1. Assess and prepare to develop a case plan

A case plan must be developed to address the protection and care needs of any child who has been assessed as being in need of protection. The case plan will provide a clear statement about why the child is in need of protection, the goals to achieve permanency for the child, and the roles and agreed responsibilities of all participants in addressing the child’s protection and care needs. The case plan provides the structure for the ongoing intervention that will occur with the child and their family.

The assessment stage of case planning allows Child Safety to work collaboratively with the child, family and key partners to gather additional information to:

  • inform the case planning process (Child Protection Act 1999, section 51A-51YB)
  • assess the child and parental strengths and needs
  • ensure that the ongoing intervention is appropriate to meet the child’s safety needs
  • prepare for the family group meeting, which is to be held within 30 days of the decision that a child is in need of protection, or within the timeframe set by the court on an adjournment.

In order to meet the required timeframe, as soon as a child is assessed as being in need of protection, make a referral to a family group meeting convenor using the FGM referral form and attach all relevant information, as outlined in 2.2 Provide information to the convenor. For an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child, discuss with the child and family, the option of referring the matter to the family participation program for the family group meeting to be held as an Aboriginal Family-Led Decision-Making Process, refer to chapter 10 What if a matter is to be referred to the family participation program for family-led decision-making? 

The Child Protection Act 1999, section 51G(b), requires an inclusive process with the child and parent when planning and making decisions about the child's well-being and protection. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people must be given the opportunity to meaningfully participate in decision-making regarding an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child - refer to 10.1 Decision-making about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. For further information regarding cas planning refer to The case planning process and Critical steps in case planning and the practice resource Case planning - an overview (PDF, 429 KB). In circumstances where it is not possible for a parent to actively participate in decision-making, involve them to the greatest extent possible and ensure they are provided with relevant information.

For information in relation to the assessment of risk, refer to the Practice guide: The assessment of harm and risk of harm (PDF, 886 KB).

Undertake concurrent planning

Concurrent planning commences when a child first comes into care. Where the primary permanency goal of the intervention is reunification with family, the child’s case plan must include an alternative permanency option, to ensure there is an alternative option if the primary permanency goal of reunification does not occur in a timely way.

Concurrent planning requires discussion with the parents as early as possible to identify and establish suitable and permanent placement options for the child within their extended family. Concurrent planning will be informed by the permanency principles (Child Protection Act 1999, section 5BA) and additional principles for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children (section 5C). For further information about concurrent planning, refer to 3.2 Develop key items in the case plan. For further information about permanency planning, refer to the practice paper Permanency planning and to the practice resource Decision-making for expiring Child Protection orders.

1.1 Gather information about the child and family

The quality of an initial case plan will depend on the level of engagement with the child and their family and the use of professional judgement to analyse the information gathered.

The assessment stage consists of working with the child, family and key partners to gather and assess information about the family’s functioning to inform the development of the case plan and provide a clear focus for intervention by Child Safety. It is a broader assessment than one based solely on risk to the child, and requires more in-depth work with the family to gain knowledge of their situation, strengths and needs. The process of gathering information will:

  • provide an opportunity to build rapport with the child, family and all parties involved with the child and family and engage them in the case planning process
  • strengthen an understanding of the child and family context
  • identify the significant people and support networks for the child and family
  • be participative and involve positive engagement with the child and family
  • be child-focused, evidence-based and strengths-led
  • provide sufficient time and a culturally safe space for Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander families to participate
  • enable an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child and family to provide cultural advice to inform decisions that affect them
  • be comprehensive, holistic and include information from a wide range of sources
  • be undertaken in a timely manner.

In addition to the information already known by Child Safety about the child and family, gather further relevant information from:

  • the child, where age and developmentally appropriate - refer to Listening, hearing and acting (PDF, File not found) literature review for information about engaging and involving children and young people
  • the parents
  • extended family members, who may make a useful contribution to the case plan
  • the carers or care service staff
  • any other significant people, including current service providers and specialists, for example, medical practitioners, disability services, the QPS and Evolve staff
  • relevant community and cultural members.

This information is used to:

  • assess the child strengths and needs
  • assess the parental strengths and needs
  • inform the development of the case plan goals and actions, in order to adequately meet the child's protection and care needs.

