the existence of protective concerns is a significant decision.
It covers significant decisions regarding current care arrangements; contact; cultural support; education, employment or childcare; health care; and developmental support.
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.
Review of the risk assessment is part of the case planning process. As new information is received in relation to concerns about the child, it is policy for the the essential information categories be updated with information and evidence added to record the nature of the concern.
Case planning following the making of a final order
A case plan is prepared for a child where protective concerns have been substantiated and is included in the disposition and addendum court reports. Following the making of a:
- family preservation order
- family reunification order
- care by Secretary order
- long-term care order
- therapeutic treatment (placement) order
Practitioners need to determine if the current endorsed case plan (contained in the court report) 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 (including endorsement) and a copy provided to the child and family within eight weeks. Practitioners are encouraged to undertake a review risk assessment to ensure the risk assessment and case plan are consistent.
Consistency between the case plan and court order is required to ensure child protection is fulfilling its obligations and responsibilities for the administration and operation of 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 a decision is made to change the permanency objective to one that is inconsistent with the existing final order, an application to court will be needed, to seek an order consistent with the appropriate permanency objective.
The preference is to reach agreement with the family. Meetings with families to prepare the case plan need not be formal meetings and can include meetings with the family during home visits. If agreement cannot be reached or a more formal process would be beneficial, Aboriginal Family-Led Decision-Making or Family-Led Decision-Making meetings are a great way of case planning with families and have many benefits for the child and their family. If this is not available a case conference or formal case planning meeting chaired by a team manager or equivalent may be beneficial.
Reviewing the operation of court orders
Reviewing the operation of court orders is undertaken when reviewing the child’s case plan. A review date in a case plan must not be more than:
- 12 months after the case plan is endorsed; or
- where there is a final order, 6 weeks before–
- the 12 month or annual anniversary; or
- the order expiry date;
whichever is earlier.
This supports compliance with statutory obligations regarding review of case plans (s. 169(1), CYFA), and various requirements to review the operation of orders.
A copy of the case plan must be given to the child and parents within 14 days of any other amendment to the case plan (s. 168(2)(d), CYFA).
A case plan is to be reviewed:
- when a child has been in out-of-home care for a cumulative period of 12 months if–
- they are under an IAO out of parental care, a family reunification order, or care by Secretary order; and
- the permanency objective is family reunification
- whenever there is a significant change in circumstances for the child
- a review risk assessment is recommended during the case plan review process.
Some activities are closely related to case planning. These include case practitioners using the actions table and maintaining accurate information about the child and family. Where relevant it may also include administering court orders and monitoring compliance with conditions, contact management, care management including leaving care, crisis management, preparing a cultural plan for an Aboriginal child in out-of-home care.
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 provides 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.
- If the matter is also before the Children's Court, consult with the Child Protection Litigation Office (CPLO) or your divisional legal representative, and notify the Court in writing that the child's Aboriginal identity has become known.
- A review risk assessment is recommended when reviewing the case plan. A review will assist the practitioner in assessing risk to the child and if strengths are present that may be building blocks to increased safety and protection.
The actions table is critical to enact the case plan activity. It sets out in detail the goals and tasks through which the case plan will be enacted and is developed alongside a case plan.
The actions table reflects in more detail, what parents and others need to do to address the protective concerns and implement the decisions about the present and future care and wellbeing of the child set out in the case plan. It includes how change will be shown through indicators of change
The actions table should be revised as required to support and reflect what is happening between case plan reviews.
Care and placement plan
If the child is placed through an out-of-home care service, the care team will prepare a care and placement plan within 14 days of the placement commencing.
The care and placement plan should be revised and updated once a child has been in care for four months, and again at ten months. For children in care for longer than ten months, goals and actions within the care and placement should be revised every six months.
The out-of-home care service is responsible for coordinating the review of actions to support the day-to-day care of the child.
All plans that exist for a child and family must be considered as part of formulating and enacting a case plan.