Timeframes and active efforts
Once concurrent case plan goals and actions have been identified, the focus of intervention turns to implementation. Implementing the concurrent plan involves carrying out the identified actions and regularly assessing progress in meeting the articulated permanency goals. Maintain a sense of urgency and active efforts to maximise the opportunity for reunification. The Child Protection Act 1999 provides clear timeframes for short-term orders (maximum of two years) and permanency planning must reflect this. Consider using a permanency timeline to support parents to understand the sense of urgency that underlies interventions to achieve long-term safety and stability for their child (National Centre for Child Welfare Excellence, n.d).
Implementation requires focus, purpose, persistence and flexibility. Work intentionally to influence change. While the formal review of the case plan occurs usually every 6 months, implementing the case plan requires continuous review and monitoring. Set up regular times with the parents during the case planning period to touch base and talk about the actions and tasks – explore and problem solve barriers and include the network in developing and adapting new strategies, ideas and approaches.
The implementation stage of case planning requires practitioners to maintain positive and collaborative relationships with the child, their parents and any service providers involved. Use the identified permanency goals and actions to structure engagement and keep everyone focused on working towards safety and stability for the child.
Regular contact with the child and their parents while implementing the concurrent plan enables practitioners to recognise strengths, efforts and barriers to achieving permanency goals. It also provides ongoing opportunities to openly and transparently discuss how concurrent planning works in practice. Information gathering, together with child protection knowledge, skills and experience supports practitioners to regularly assess progress towards the concurrent case plan goals.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children
For an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child, ensure that engagement with the child, their parents, family and community to implement the concurrent case plan is respectful and responsive to culture.
Link families to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander services such as the Family Wellbeing Service or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health service to address the child protection worries.
Ensure the child and family have the opportunity to involve an independent person to help support and facilitate their participation in decision making for significant decisions – this is especially important when considering permanency. Implementation of the primary and alternative permanency goals must also be in accordance with the five elements of the Child Placement Principle.
Tools to support implementing a concurrent case plan
The Framework for Practice is supported by a range of tools, which can be applied to support case planning for permanency. SDM tools are also available to inform and guide the planning process. Think about how the tools and techniques already used in other areas of practice can be used to progress the implementation of a concurrent case plan.
Remember – every conversation is an intervention. This is particularly important during the implementation of a case plan, including concurrent planning.
Try motivational interviewing
Motivational interviewing can help to support the momentum for change and influence progress against agreed actions. Use empathy to work with resistance and understand the motivators, barriers and enablers to change. Approach every conversation with clarity about what needs to be talked about, revisited and progressed.
For more information about motivational interviewing, refer to Iannos and Antcliff (2013), The application of motivational interviewing techniques for engaging ‘resistant’ families.
Take a solution focused approach
Solution focused questions can help encourage a vision for change. Talk openly with parents and the network about strengths, as well as risks, to help them envisage a pathway to positive change.
Use scaling questions
Scaling questions shape the discussion about where things are at now and where parents want them to be. What does long-term stability for the child look like? These questions can make a connection to the goals and actions within the plan and reinforce a step-by-step approach to change.
Refer to the cultural support plan
The cultural support plan forms part of the case plan and can help to keep the child’s connection to family, community and culture at the centre of decision making around an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child’s need for long-term stability.
Refer to Practice Kit Safe Care and Connection
Revisit the Circles of Safety and Support Tool
If completed previously, revisit the work completed with the child and family at earlier stages in the intervention to build an updated picture of who makes up their network. Ongoing engagement with the family while implementing the case plan can identify opportunities to build the network and surface additional connections that may be used to secure long-term stability for the child. Parents will often report having a limited network and conscious application of this tool during the implementation of the case plan can help explore all options, including whether it is possible for people already within the network to move towards the inner circle and provide support to achieve concurrent case plan goals. Use the tool to reflect on progress and celebrate each time the safety and support network is strengthened.
Reflect on the genogram
Genograms and kinship mapping are essential tools to support permanency planning. They are best developed with the child (where possible) and family, as they are the keepers of knowledge about who makes up their family network.
Reflect on the genogram to identify which family members the child is close to, map the emotional nature of relationships, show intergenerational patterns and highlight how relationships change over time.
Implementing permanency goals can be informed by genograms as a way to source network members who may be considered as kinship carers for the child. Completing a genogram with a family will also identify any gaps in knowledge about the child’s relationships and where attention can be directed to help build relational permanency over time.
Dovetail Queensland has developed the GENOGRAMS: When a picture is worth a thousand words video to explain how to use a genogram with a child or young person. Remember to be considerate of the age and developmental stage of the child.
Ecomaps are another method for visually displaying information about a family, including their formal and informal supports inside and outside the family structure. Use ecomaps to see a child’s connection to the world and map the broader personal and social relationships in a family. Are there any areas of isolation? Ecomaps can also be used in working with families from different cultures to increase an understanding in their definition of ‘family’. It can support a greater understanding of both relational and physical permanency which can inform concurrent planning.
The Ecomap Animation demonstrates what an ecomap is and how to develop one with a family.
Commit to best practice
Best practice around implementing the concurrent plan involves practitioners to be mindful of, and take action across, the following areas:
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