A thorough assessment will result in enhanced opportunities for the child and their family to participate in the case planning process. For further information, refer to  Appendix B: Case plan guidance in the SDM Manual.

Where one or both parents have an intellectual disability, refer to the practice resource Supporting parents who have an intellectual disability (PDF, 33 KB) Supporting parents who have an intellectual disability (RTF, 24 KB).

For further information in relation to working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, refer to 10.1 Decision-making about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and the practice paper Working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the practice resources Working with the recognised entity (PDF, File not found) and Developing a cultural support plan for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child (PDF, 249 KB).

When the child or family is from a culturally and linguistically diverse background or has a disability that would require an interpreter to facilitate communication, arrange for interpreter services to assist with interviews and communication with a child and family. If a family needs help communicating with the department, refer to Interpreter services.

When the child or family member has a disability or is from or is from a cultural or linguistic group that would require an interpreter to facilitate communication, arrange for interpreter services to assist with interviews and communication with a child and family. If a family needs help communicating with Child Safety refer to Chapter 10.7 Undertake the substance testing of parents.

Conduct criminal and domestic violence history checks on parents

A request for a criminal and domestic violence history check on the child's parents, including a parent's partner, and other adult household members can be made (Child Protection Act 1999, section 95(3)) and authorised by the CSSC manager or a senior team leader at any time a decision is being made about a child under the Child Protection Act 1999 , for example, when assessing the child's safety in the family home during contact, or when considering a child's reunification with the family.

When a parent or adult household member's criminal and domestic violence history is required:

For further information on non-urgent requests refer to Chapter 2, 2.7 Gather information from other sources.

1.2 Assess the child's strengths and needs

An assessment of the child's strengths and needs will provide a snapshot of a child's functioning at a specific point in time, and will assist in identifying those needs that must be addressed in order to improve the child's emotional, physical and psychological well-being. The child's identified strengths will be incorporated where appropriate, to assist in the process of developing the case plan.

An assessment of the child's strengths and needs must be completed:

  • following the decision that a child is in need of protection, and prior to the initial family group meeting to develop a case plan for the child
  • to inform the revised case plan for a child, when ongoing intervention will continue.

The child strengths and needs assessment is designed to improve consistency by ensuring that the child's functioning is considered within the same domains, using the same criteria. Strengths and needs will be re-assessed to inform each case plan review.

The case planning process must also include provisions that address the child's developmental needs and assist them to gain the skills and sense of safety, belonging and wellbeing that will allow them to realise their potential and positively participate in the wider community.

For additional assistance in determining the child's strengths and needs, refer to Physical and Cognitive Developmental Milestones (PDF, 24 KB).

Complete the child strengths and needs assessment

To complete the child strengths and needs assessment:

  • complete one child strengths and needs assessment for each child in need of protection
  • complete the first nine domains for every child, and domains 10 to 13 as required
  • engage an interpreter where the child experiences communication barriers
  • meet with the child, if age and developmentally appropriate, and the parents to:
    • explain the purpose of the assessment in the child friendly language and explore the areas of the child's life with them, to assist in completing the assessment - refer to Appendix B: Case plan guidance in the SDM Manual for assistance
    • respond to any questions or expressed concerns the chikld may have
  • assess whether each domain is an area of strength or need for the child, using:
  • determine whether further information is rquired to assess if a particular domain is a strength or need for a child - refer to Appendix B: Case plan guidance in the SDM Manual where there is uncertainty in selecting the correct level
  • record the child strengths and needs assessment in ICMS by selecting the level of strength or need within each domain that accurately reflects the information gathered and the definitions
  • provide a rationale/evidence for selecting the strength or need
  • submit the completed assessment to the senior team leader for approval in ICMS
  • provide the approved assessment to the family group meeting convenor to inform the development of a case plan.

For further information refer to:

Long-term guardianship order to a suitable person

When a child is subject to a child protection order granting long-term guardianship to a suitable person (Child Protection Act 1999, section 61(f)(i) and 61(f)(ii)), the child strengths and needs assessment is not completed, unless the carer is receiving additional financial allowances (child related costs or high support needs allowance) or Child Safety are involved due to placement difficulties.

