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3.4.15 Permanency planning

Last Modified: 31-Jul-2018 Review Date: 01-Oct-2017

Purpose

To guide child protection workers in the parallel process of permanency planning to make timely decisions that promote planning for a child’s stability from the time a child enters the CEO's care.

Note: CEO refers to the Chief Executive Officer of the Department of Communities, Child Protection and Family Support division (Communities).

Practice Requirements

Parallel process when a child is in temporary care (in provisional protection and care or is the subject of a protection order (time-limited)

  • Child protection workers must identify the primary permanency plan and the secondary permanency plan within a parallel process, and assess what is in the child’s best interests in a timely manner.
  • Reunification of a child in the CEO's care with either one or both of their parents[1], whenever possible, must be the primary permanency plan. Permanent care must be the secondary permanency plan.
  • Child protection workers must begin to assess whether to proceed with reunification when  a child enters provisional protection and care so that decisions can be made within the timeframe as follows:
    • 12 months for children who enter provisional protection and care at less than 3 years of age, and
    • two years for all other children.
  • For sibling groups, the youngest child’s age should direct the timeframe for decision making. All decision making must be made in the child’s best interests.
  • An internal Signs of Safety meeting documented in Form 515a Signs of Safety Assessment and Case Planning Stage 1 - Planning for reunification/permanent care (in related resources) must be held within seven working days of a child entering provisional protection and care. The purpose is to clarify the harm and/or danger statements, safety goal and develop a draft safety plan that includes parental contact arrangements. This informs the provisional care plan which must be completed within seven working days.
  • A Signs of Safety meeting (documented in the Form 515a Signs of Safety Assessment and Case Planning Stage 1 - Planning for reunification/permanent carein related resources) must be held with the parents, safety network, carers, and other agencies involved with the family to discuss permanency planning and contact within 30 working days of a child entering provisional protection and care. The team leader must attend the meeting.
  • An Aboriginal practice leader (or other senior Aboriginal officer) must be consulted and attend the Signs of Safety case planning meeting when a plan for an Aboriginal child is being considered.
  • Child protection workers must review Form 515a Signs of Safety Assessment and Case Planning Stage 1 - Planning for reunification/permanent care (in related resources) at least monthly with the family, safety network and key stakeholders to assess the progress in regards to the primary and secondary permanency plans.
  • Child protection workers must also begin to develop a Words and Pictures explanation with the parents within three months of the child entering provisional protection and care, to explain to the child the reasons for Child Protection and Family Support division's decision and the Children's Court (the Court) decision that the child could not live with their parents.
  • Child protection workers must identify any concerns the child has expressed through Viewpoint.
  • The district director must endorse the permanency planning decision (either reunification or permanent care).
  • The team leader must attend the Signs of Safety meeting to decide whether to proceed with reunification (Stage 3).
  • A proposal to seek an extension of a protection order (time-limited) must have the approval of the Director General prior to making an application to the Court.
  • Child protection workers must make an application to the Court to allow a decision to be made on the assessment that permanent care is in the child’s best interests.

Contact arrangements

  • Contact arrangements must be prepared and implemented as soon as possible. This must occur as part of the child’s provisional care plan, within seven working days of the child being taken into provisional protection and care, or care plan, within 30 working days after a protection order is granted.
  • Child protection workers must observe contact on a regular basis and advise the parents of the purpose of the observation. 
  • The person supervising contact, either a family resource employee (FRE) or child protection worker, must record the details of contact visits in Form 169 - Contact Feedback Report (in related resources).
  • In recognition of their vulnerability, planning contact for children less than three years of age should involve consultation with a Child Protection and Family Support division psychologist.
  • Child protection workers must support carers to understand the importance of contact, and to give them strategies to manage the challenges that contact can pose.
  • Contact supervisors (including FREs) must discuss any concerns for the child or parents, observed during contact, with their team leader immediately after the contact visit.
  • The team leader must review contact reports for children who are on the Monitored List.

Planning when a child is in long term out of home care

[1] The term parent refers to a person, other than the CEO, who at law has responsibility for the day-to-day and permanent care, welfare and development of the child.

Process Maps

Procedures

  • Permanency planning: the parallel process
  • The care team approach
  • Reunification: primary permanency plan
  • Stages of reunification
  • Stage 1: Planning to assess likelihood of reunification
  • Stage 2: Assessment of likelihood of reunification
  • Stage 3: Decision whether to proceed with reunification (timeframes and best interests)
  • Stage 4: Transition to reunification
  • Stage 5: Post reunification support and review
  • Permanent OOHC: secondary permanency plan
  • Stages of Permanent OOHC
  • Stage 1: Planning permanent OOHC
  • Stage 2: Assessment of permanent OOHC options
  • Stage 3: Decision – reunification not likely or in the child’s best interests
  • Stage 4: Permanency plan is permanent OOHC
  • Stage 5: Post permanent OOHC support and review
  • Care arrangements to independence
  • Revoking long-term orders
  • Exceptional circumstances
  • Permanency planning: the parallel process

    When a child is taken into temporary care (provisional protection and care or is the subject of a protection order (time limited)), the primary permanency plan must be reunification with one or both parents.

