What ifs

1. What if an initial case plan is developed without a family group meeting?

If it was not possible to convene a family group meeting or if participants were unable to reach agreement, a case plan can be developed by Child Safety, in accordance with the Child Protection Act 1999, section 51(S). In these circumstances, obtain the views of the following people:

  • the child, unless it would be inappropriate because of their age or ability to understand
  • the child's parents
  • other members of the child's family group who are considered likely to make a useful contribution
  • other significant people for the child for example, a foster carer
  • any legal representative for the child
  • a relevant service provider
  • anyone else considered likely to make a useful contribution to the plan.

When the case plan is being developed for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child:

  • arrange for an independent person to help facilitate their participation in the decision-making process - refer to 10.1 Decision-making about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children
  • record whether an independent person helped the child and family participate in decision-making about the case plan in the ‘Independent entity’ form in ICMS.

Prepare a case plan that best meets the child's protection and care needs taking into consideration:

  • the views of the participants
  • information obtained through the assessment process about risks to the child
  • the child and parental strength and needs assessments.

Record the case plan, including the cultural support plan where relevant, in ICMS and submit it to the senior team leader for endorsement within 10 business days of completion.

Record why a family group meeting was not held

Where the case plan has been developed without a family group meeting and an application for a child protection order is made, the court must be provided with evidence in affidavit material about why the case plan was developed in this way. The court must be satisfied that it was not possible to convene a meeting within the terms of the Child Protection Act 1999, section 51S(2) and that all steps were taken by Child Safety to convene a meeting in compliance with the Child Protection Act 1999, chapter 2, part 3A. A lack of time and resources will not be sufficient criteria to meet this threshold.

[ Return to top ]

2. What if parents are unwilling to engage in case planning?

In circumstances where parents resist involvement or try to disrupt case planning and review processes, ongoing attempts should be made to encourage their involvement. To help engage the parent:

  • communicate openly and clearly in a respectful, empathic and genuine manner
  • consider whether there are cultural considerations associated with how and where meetings are held
  • communicate a commitment to achieving a positive outcome for the child and the parent
  • acknowledge the involuntary nature of the department's involvement, where appropriate
  • explain the purpose of the case plan and emphasise the importance of the parents involvement
  • for case planning regarding an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child, establish whether the family would prefer the Family Participation Program to convene a family-led decision-making process, where possible
  • identify and address any fears the parents may have.

Where this is not successful, consider engaging the parent through:

  • a support person, who will assist the parents in the process
  • the assistance the cultural practice advisor, a community elder or relevant support agency, for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child
  • a community agency worker, who may be able to assist Child Safety by gathering information to inform the case planning or review process.

When parents refuse to be involved in the process, the parental strengths and needs assessment will still be completed by gathering information from the following sources:

  • other people who know the parents
  • Child Safety records about any previous contact with the parents.

Do not preclude a parent from the case planning process because they refuse to engage in the assessment of their strengths and needs.

[ Return to top ]

3. What if people are excluded from attending and participating in a family group meeting?

Under the Child Protection Act 1999, section 51L(4) and 51W, a person who should be given the opportunity to attend the family group meeting, may be excluded by the convenor, when the person's participation and attendance:

  • would not be in a child's best interests
  • would be contrary to the purposes of the meeting.

Reasons to exclude a person may include:

  • a risk of harm to the child or another person attending the family group meeting
  • a history of domestic violence where a participant may be too intimidated to express their views if the perpetrator is present
  • a participant has a mental illness or substance misuse issues, that will disrupt the family group meeting so that it will be unable to function
  • the presence of a participant is likely to pose a psychological and emotional risk to the child's well-being and ability to participate in the meeting.

An independent person will attend, with the child’s and family’s consent, to help facilitate their participation in the decision-making process, unless their participation is likely to have a significant adverse effect on the child or someone else’s safety or emotional or psychological wellbeing (Child Protection Act 1999, s. 51W)

The decision to exclude should be exercised rarely, and only after strategies to avoid excluding have been considered in consultation with the senior team leader and the CSO with case responsibility. The convenor cannot exclude the child, a CSO or a child’s legal representative.

[ Return to top ]

4. What if the case plan cannot be endorsed?

If the case plan developed is considered impractical or not in the child's best interests (Child Protection Act 1999, section 51R) the case plan will not be endorsed. In this circumstance, either:

  • reconvene the family group meeting and involve people from the previous meeting
  • hold another family group meeting, involving a different mix of people from those involved in the meeting that developed the original plan
  • amend the original case plan in ICMS and submit it to the senior team leader for endorsement.

Amend the case plan

If a case plan cannot be endorsed, it can be amended under the following conditions:

  • within 10 business days after the case planning meeting at which the original plan was developed
  • only to the extent necessary to ensure the case plan is practicable and in the child's best interests
  • after consultation with the convenor if the family group meeting was convened by a private convenor.

If the decision is made to amend the case plan, provide each person who was at the family group meeting at which the original plan was developed, written notice of the amendment and the reasons for the amendment.

It is the role of Child Safety to make decisions about amendments to a case plan. When case plans are submitted to the Childrens Court, it is the role of the court to ensure the case plan is appropriate for meeting the child's protection and care needs. When making this decision, it is not relevant whether all persons who participated in the development or revision of the case plan have agreed with the case plan (Child Protection Act 1999, section 59 (1)(b)(ii) and (3)).

