Decision making and preparing Case Plans
All the information gathered during an assessment process should now be used to help make decisions on any actions that should be taken in the best interests of a child. This includes consideration of a child’s protection, the most suitable alternative care placement if necessary, and other support services to be provided.
During the course, we have been discussing the central role of a caseworker and partnerships with colleagues from different services as well as community based child protection groups. These partnerships are also helpful when developing a Case Plan that will provide details of the protection, support and delivery of services for a child - and where applicable – also involve their caregivers. Let us remember that in the case of some children such as those travelling alone or, street connected children, they may not have an identified carer. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it might also be necessary - as we discussed on course step 16 - to review and adapt a child’s existing Case Plan.
Inter-sectoral decision making – and inclusion of any relevant members of community-based groups that have been involved - can be facilitated through ‘case conferences’ in which all relevant service providers usually come together to make decisions and plan support for a child. During the time of the COVID-19 pandemic it may not be possible to meet in one place. Therefore guidance that has been issued during the pandemic that suggests considering group conferences through virtual platforms, as for example, via WeChat, WhatsApp, or Skype.
When participants in a case conference are using telephone or web-based platforms for meetings, please think about confidentiality of the information being shared. This means making sure those joining the meeting do so from a location where they cannot be overheard. No-one should use information that would identify the child being discussed. You will see below, we advise giving each child’s case a case reference number rather than using their name. The caseworker needs to document the discussion and any decisions that are made, then attach this information to the child’s case file.
Planning of support and referrals to service providers
Planning the support for a child should also take into consideration any restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic - including not being able to enter places children are living, or restrictions on the child and their caregivers getting out to access services. This may mean an extended role that is carefully thought through for those service providers or community members who can still reach children. Whilst considering any challenges during the current pandemic, a written Case Plan should specify:
- A named person (the child’s caseworker) who has overall responsibility for making sure the plan is implemented
- A case reference number - to help keep personal information or data about a child private and confidential
- The specific protection needs of the child, how these will be addressed, by whom, and when
- Other services to be provided to the child such as health, education, psychosocial support, who will provide these services, where, and by when - making sure the child’s most urgent needs are met quickly
- Any other specific actions that are to be taken, by when, and who is responsible
- The frequency of visits, or other ways of contact. To follow up make sure they receive the protection and other support services in their Case Plan and assess any changes in circumstances.
This diagram, although developed before the COVID-19 pandemic, has been taken from page 62 of the Inter Agency Guidelines for Case Management and Child Protection which is available in 6 languages. As well as protection, it illustrates other types of support and services that might be considered.
You will find an example of a Case Planning Form on page 102 of the Inter Agency Guidelines for Case Management and Child Protection.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, it may be necessary to adapt and update any referral pathway procedures between service providers in consideration of which services are still available, how they can be accessed and any change in contact details. Remember this might also mean changes to a child’s existing Case Plan.
It is also important to note that, if a decision is reached where it is necessary to provide the child alternative care, an individual Care Plan should be developed. We will discuss Care Plans and alternative care in more detail later in the course.
Gathering information and making inter-sectoral decisions that will go into a Case Plan must involve the child. This requires supporting and facilitating their participation by someone who ideally has the opportunity to get to know the child and build a strong and trusting relationship with them. You might also want to refer back to ideas on child friendly-communication in course step 13, and course step 15 where we explored communicating with a child remotely. We will discuss child participation in more detail in course step 24.
The ‘See Also’ section below has links to other reading material that may be of interest to you.