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Keep children front and centre

When problematic substance use is an issue, it can be easy for a child’s needs to be overshadowed by the work you do with his or her parents. But a case plan is first and foremost an opportunity to create change for the child.

Involve children in case planning. Talk with them about their life, include them in decisions and partner with others who will advocate on their behalf. Hear what a child wants and needs to change in their lives.


‘Kids should be asked about stuff that’s got to do with them… They can tell you stuff you’d never think of—cos you’re not a kid.’

6-year-old girl, Keep me in the loop—Kids Central Toolkit

What you should know before you start case planning

A picture of the child’s life should have emerged during your assessment.

You should know:

  • how a parent's past and current alcohol or drugs use influences their ability to make changes in a way that meets their child’s needs
  • what level of change is needed
  • what parenting practices are affected by alcohol and other drugs use
  • how intoxication and withdrawal affect the child’s safety and wellbeing
  • how bonding and attachment is affected
  • any other risks within the family.


Tools such as the Three Houses and Future House can help to better engage children and young people and help them express their worries, hopes and dreams.

Child-centred case plans

Focus your case plan on changes that will have a significant impact on a child’s life. Your case plan will be guided by your assessment of what is working and what the worries are. The parental and child strengths and needs will also need to be included in the case plan. 

Ask yourself what needs to be done to:

  • help the parents and their network create safety and demonstrate safety over time
  • improve parenting practices
  • strengthen the bond between child and parent
  • reduce the risk of abuse or neglect
  • address co-existing risk factors.

Be clear about how these changes will impact a child’s everyday life.

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