It may seem difficult or ‘not the right time’ to have discussions about permanency and concurrent planning in the early stages of involvement with a child and family. Parents may be angry, in denial, and unwilling to work with Child Safety. Finding a way to open the discussion from ‘day one' is important. It promotes transparency in the case planning process and helps to clarify why permanency planning is a priority. Take the opportunity to emphasise that central to all Child Safety intervention is seeking the best path to stability and continuity for the child’s long-term safety, belonging and wellbeing.
Effective conversations around permanency are shaped by open and honest communication that avoids jargon and demonstrates active listening and patience (Osmond and Tilbury, 2012). Provide opportunities within both the formal case planning process and subsequent interactions for families to ask questions and discuss the worries they may have about what permanency really means. Understanding the benefits and importance of establishing long-lasting safety and security for their child can help a sense of ownership and commitment to achieving permanency goals.
If constructive, transparent dialogue about concurrent planning occurs early, then valuable time discussing permanency planning can be maximised and achieve better outcomes for the child. Consciously apply a solution-focused, strengths based approach to these interactions.
Some ideas to include in initial conversations about permanency and concurrent planning include:
- permanency means working towards long-term stability for a child
- stability helps children to develop a sense of personal and cultural identity (Osmond and Tilbury, 2006)
- it is necessary to think about permanency early on, so timely decisions are made early and children don’t drift in and out of care
- it is important to support families to stay together safely and the first goal of permanency planning is for a child to be reunified safely with their family
- planning for permanency works best when parents have a say and are involved in making decisions about how their child is cared for if, for any reason, they can’t
- parents need to know and feel that plans are not being made ‘behind their backs’
- when working together on the main plan for reunification, the concurrent or ‘just-in-case’ plan isn’t the opposite of reunification - it’s another plan, an alternative for how everyone is going to work together to keep the child safe and cared for now AND in the long-term
- if everyone works together on the main plan and the alternative plan, it will mean that there will be less disruption or upheaval for the child if the alternative plan needs to be put in place
- the best ‘just-in-case’ plans are developed in partnership with parents, families and communities, to help identify who can best care for and look after the child
- the network surrounding families is an essential part of planning for permanency
- the different parts of permanency include looking at significant relationships and belonging, connections to places and locations that are important to a child, and how to achieve this legally
- permanency does not mean parents cannot see or be involved with their child – it is important to seek opportunities for parents to safely share in the child’s life.
Difficult conversations take skill, thought, reflection and confidence. Use supervision and conversations with colleagues to test out ideas and ways to talk about permanency and concurrent planning with children and families.
Concurrent case planning with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families
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