A concurrent plan must be child centred and family focused. It requires practitioners to balance working intensively with families to support the best possible chance of reunification as well as ensuring alternative plans are well thought out and in place (Milani, 2014).
Schene (2001) outlines that the development of a concurrent plan must reflect:
- an early assessment of the conditions that led to out-of-home placement
- identification of family strengths
- articulated actions supporting timely reunification
- identified alternative care arrangements to be considered as a permanency option if reunification is not possible
- clear time lines for permanency decision making
- coordination of service provision and court decision making
- regular review timeframes.
For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, the concurrent plan must also include explicit actions reflecting all five elements of the Child Placement Principle:
- Prevention: does the concurrent plan protect the child’s right to grow up in family, community and culture?
- Partnership: does the planning process facilitate the participation of community representatives?
- Placement: do alternative permanency goals reflect the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle placement hierarchy?
- Participation: are the child, parents and family members participating in decisions regarding the safety, belonging and wellbeing of the child?
- Connection: does the plan maintain and support connections between the child and their family, community, culture and country?
Permanency and concurrent planning is required by legislation and therefore needs to be documented in court materials when making any application to the Childrens Court.
Include clear worry and goal statements in the concurrent plan so that it is clear to parents and other stakeholders (including related professionals, DCPL and the Court) about why Child Safety is involved with the family and what needs to happen to achieve permanency for the child.
Ensure the child’s views about permanency are included in any court material, taking into account their age, developmental ability or their willingness to express their view.
Young people may wish to write a letter or speak at Court, where a younger child may be able to complete a tool such as Three Houses or speak with a professional such as Separate Representative.
Concurrent planning is most visible within the goals of the case plan. Goal statements reflect a vision for future safety, belonging and wellbeing and provide the focus and direction for the creation of detailed plans. Ensure the development of permanency goals is inclusive and the family understands the purpose behind articulating primary and alternative goals.
As with other goals stated within the case plan, permanency goals must be SMART – specific, measurable, attainable, results oriented and time limited:
Specific—the family and safety and support network know exactly what has to be done.
Measurable—goals are measurable, clear and understandable, so everyone knows when they have been achieved. For concurrent planning, this is an important signpost for when alternative permanency goals need to be pursued.
Achievable—is the family able to accomplish the goal in a designated time period given their available resources? It is important the family contribute to developing alternative permanency goals, so they know what will happen if goals are not able to be achieved.
Realistic—the family has had input into and agreed on the development of feasible goals. Circumstances can change, and the long-term stability of the child must remain the priority. A realistic concurrent plan can support timely, transparent decision making.
Time-limited—time frames for goal accomplishment are determined based on understanding the family's risks, strengths, ability and motivation to change, and availability of resources. This is a key consideration when planning for permanency.
De Panfilis (2006)
Permanency goals must prioritise the child’s long-term needs for safety and stability. Include the views and wishes of the child, parents and family network when making decisions about care arrangements for the child and their long-term protection needs. Case planning, including the development of a concurrent plan, is enhanced through collaborative practice.
Examples of concurrent case plan goals
The figures below provide some examples of goals and actions for concurrent case planning from the initial case plan. The examples include goals where a long-term alternative care arrangement (physical permanency) is not yet known, where a kinship option has been identified but not confirmed and an example where the alternative care arrangement has been decided and agreed.
The actions include who is involved, what they will be doing and (if relevant) and when the action will be completed or reviewed.
At each review of the case plan, the alternative goal for best achieving permanency is also reviewed and updated. The following figure extends on the earlier examples, providing examples of how each goal will change as it progresses.
If a child is subject to a long-term guardianship order and is under the guardianship of the chief executive, case planning should be focussed on how to build, maintain and enhance relational, physical and legal permanency. Determine whether the care arrangement is the most stable, permanent arrangement and preferred legal permanency option for the child. Consider the child’s age and think about what long-term care will look like. Are there family members who would be willing to care for the child? Does the child have any other siblings in care and across different placements? Goal statements may look like this:
An alternative goal for strengthening permanency might be:
If, following kinship mapping, Davey’s paternal grandparents are identified and assessed as suitable kinship carers, the alternative goal could change to:
Integrating concurrent planning into the case planning processNext
Implement a concurrent plan
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