An exception is when a decision is made to vary the long-term guardianship order from a suitable person to the chief executive. In these circumstances undertake a case plan review as outlined in 5. Review and revise the case plan. Complete the child strengths and needs assessment, as outlined in 5.7 Re-assess the child's strengths and needs. The family reunification and parental strengths and needs assessment is not completed.

Permanent care order

Once a child is subject to a permanent care order (Child Protection Act 1999, section 61(f)(i) and 61(f)(ii)), the child is not subject to the case planning cycle and the child strengths and needs assessment is not completed.

In circumstances when the child’s pacement with the permanent guardian has broken down and DCPL has subsequently made an application to revoke the permanent care order and apply for another child protection order, undertake a case plan review as outlined in 5. Review and revise the case plan, and complete the child strengths and needs assessment, as outlined in 5.7 Re-assess the child's strengths and needs. The family reunification and parental strengths and needs assessments are not completed.

1.3 Assess the parental strengths and needs

An assessment of parental strengths and needs will provide a snapshot of parental functioning at a specific point in time, to assist the case planning process.

The completed parental strengths and needs assessment enables the parents, family group meeting participants and other relevant people, to develop strategies to address the needs of the parents, while building on the parents strengths as a resource to meet the child’s protection and care needs. This includes prioritising the three key parental needs to be addressed in the case plan.

An assessment of the parental strengths and needs must be completed:

  • following the decision that a child is in need of protection and prior to the initial family group meeting to develop a case plan for the child
  • to inform the revised case plan for a child, when ongoing intervention will continue.

The parental strengths and needs assessment is not completed when the child is subject to a guardianship order and the case plan goal is not reunification.

The parental strengths and needs assessment is designed to improve consistency in the assessment and re-assessment of strengths and needs, by ensuring that parental functioning is considered within the same domains, using the same criteria.

For an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child, seek and consider cultural advice provided by the parent and other relevant persons when completing the parental strengths and needs assessment. 

Choose a primary parent

The parental strengths and needs assessment allows for an assessment specific to each parent in the household. Prior to commencing the assessment, determine who the 'primary parent' is, by selecting the first of the following options that relates to the family situation:

  • the parent living in the household where the allegations occurred, who assumes most of the child care responsibility
  • the adult who is the legal guardian of the child, where child care responsibility is shared equally between two parents
  • the person responsible or alleged to be responsible for the harm, when both parents are legal guardians
  • the parent demonstrating the more severe behaviour, when both parents are alleged to be responsible for the harm.

Choose a secondary parent

Where applicable, the secondary parent is an adult living in the household who has routine responsibility for child care, but less responsibility than the primary parent. A partner may be a secondary parent even though they have minimal responsibility for care of the child.

Complete the parental strengths and needs assessment

To complete the parental strengths and needs assessment:

  • complete one parental strengths and needs assessment only for the household - the same household for which the family risk assessment was completed
  • meet with the parent to explain the purpose of the assessment, provide information about the domains and engage them in discussion about each area - the Parental strength and needs notes form may assist in this process
  • assess the parents functioning within each of the nine domains, and how it may positively or negatively impact on the safety and risk to the child in the home using:
  • determine whether further information is required to assess if a particular domain is a strength or need for a parent
  • in consultation with the family, identify three priority parental needs in total, between the two parents, that will be addressed in the case plan (see below)
  • record the parental strengths and needs assessment in ICMS and:
    • select the level of strength or need within each domain for each parent, in section 1 - refer to Appendix B: Case plan guidance in the SDM Manual where there is uncertainty in selecting the correct level
    • select the three agreed priority parental needs in section 2
  • provide a rationale/evidence for selecting the strength or need
  • submit the completed assessment to the senior team leader for approval in ICMS
  • provide the approved assessment to the family group meeting convenor to inform the development of a case plan.

Where the substance testing of parents is considered a necessary and important part of the case plan for the child, refer to Chapter 10.7 Undertake the substance testing of parents.

Select the three priority parental needs

Each case plan will focus on three priority parental needs only between the primary and secondary parent. These needs are to be prioritised in consultation with the family, and will be focussed on in the development of the case plan.

If more than three parental needs are identified between both parents or there are a number of needs with the same score, prioritise the needs by talking to the parents, using your professional judgement and considering:

  • which needs score the highest
  • which needs link to harm, safety and risks in the household
  • which needs are most likely to prevent reunification (where the child is placed in care).

