If there has been a rigorous process that has concluded it is in a child’s best interest they are temporarily placed in alternative care, it is important that Care Plans are developed. These Plans should be prepared before any child enters a care placement and should contain such information as well defined goals; named persons and their roles and responsibilities; legal status of those involved; a schedule when the placement will be reviewed; and other necessary information. This should be defined in participation with all key stakeholders including the child and their family.
Care Plans should be directed towards the child being returned to their family as soon as it is safe and possible to do so or, ultimately, another permanent solution if family reintegration is finally determined as not feasible. Unfortunately research shows there are many examples of children whom, once placed in care, remain there for the rest of their childhood.
If family-based care is decided upon, it will be important that professionals have the skills to carefully “match” the carers and the child, taking account of the carer’s abilities and the child’s needs. Some children who have had a negative experience of family life, are older or for some other reason may choose not to be placed in a family-based setting in which instance, a small group setting may be preferable for them, initially at least.
As any initial care decision will be grounded in an assessment of the child and family’s current situation, it is important that the “necessity” and “suitability” of all placements are regularly reviewed to take account of any significant changes in the situation. Changes to Care Plans should then be made accordingly.
In the next course step, we will watch a video that provides an example of an inter-disciplinary team making care decisions together in Uganda.
An example of promising practice can be found on page 70 of the handbook Moving Forward: Implementing the ‘Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children’. This case study provides a snapshot of gatekeeping practices in Azerbaijan including the role of Child Protection Councils in the reviewing children’s individual Care Plans.