With the assessment complete, the next step to ensure that the needs of the child and family are met is case planning. Essentially case planning is the process of setting goals and building in strategies to meet those goals. The counsellor must work with the child and/or family to decide upon the goals that are necessary to achieve to bring about desired change. Involving the family in case planning will encourage honest participation.

The process involves examining what the problem is, and how to bring about change to improve the family situation. Clear discussion of what is expected from all parties is essential to minimise confusion and ensure everyone is working in the same direction.

Some questions that might be asked include:

  1. What changes are necessary to safeguard this child’s wellbeing?
  2. How will we know if the change has occurred?
  3. What will we need to change to bring about the desired result?

In child protection and family support work, often the child and the family are linked to multiple forms of assistance and support, hence co-ordination of those external supports (i.e. agencies and/or professionals) is required to ensure resources are not doubled-up or wasted.

Tilbury et al. (2007) outlines the process of operationalising an assessment as:

  1. to develop a plan
  2. to provide the necessary services and resources or arrange for those services to be delivered by an outside source
  3. to monitor the interventions to ensure delivery of the services and that they are attending to what they were assigned to do
  4. Evaluate the process to ensure the desired outcomes are achieved
  5. Reviewing the plan and making the necessary adjustments as required

There may be more than one type of plan required. There may be a need for a therapeutic intervention, a placement plan, or a contact plan but all the plans must be integrated to ensure the interventions are directed towards the same goals.

The case planning process is intended to encourage participation and accountability and to ensure that cases do not get lost in the system without some form of active intervention. Hence, regular meetings between the participants are scheduled to bring about focused and purposeful discussions prior to key decisions being made.

Such decisions may involve statutory processes. For example, the decisions may apply to a change in a court order, certain decisions regarding the place or extension of a child’s placement, and even decisions regarding the child returning home. Depending upon the type of support and assistance the family is receiving from an agency, other decisions that may need to be taken into account include the a change in the family’s place of residence, employment status or child care arrangements.

Also included in the process of child protection is the avenue of the different types of case planning meetings. Case conferences with child and family workers and other involved professionals allow the sharing of information to discuss the relevant assessment and intervention processes, to ensure the best possible support and resources are made available for a particular child and family. Facilitated family meetings can ensure family participation in the decision making process, while placement meetings enable counsellors and carers, to plan and consider all relevant information regarding future placement issues.