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Use realistic goals and interventions

Work with families to develop realistic goals that are practical and meaningful to them.

Always consider how to be most useful to the family in helping them to achieve these goals, while being clear about what the child needs to be safe. Use the information below to help guide the case plan.

Use concepts of mental health recovery

When working with families, support them to identify realistic goals and interventions and consider how the concept of recovery informs casework and ongoing discussions.

‘For many individuals, the concept of recovery is about staying in control of their lives despite experiencing ongoing symptoms of mental illness (Slade, 2009). …[T]he recovery approach centres on personal recovery, which aims … at ‘'living a satisfying, hopeful, and contributing life, even when there are ongoing limitations caused by mental health problems’ (Mental Health Commission of Canada, 2012, p. 12). A popular model of recovery is the CHIME framework (Leamy, Bird, Le Boutillier, Williams, & Slade, 2011) where recovery is seen to occur across five domains: connectedness, hope, identity, meaningfulness and empowerment.’

‘While recovery was originally conceived as a largely individual journey, it is increasingly being seen as an ‘inherently social process’ (Marino, 2015, p. 68). A number of authors have proposed models of family recovery that acknowledge that for many people with a mental illness it is impossible to separate their own recovery from the functioning of their family or their responsibilities as parents (e.g., Maybery et al., 2015; Nicholson, 2014).’

(Cited in Price-Robertson et al, 2016, pp.2.)

Let the parents’ be the guide

Be guided by the parents about what has and has not worked for them before. If they are worried about using a particular service, ask why and explore what they think will work for them. The most successful interventions are a collaboration between Child Safety and the family.

Ask these questions

When collaboratively developing goals and actions steps for intervention think about the following:


  • Is this case plan goal and intervention culturally appropriate?
  • Can this service provide a culturally safe intervention or service to the child and family?
  • How does the culture the family belongs to view and experience mental health and mental illness?


  • Can the child and family get to the service they’re accessing?
  • Do appointments fit around school and other family commitments?

Family stress – too many services?

  • Are the family experiencing unnecessary stress because of the services and interventions outlined in the case plan?
  • What benefit are the services providing?


  • Have the family, their mental health professional and their safety and support networks been consulted with at each stage of developing the case plan?
  • Are they invested in the case plan?

Recovery model

  • Has the family put in place goals and interventions that reflect the principles of recovery — connectedness, hope, identity, meaningfulness, and empowerment (CHIME)?
  • How does this case plan support the family to be more connected?
  • Does it give them hope and build their identity?
  • Does this case plan empower the family and is it meaningful to them?


  • Is there clear agreement with the family, safety and support network and other services about the case plan goals, actions and outcomes?

Guide to talking about change

Practice considerations Conversation ideas

Ask specifically about a parent’s involvement with mental health services.

To help guide any case plan interventions, ask the parents about what has worked before.

Ask about what services they’ve used before:

I’m curious about how you started to work with this service?

How did the referral come about? Did you go to them or did someone send you there?

How helpful did you find them? Was there anything you found unhelpful?

Was this service:

  • voluntary or involuntary
  • part of a community treatment order
  • self-referred or an acute service.

Look at what has worked before:

  • Why was that successful?
  • What did they or you do?
  • What else was going well at that time?

Look at what has not worked before:

  • Why didn’t it work?
  • What did they do and what did you do?
  • What else was going on at the time?

Talk about other service options:

What are your worries about working with the - school, neighbours, hospital, service provider?

What would it take for you to think about going to see this service? How can I helpful to you?

Explore the family’s support networks and times when they have been able to seek help

Consider any possibilities of community connections for the family.

Go to the COPMI website for tips when working with a family to develop networks.

Ask the parent:

Who can you go to when you need practical support to manage the everyday tasks of parenting?

Who do you go to when you need advice?

Who can you go to for support when you’re feeling tired, sad or not coping?

Who do you trust to look after your child if you become too unwell?

Plan for relapse

Practice considerations Conversation ideas

Help the family to make plans for what to do if the parent becomes unwell. This will help the child and parent to feel less worried and builds connections for the family.

Collaboratively developing a long-term safety and support plan will be very useful at these times. See Part 7 Safety assessment and planning for more information.


Use a parent’s own words for talking about their mental health — when appropriate. This can help them to understand and feel secure that you’re not judging them. Common expressions are: feeling flat, down, low, sick and unwell.

Explore what's happened before:

Tell me what happened for the children before if you became unwell.

Where did they go? Did this work? Why?

What would be the signs that you are becoming unwell or that the kids might need to stay somewhere else for a time? What would members of you safety and support network see?

Explore the plan for moving forward:

Let’s explore a plan for the children if you become unwell.

How can your network help?

What do you think they need to know about your mental health so they can provide this help?

What do they need to know about the children, their routine and how they can stay in touch with you while you are in hospital?

How can we best explain this plan to the children? Remember The Immediate Story could be a useful tool here to help children understand what is happening.

How can I be most useful to you?


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