[ Return to top ]

5. What if an application for a child protection order is filed with the Childrens Court without a case plan?

If an application for a child protection order must be made before a family group meeting has been held, file the application with the affidavit and other supporting evidence addressing the following:

  • the attempts that have been made to develop or review the case plan
  • the child's assessed protection and care needs.

The court may then adjourn proceedings under the Child Protection Act 1999, section 67, and either:

  • make an interim order granting temporary custody of the child to the chief executive or a suitable person who is a member of the child's family
  • make directions about a parents contact with the child
  • order that a family group meeting be convened to develop the case plan and that the plan be filed in court (Child Protection Act 1999, section 68(1)(d)(i)).

Note: the court cannot make an interim order for a supervision order.

Long-term guardianship to a suitable person

When a decision is made to apply for a child protection order granting long-term guardianship to a suitable person, the revised case plan must be submitted to the Childrens Court upon the application for the order, and must incorporate key items specific to the proposed order. For further information, refer to 3.3 Develop key items in the case plan - application for long-term guardianship to a suitable person.

[ Return to top ]

6. What if a reunification assessment is required when parents live in another jurisdiction?

When requesting an assessment for the purpose of reunifying a child subject to a Queensland child protection order, with a parent who resides in another jurisdiction:

  • ensure that the parent is aware of the intended assessment and is willing to participate in the assessment process
  • undertake a non-urgent criminal and domestic violence history check of the parent and any other adult household member, if required - refer to Chapter 2, 2.7 Gather information from other sources
  • undertake interstate child protection checks of the parent and any other adult household member, if required, in accordance with usual arrangements with Data Management Services
  • contact the Interstate Liaison Officer (ILO) at Court Services and request a 'Reunification Assessment Request' template
  • complete the 'Reunification Assessment Request' and provide appropriate supporting documentation, for example, medical and psychologist reports on the child and parent
  • have the request signed by the CSO with case responsibility and the senior team leader
  • fax or post all relevant documentation to the ILO at Court Services.

[ Return to top ]

7. What if there is a change in the individuals residing in the family home?

When a child is deemed to be in need of protection and is the subject of ongoing intervention, the parents must be informed of requirements to notify Child Safety of any change in the adults or children who will be residing in the family home - refer to Chapter 3, 10. What if there is a change in the individuals residing in the family home?

[ Return to top ]

8. What if there are criminal matters to consider during reunification?

Criminal matters and reunification

When a decision is made to consider the reunification of a child, the criminal history of the parent or parents must be considered. A thorough assessment should occur when reunifying a child to a household where a parent, their partner or an adult member in the reunification household has a conviction for a serious criminal offence against a child. This must occur prior to completing the initial family reunification assessment.

To undertake the criminal history check, refer to 1.1 Gather information about the child and family.

When Child Safety obtains information that any adult in the household has an alleged offence, charge or conviction that presents an unacceptable risk to a child’s safety, and one, or both, parents has no knowledge of the information, the CSO has a duty (Child Protection Act 1999, section 4 and 5) to inform the relevant parent or parents that Child Safety has concerns. Prior to this, the CSO will endeavour to speak to the adult alone and outline that information has been obtained and discuss the worries for the child’s safety. The person will be encouraged to provide relevant information to relevant household members. An exception is if the person is a reportable offender as the Child Protection (Offender Reporting and Offender Prohibition Order) Act 2004 prohibits an authorised officer from telling the parent the exact details of the alleged offence, charge or the conviction.

When a person refuses to disclose their criminal history to a parent, the CSO may provide the parent with information regarding a person's criminal history, including offences, charges or conviction, if releasing this information is considered to be in the child's best interests, with the exception outlined above.

If there are concerns about what information can be provided to a parent, seek advice initially from the senior team leader or senior practitioner and, when necessary, the senior team leader should seek legal advice from staff at Legal Services.

The assessment should be conducted in consultation with the senior practitioner and senior team leader and should cover the following areas to determine that reunification to the household will not pose a risk to the safety and well-being of the child:

  • what knowledge, if any, the primary parent without a criminal history has of the other adult's conviction and their attitude to the concerns and that person having contact with the child
  • the willingness, if any, of the adult with the criminal history to engage in an assessment process and disclose details of their conviction to the parent or parents
  • the nature and circumstances of the offence, when it occurred, and any treatment or programs that the offender has undertaken and the success of such intervention
  • whether a safety and support network can be established and a safety plan developed, to ensure the ongoing safety of the child should reunification to this household occur.

Following the assessment, the family reunification assessment should be completed and the information included in the case plan for the child.

If use of a discretionary override is warranted to change the permanency plan recommendation for the child from reunification to preparing for an alternative permanency option a senior team leader or senior practitioner needs to endorse the use of the override.

The CSSC manager must approve the decision to either:

  • work towards reunification following the assessment
  • reunify a child to a household where a parent, their partner or an adult household member has been convicted of any of the offences, as outlined in the Serious criminal offences resource.

Record the CSSC manager’s approval in a case note titled ‘Case discussion: reunification decision’.

[ Return to top ]