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What needs to change for children

Case planning is your opportunity to focus parents on the goals and action steps and keep the safety and support network aware of the harms and worries relating to the safety of the children. 

Be clear about what must change

When working with parents, be clear about the ways their alcohol and other drugs (AOD) use harms a child—both now and in the future. Tell them what you are worried about and what must change for a child to be safe. Motivate parents by expressing how these changes will change a child’s life for the better.

Step into a child’s shoes

When setting goals, remember to try to see the world from a child’s perspective.

Ask yourself:

  • What does the child need to be safe at home today and in the future?
  • What cumulative harm is the child exposed to?
  • What is the child’s relationship and attachment to each of their parents like?
  • How is the child being harmed by their parent’s problematic AOD use?
  • What does the child need to have happen within the next 3–6 months?

Educate and collaborate with parents

Educate parents about what it is about their AOD use that makes their child vulnerable, what risks they face and how these risks can impact on them now and in the future.

If you have worked with the children and used tools such as the Three Houses or the Future House, ask the children if you can share these with the parents. Hearing how their AOD use is affecting their child or children can be a powerful motivator.

You also need to be clear about what will be done and by when and who is responsible. Collaborate with parents and the safety and support network to discover the best ways to make change happen.

Set goals with parents

Parents need to participate in the development of the case plan to increase their sense of ownership. That means setting goals with them, not for them. Collaboration and clarity are vital—parents must know what needs to be done, why and how they will do it.

Be confident about the goals you set. Do not ‘change the goalposts’ as this can confuse and demotivate parents.

Before you begin setting goals with parents, ask yourself:

How clear am I about what needs to change in the case plan? If I am unclear, how will the parent understand what needs to be done?

  • Are my goals realistic regarding what can change within this case plan period?
  • Are they realistic for parents and within the timeframe the child needs?
  • If childhood trauma, mental health or domestic and family violence is connected with a parent’s AOD use, how do I break this down for case planning?
  • If a parent is not ready to work through past childhood trauma, what does this mean for developing goals and actions steps in case planning?
  • Who do I need to consult with so I am clear before talking with a parent?

Case planning can be challenging for parents, especially when their AOD use is linked to confronting, painful and traumatic experiences.

Not all parents will be able to take the steps to change in the time needed to make a child safe.

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