Department of Human Services

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9.3 Case planning

Key outcomes

  • the child’s voice is central to the plan (where possible)
  • in children and family members’ own words, determine specific goals and how and when these will be achieved
  • identify indicators of change – what does success look like?
  • Identify risk and respond to safety issues – plan
  • celebrate wins and review regularly (reduce case drift)

Case planning is a multifaceted exercise and is not offered in isolation from other supports that the child, family or community may be receiving. Case plans must be centred on meeting the child’s safety needs and may be developed over the course of several meetings with the child and their family. Capturing the child’s voice wherever possible, within appropriate developmental capacity, listening to and documenting their views and wishes for themselves, their family and community is crucial to keeping the child at the centre of the Safer Family Services service system.

Tools to capture case plans may vary according to the needs of the child and family; this is inclusive of cultural needs. As much as possible, incorporating natural (informal) supports within case plans increases sustainability. Work on restorative practices to build and repair informal relationships and kinship systems wherever possible.

Decisive and timely case plans reduce case drift and respond to the sensitivity and urgency that can surround children’s safety. Reducing risk and trauma exposure is a primary consideration for children and families. Regular reviews to identify progress and make adjustments need to be built into the case planning. Line manager endorsement of case plans is required through supervision processes.

Specific goals

Based on the assessment, consider immediate, short- term, long-term and ongoing needs and develop related strategies and specific goals to address these needs. Ensure goals are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely). The safety and best interests of the child are paramount in relation to decisions and actions on the case plan – keep the focus on safety.

Strategies to achieve outcomes

Focus on strengths and natural/informal networks when determining actions, with goals in the child and family’s own words (when possible).

Develop a plan of action for achieving goals with the child and family. Include any other service providers currently or likely to be involved. Ensure all service providers and natural supports maximise the child and family member’s participation with strategies.

Develop goals and strategies that are specific to achieving the desired outcomes. Goals need to primarily focus on mitigating risks to the child and on the child within the context of the family.

Alongside goals, state how they will be achieved, who will be responsible for related tasks and the timeframes for each. Tasks need to be straight forward – a series of steps required to achieve the goal.

Specification of roles and other services

Recognise the plan as a collaborative activity between the case management agency, child, child’s family and community, and other service agencies.

Clarify and document what each individual and agency will contribute to the plan. Clarify the roles and expectations of all involved from both child/family and agency perspective. Set clear and realistic timeframes including clear monitoring and review processes.

Ensure the child and family members are clear about expectations for them achieving their own part of the plan and what they can expect from others. Have all parties sign off on the case plan (if possible) to commit to their agreed responsibility.

Risk assessment and safety

Determine any risk and safety factors for the child and assess the levels of risk. Consider any related legal issues, for example, intervention orders that may require action, including referrals to Family Safety Meetings.

Develop a safety plan with the child and other family members if required. Ensure that the safety plan is distributed to all service agencies, including the school site or children’s centre attended by the child and family.

For Aboriginal children and their families, sharing the safety plan with Elders, kinship networks or community representatives increases the safety of the child and respectfully taps into the safety kinship networks of Aboriginal children.

Cultural considerations for Aboriginal clients

When putting plans together, ensure you have a clear understanding of what the priorities are for the child, family and community. Consult Aboriginal workers wherever possible and appropriate to support case plans. Set goals and timeframes around agreed priorities. If a child or family member appears reluctant to pursue a particular goal, ask questions about their concerns and explore what may be holding them back

When considering timeframes, explain to the child and family why particular time frames have been set and how this reflects a plan towards successful outcomes. When implementing timeframes, be willing to make regular contact leading up to appointments or tasks in order to ensure everyone stays on track. How are community members supporting timeframes and scheduled appointments? Remind the child and family how the task relates to what is an important priority for them. Be prepared to be flexible and make changes to timeframes, particularly if other issues arise that need to be prioritised or addressed above the original task, such as a death in the family or community. Consult Aboriginal staff at crucial points.

Documenting your work

Case plans are the ‘goals’ listed and agreed with children, families and other service providers. It provides a ‘road map’ for children and their families to exit service engagement and ensures transparency and accountability in actions progressing from assessment processes. Make sure documentation works for family – how are things depicted and what does the child and family prefer? Be flexible in your approach. Clinical governance arrangements require direct line manager endorsement of case plans.

Practice point: case planning

When working closely with children and families, at the forefront of engagement is the extraordinary courage and resilience it takes to trust and build a relationship with a new worker or service. Consider the hurt, anger, pain, loss, trauma, war crimes, detention, racism or oppressive practices that the child, family or community may have previously experienced. Children and families need to be given the opportunity to make sense of past experiences (safely), to grieve and to actively build on their resilience, strength, community and cultural connection.

Page last updated : 25 Nov 2021

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