Be sensitive and responsive to a person’s experience
When case planning regarding a parent’s disability, a parent may not always view the impact of their disability on their functioning as a worry. They may not fully understand that the functional impact their disability has on their child is contributing to harm. They may also be concerned they will be judged or stigmatised on the basis that they have disability. A child with disability may also have the same concern regarding judgement, or feel unable to express their views and wishes effectively if there are not appropriate processes in place for their voice to be heard.
In preparing to case plan with a child or parent with disability, developing an understanding of each person’s individual experience, views and needs for the case planning process can support the development of an effective case plan.
The Family Roadmap tool can be very useful to help parents and children understand the worries, the barriers a parent may face in parenting their children safely, what life would look like at its best and provides hope and goals for family members. Helping families to understand things they have done well and the strengths and resources they possess can be motivating and encouraging for parents and children alike.
Be clear on your assessment
When preparing to develop a case plan with any child or parent, have a solid understanding of the family’s Collaborative Assessment and Planning (CAP) tool, including the harms, worries, acts of protection and goals. Much of this information will have come from the family themselves and the document developed with the family. You cannot base your assessment off bias or assumptions. Prior to the case planning meeting, consider the following questions regarding your assessment of the child and family:
- What does ‘safe enough’ mean for this child and family?
- What level of change needs to occur, and by whom?
- How can I articulate this to the family with confidence and reason in a way that is understandable?
- How will a parent or child with disability (considering intellectual, cognitive and psychiatric disabilities) experience my intervention if I’m not clear on what needs to change, and why?
- Do I have a vision on what the parents / safety and support network need to do in order to achieve safety for the child?
- How am I taking into consideration the intersections that may exist for the person with disability, including mental health concerns, drug and alcohol use, or domestic and family violence?
- How will I know if the case plan we develop is making the child safe? How will the family, and safety and support network know? How will the child know?
Families have a right to understand why and how we make assessments, including why we are taking a particular action, or asking them to change their behaviour. Reflecting on the questions above will help you continue to develop clarity of your assessment and refine your risk assessment skills, resulting in better outcomes for children and families.
Practice effective engagement
Depending on the nature and functional impact of their disability, children or parents will need additional support to ensure their full participation in pre-planning meetings and case planning meetings. You are responsible for adapting your approach, communication and creating accessibility for the person to give them the best possible opportunity for participation in a significant process.
This will include:
- Understand the functional impact of a person’s disability.
- Understand what supports need to be implemented to promote participation, including the use of communication partners, visual prompts or other tools.
- Understand and arranging accessible meetings.
If someone else is facilitating the meeting, ensure the people who are responsible for this are aware of the above points so they can be responsive to the family’s needs.
Refer to Engaging with a child with disability section to explore the different ways children’s voices are heard through creating accessible environments for the child’s physical, sensory and communication needs. This content is transferrable to working with a parent who has a disability.
Always work to have the voice and views of the child or young person represented at the meeting. For some children who have complex communication needs, this can require a significant amount of preparation, planning and liaising with different people, however, the case plan belongs to the child. They have a right to be heard and to have input into decisions that affect their lives now and for the rest of their life.
It is appropriate that parents and children are given the opportunity to have a support person with them for preparation meetings, case planning meetings, family group meetings and review meetings. A support person may also act as a communication partner for a person with disability.
Some parents with impaired decision making capacity may be appointed with an adult guardian. It is essential that a parent’s adult guardian is involved in the case planning process to advocate for the parent and support the parent’s decision making.
As with all families, be guided by the family’s views and needs regarding what will work for them when it comes to supporting their effective engagement.
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