A key element of effective case planning is regular and timely review. Reviewing the plan is a significant decision making stage and provides an opportunity to step back, check progress and consider actions against planning timeframes. It enables collaborative reflection on the efforts being made to work towards implementing the identified primary permanency goal, and discussion can be facilitated around next steps. Review of the concurrent plan also allows practitioners and families to openly discuss the alternative permanency goal and what needs to happen to ensure this remains a secure ‘just-in-case’ option. Are other alternatives required? Regular and timely review maintains a sense of urgency to decision making, and a clear focus on working towards long-term stability for the child.
Review points during a short-term order are an ideal opportunity for a referral to the Family Participation Program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families to maximise their participation in the review and planning.
Complete the review report
Progress towards achieving permanency is a key aspect of the review report and requires practitioners to reflect specifically on their work with the family and network to achieve long-term stability for the child. The review report must articulate a summary of progress towards the primary goal to achieve permanency (usually reunification), including the outcome of the Family Reunification Assessment (see below) and other safety assessments, if required. Details regarding action taken to progress the alternative goal to achieve permanency must also be included.
A Family Group Meeting is not required for a case plan review, however is advisable when the review results in changes to the case plan that would change the identified permanency goals and outcomes.
Family reunification assessment
The FRA tool is completed for cases where any child has been removed from the home and remains in placement with a goal of reunification (such as short-term child protection orders and care agreements). It supports decision making about the overall case plan goals and considers the question ‘Can the child return home permanently?’ Importantly, the FRA assists with clarifying the primary and alternative case plan goals as concurrent planning progresses. The Strengths and Needs Assessment and Family Reunification Assessment (FRA) tools in particular support decision making around permanency.
A child’s case plan must be reviewed at least every six months, although frequency of reviews takes into account the child’s age and developmental needs. A FRA could be completed at an earlier point in time if it is considered appropriate to the child’s circumstances. Complete the FRA and a review report as part of each review for a child in short term care. Reviewing the collaborative assessment and planning tool (CAP) with the family is an effective way to engage them in the process.
If the FRA recommends planning for an alternative permanency option, ensure the review report:
- reflects all efforts to progress reunification
- demonstrates how the family were supported to engage and be involved in decision making
- clearly articulates concurrent planning and identifies the changes required for the alternative option to transition to the primary permanency goal
- states how the dimensions of permanency will be met
- captures how an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child’s connection to family, community and culture will be safeguarded.
Detailed information about the FRA tool is contained in the SDM manual.
Refer to Procedure 5 - Support a child in care – review and revise the case plan for further detail of how to apply the FRA when permanency planning.
It is useful to think about case plan reviews along a timeline of decision making and identify key decision making points. Consider along that timeline when to make a referral to a practice panel, to support and enable a collaborative discussion around strengths, needs, goals and action required. A practice panel must be convened:
- when considering the most appropriate type of ongoing intervention
- prior to finalising any permanency option
- three months before a short term child protection order is due to expire.
Keep in mind the order of preference in the Child Protection Act 1999 for achieving legal permanency, including the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander placement. Have all permanency options within the family been considered and progressed? Is a Permanent Care Order feasible? Has the child’s parent expressed interest in adoption for the child? What other alternative arrangements are being progressed?
Working closely with the child and family, as well as using assessment tools, will help to identify if safe reunification is not likely. The process of regular review within the legislated timeframe will inform the right time to implement the alternative permanency goal. Be open and transparent in decision making around pursuing the alternative permanency goal to secure long-term stability for the child, and recognise the grief and loss parents will experience when reunification is no longer achievable (Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2018).
If possible, encourage parents to participate in supporting the transition to the alternative care arrangement identified in the concurrent plan; a positive relationship between the parents and the child’s long-term carer will help facilitate active and positive contributions to the child’s life in the future (Milani, 2014).
Refer to Practice Guide Practice Panels
Refer to Practice Guide Case planning overview for detailed guidance regarding the case planning process
Refer to procedure 5 Support a child in care – case planning
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