Sometimes a lower scoring need may be prioritised because the parents are highly motivated to address the issue, and it will have a positive impact for the child.

As part of completing the assessment:

  • ensure the parents are aware of all of the needs identified and the rationale for the prioritisation decision, particularly where the parent disagrees with the assessment by Child Safety
  • advise the parent that while up to three priority needs will be addressed in each case plan, their other identified needs may need to be a focus in subsequent case plans.

For further information refer to the practice resource Structured decision making - an overview.

For an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child, seek and consider cultural advice provided by the parent and other relevant persons when completing the parental strengths and needs assessment.

1.4 Determine the intervention required to keep the child safe

Following the completion of the relevant case planning assessment activities, and prior to the development of the case plan:

  • ensure that the ongoing intervention is appropriate for the child’s circumstances
  • determine the non-negotiables that must be included in the case plan to meet the child’s safety, belonging and wellbeing needs.

These ‘non-negotiables’ for case planning, are to be made in consultation with the senior team leader, taking into consideration:

  • the extent of the child’s protection and care needs
  • the child’s strengths, needs, resources and abilities
  • the parents strengths, needs and capacity to meet the child’s needs.

Following this, meet with the family to ensure that they are aware of these non-negotiables and clearly understand the reasons for the decisions made. For example, at that point in time a non-negotiable may be that family contact can only occur if it is supervised, so inform the family of the‘non-negotiables and clearly explain the reasons for the decision.

For an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child, arrange for an independent person to help facilitate the child’s and family’s participation in the decision-making about the intervention being considered  Complete the ‘Independent entity’ form in ICMS. Refer to 10.1 Decision-making about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

1.5 Explore service options

The coordinated provision of appropriate services to children and families by other government agencies or funded community sector services is often critical to achieving the case plan goals, including access to the NDIS for children with a disability. Prior to a family group meeting or case plan review, in consultation with the family, it is important to:

  • consider what services the family identify that they may have worked with, or would be willing to work with
  • identify possible service options and service providers who can provide services, support and assistance to meet the identified needs of the child and the parents
  • consider a referral to the Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Family Support Service, when the family meet the referral criteria - refer to Chapter 10.16 Referral to an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Family Support Service
  • consider a referral to a Therapeutic Residential Service, or to Evolve, refer to Chapter 5, 2.8 Refer the child to Evolve, if required
  • consider the continuation of existing service provision, where appropriate and agreed to by the child and family
  • consider the needs of a child with a diagnosed or suspected disability or developmental delay, and whether or not they are linked with NDIS or have an exisitng NDIS plan – refer to Chapter 5, 2.11 Respond to a child’s disability needs
  • consider Child Protection Income Management where financial mismanagement or neglect are presenting issues for a family (Rockhampton and Logan trial sites only) – refer to Department of Social Services - Child protection income management.

When there are no services available to meet the identified needs of the child or parents within the case plan period, consult with the senior team leader to develop alternative options for addressing the identified needs and discuss possible options with the family.

Liaising with service providers

When an agency has been identified as a potential service provider:

  • discuss the service option with the child and family and assess their willingness to work with the service
  • contact the agency and:
    • ensure the service provided fits with the identified needs of the child or family
    • ensure the child or family are eligible for the service
    • determine the availability of the service to meet case plan requirements
    • determine the referral procedure for the agency
    • discuss the expectations for interaction, feedback and review of progress, by both the agency and Child Safety
    • ascertain the cost of the service and any other resources that will be required to complete the work.

Decisions about suitable service options are to be made in consultation with the senior team leader. The information is to be provided to the convenor of the family group meeting in a timely manner. This process must not pre-empt the family decision-making process at the family group meeting.

Any service providers involved in preparations to develop the case plan, that might provide services to the child and family, should be given the opportunity to attend the family group meeting, where appropriate and where the family agrees to their involvement.

Resource approval

Seek approval from the financial delegate for any anticipated expenditure involved in the implementation of the case plan prior to the family group meeting.

Negotiate an immediate referral to a service

In situations where the child and family have agreed to a particular intervention, there are limited places at the agency and an immediate referral is required to secure the services for the child or family, consider obtaining approval for any financial resources required to make an immediate referral.