Case follow-up and closure
It is important the child protection caseworker, in coordination with those providing other services and relevant community members, regularly follows up to ensure everything in the child’s Case Plan is being delivered as planned. This also means identifying any changes in a child’s circumstances. Necessary adjustments should then be made to a Case Plan that responds to any changes.
Guidance in the Inter Agency Guidelines for Case Management and Child Protection, which is available in Spanish, French, Arabic, Serbian, and Turkish, suggests a review should be carried out at least every three months – and more frequently in an emergency context - especially if the situation is changing rapidly and the risk level of a case is high.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, child protection caseworkers may have to adapt Plans due to changes in service provision and different ways to communicate with children. There may also be a need for other service providers and community members to assist in identifying any ongoing changes in the protection of a child – following appropriate training. A caseworker should first discuss and make decisions with their supervisor about such additional responsibilities for other service providers, or members of community-based child protection groups.
Inter-sectoral reviews should involve the ongoing use of ‘case conferences’ in which the changing circumstances of a child can be discussed. As we have discussed on a previous course step, during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, guidance suggests conducting group conferences through virtual platforms, as for example, via WeChat, WhatsApp or Skype following the precautions we described. The Inter Agency Guidelines also suggest, in emergency contexts, these meetings should be held approximately once a week.
The final step in the case management process is closure of a case. This should only occur once it has been rigorously assessed that the child is no longer at any risk of harm. All the goals laid out in the Case Plan should have been reached, their care and well-being is well supported by their caregivers, and there are no additional concerns.
Case closure can be more effective when it occurs as part of a process between service providers and any others involved in the case. This includes taking into account the feedback of those who have provided services and agreement that the goals in the Case Plan have been achieved and risks have been eliminated. Children and their caregivers should also be supported to take part in this decision making process.
Guidance in the Inter Agency Guidelines for Case Management and Child Protection advises that a further visit – or if necessary during times of COVID-19 pandemic remote communication – should also take place within three months of the case closing, or less if in an emergency setting, to ensure that the situation of a child has remained stable.
Once a case is closed, all the information related to that case should be stored in a safe place for a specific period of time. This period should be in accordance with your agency’s data protection protocol as well as taking into consideration national legislation. We will discuss the importance of this in course step 24.
You can find an example of a case closure form on page 106 of the Inter Agency Guidelines for Case Management and Child Protection.
The ‘See Also’ section below has links to other reading material that may be of interest to you.