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Permanency through the continuum

Whilst permanency is often seen as a longer term goal we are working towards, it is also important to pay attention to it throughout the continuum. The information that is gathered and the opportunities to maintain continuity for children occur from the earliest points of contact with the child protection system.

Intake

Start as we mean to continue - keep permanency in mind from this early stage.

The understanding of the child from intake influences the assessment and planning for the child especially if they are assessed as in need of protection in the future.  

At the intake stage, work in a way that helps build future permanency.

Relational permanency

  • Explore who is in the child’s family and who might be part of their safety and support network.
  • Find out information about the child’s current and past living and care arrangements.
  • Look for consistent people, places or connections in the child’s life.
  • Record this information carefully into ICMS so it can be located when needed.

Physical permanency

  • Gather information about current and previous professional services involved with the child.
  • Ask professional notifiers how long they have been involved with the child and family.
  • Find out information about the child’s hobbies, activities, school etc.

Legal permanency

  • Identify the child’s current guardian.
  • Gather information about both of the child’s parents, their involvement with the child and any parenting orders.

Investigation and assessment

Attention

This is the point where children may first require out of home placement. The conversations with parents and family about permanency start now.

Working with families during an I&A to build safety at home and a strong safety and support network supports the first permanency preference for children to be cared for by their parents. When children remain at home it is helpful to identify the family’s ‘just in case plan’. If parents can’t care for the child who could?

If it is identified that a child will enter care, speak with the family about permanency and concurrent planning. Concurrent planning is about having a ‘just in case’ plan.

Some ways to start the conversation may include:

Relational permanency

  • Who frequently sees your children and your family?
  • Who would you hope is always in contact with your children?
  • Who is in the green circle (Circles of safety and support tool)?
  • Is there anyone you think the children should be connected with but aren’t currently?

Physical permanency

  • What has been your plan previously if you could not look after your children? Who was involved?
  • Who do you trust to look after your children? Why?
  • We want you to be part of all the planning for your children. Part of that planning is developing a plan ‘just in case’ you cannot look after the children. What do you think this plan should look like? Who must be involved? Who shouldn’t it involve?

Legal permanency

  • Do you have a will? Have you ever thought about who you would put as an alternative guardian to the children?
  • Who do you trust to make good decisions about your children?

In-home interventions

Intervention with parental agreement, supervision orders and directive orders are permanency decisions. They meet the legislative requirements of the first preference of permanency being that a child is to be cared for by their family and that the preferred way of ensuring a child’s safety is through supporting the child’s family.

It is always beneficial for the family to have a ‘just in case’ (concurrent) plan in the event that the primary goal (keeping the child safely at home) is not been achieved. Having a just in case plan is a helpful part of a longer term safety and support plan for post Child Safety intervention.

Some ways to start the conversation may include:

Relational permanency

  • Who is supporting your children and your family?
  • Who is in the green circle (Circles of safety and support tool)?
  • Who are the people who are important to your child?
  • Is there anyone you think the children should be connected with but aren’t currently?

Physical permanency

  • If you were sick and couldn’t look after your children, who do you ask to help?
  • What has been your plan previously if you could not look after your children? Who was involved?
  • Who do you trust to look after your children? Why?
  • We want you to be part of all the planning for your children. Part of that planning is developing a plan ‘just in case’ you cannot look after the children. What do you think this plan should look like? Who must be involved? Who shouldn’t it involve?

Legal permanency

  • Who do you trust to make good decisions about your children?
  • If something happened to you (parent) who would you want to look after your children or make decisions? If they weren’t available, who else? Who else?
  • Do you have a will? Have you ever thought about who you would put as an alternative guardian to the children?

Intervention through short-term child protection orders

Concurrent planning is made easier in the ongoing intervention phase if honest and transparent conversations with parents have already occurred. Introduce the idea of concurrent planning early as possible. Talk about the importance of continuity in relationships and place to support relational and physical permanency.

Some ways to start the conversation may include:

Relational permanency

  • Who would you like your child to see?
  • Is there other important people to your child that you would like them to see? How do you see this working best?
  • Who would you hope is always in contact with your children?
  • Who are the people who can help teach your child about their culture?
  • Is there anyone you think the children should be connected with but aren’t currently?

Physical permanency

  • Has your child seen a dentist? A specialist? Who knows the most about your child’s health?
  • Has your child attended any other schools? Are there important people there that your child should see?
  • Where is your family from?
  • What should your child know about your culture?
  • We want you to be part of all the planning for your children. Part of that planning is developing a plan ‘just in case’ you cannot look after the children. What do you think this plan should look like? Who must be involved? Who shouldn’t it involve?
  • If your child returns to your land, what do they need to know about social norms?

Legal permanency

  • Do you have a will? Have you ever thought about who you would put as an alternative guardian to the children?
  • Who do you trust to make good decisions about your children?

Long-term interventions

Ideally a child will experience permanency in all three dimensions and meeting the needs of the child for their lifetime. For example, a permanent care order made to a grandparent (legal permanency) may be ensuring the child is connected to all important people (relational permanency). They may live on the family land with the child, schooling is consistent and the child attends one doctor for all medical needs (physical permanency).

At times circumstances may change and the permanency arrangement for the child may need to be reviewed and changed. For example, when a child lives with a kinship guardian who is unwell and cannot continue to care for the child until they are 18 years. Permanency planning will need to occur with the parents and network to find alternative care arrangements. Another example would be if the child’s needs become more complex and the carer or guardian is no longer able to meet these needs. 

Keep in mind permanency throughout the lifetime of the child. Are the current arrangements meeting the child’s needs? Ask questions to the child, family and the network to gather information.

Relational permanency

  • Ask the child - Who do you want to see more often?

  • Who does the child need to see more often?
  • Who isn’t the child seeing?
  • Who can help teach the child about their past and their culture?

Physical permanency

  • Can this care arrangement support the child until they are 18 years and onwards?

  • Will this care arrangement support the child’s relational permanency?
  • Can the child learn about who they are here? What else can help?
  • Ask the child - Do you like living here? Would you change anything?

Legal permanency

  • Does the child have a guardian who is making good decisions about the child and with the child?

  • Is the current legal guardian still the right decision or has this changed?
  • Ask the child – who would you like to be the person to make significant decisions with you and about you?

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