    Alongside this, the child protection worker must also consider the secondary permanency plan of permanent care. This parallel process aims to work towards the plan of reunification while at the same time establishing a back-up plan.

    For more information on temporary and permanent phases of care, refer to the Glossary of Terms for Out-Of-Home Care in Western Australia and Phases of Care for Children factsheet (in related resources).

    The procedure to guide the case management processes is written in two sections, the first provides guidance on the primary permanency plan (reunification) and the second provides guidance on the secondary permanency plan (permanent care). Child protection workers must apply the guidance provided in both sections at the same time to manage a case.

    Refer to Permanency Planning - Information Sheet (in related resources).

    Overarching child placement principles

    Best practice principles apply to all care arrangements for children in the CEO's care. In the first instance these principles are set out in Part 2, Division 2 and Division 3 of the  Children and Community Services Act 2004 (the Act).  The principles must be applied when performing functions and exercising authority under the Act.

    For further information refer to Chapter 3.4: Child placement principle.    

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    The care team approach

    ​Every child in OOHC has a 'care team' comprising of a group of people important to the child and their carer. The care team maintains and supports the child's care arrangement and their continued connection to parents, siblings, their wider family, network, community and culture. The emphasis is to create stability and reduce the disruption to lifetime connections that a child has when they enter OOHC, and maintain and increase the naturally occurring networks they belonged to before coming into care.

    Care team members have a shared responsibility for meeting the needs of the child in their care journey. This includes celebrating strengths and successes, supporting them to heal from past trauma, sustaining the care arrangement, maintaining existing positive attachments and relationships, and building new, safe relationships. Importantly, strengthening the connection to family, culture and country is important for Aboriginal children's identity.

    This approach promotes proactive rather than reactive responses to the child, which in turn helps to provide predictability and stability for the child – whether the permanency plan is for reunification or long term OOHC.

    The care team is guided by the question "what do I need to do to support the child's development, learning, stability and growth, as well as healing?" This way of working places the child's best interests and needs as the central focus.

    Establishing the care team

    A child's care team needs to be identified and established as soon as possible after they enter OOHC. This is facilitated by exploring and maintaining (wherever possible) their positive connections, including peer relationships, which they already had before they entered care.

    In the majority of cases, we will have been working with the family for some time before a decision is made that a child needs to enter care. As far as possible, the safety network that supported the child and parents should be maintained and extended to include any additional people who can support the child in their new care arrangement.

    A child's care team should mostly be people who are part of their family or community, who can work together to meet the child's needs across the nine dimensions of care. To promote lifetime connections for the child, most members should be from the child's natural support network, while others, such as professionals, may have a more time-limited involvement.

    Opportunities where care team members can be identified include:

    • at the monthly Signs of Safety case planning review meetings for reunification or other meetings that occur for long term OOHC planning
    • during the development of an ecomap with the child and their parents
    • during the development of a Words and Pictures with the child
    • Viewpoint responses
    • when reviewing the provisional care plan or care plan for the child, and
    • other meetings with the child, their parents and carers (for example, the quarterly care meetings and contact).

    Refer to the flowchart: Care Team Approach -Integration of Existing Processes and Role of Care Team Members (in related resources).

    Care team meetings

    Once the care team is established, an initial meeting is held to introduce members, discuss the purpose of care team meetings and set the ground rules to build trust, connection and respect.

    Members then meet regularly (not just in times of crisis) to discuss and plan what services and supports are required for the child and carer.  This may include planning for major transitions such as changing schools, care arrangements and leaving care, and to enable the child to attend major family events including return to country.

    The Care Team Tree (in related resources) can be used at meetings to focus the discussion on what is working well, what needs to happen, and agree to the tasks that care team members need to action (including who will complete them). 

    Opportunities when meetings could occur are outlined in the flowchart Care Team Approach -Integration of Existing Processes and Role of Care Team Members (in related resources). Regular meetings facilitate the exchange of information so that members are well informed of any changing needs. Any member of the care team can request a meeting, including the child.

    Once the care team is established and working well, frequency of meetings to check on progress is decided on a case-by-case basis (in principle at a minimum every six months).

    Full information about the care team approach can be found in the Care Team Approach Practice Framework (in related resources).

    Resources and tools

    Brud the Owl and the Care Team Tree are available here, and in related resources to help child protection workers explain what is meant by the care team, who may be involved and their role in supporting the child. An information sheet is also available for child protection workers on explaining and using these tools - refer to The Care Team Approach – Tools to help explain the concept

    The following resources are also available to assist with planning when reunification has been approved or when a decision is made for a child to move from one care arrangement to another:

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    Reunification: primary permanency plan

    Reunification is the planning process for assessing and returning a child home to their parent’s care whilst they are in temporary care.

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    Stages of reunification

    The five stages of reunification are:

    1. Planning to assess likelihood of reunification
    2. Assessment of likelihood of reunification
    3. Decision whether to proceed with reunification (timeframes and best interests)
    4. Transition to reunification, and
    5. Post reunification support and review.
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    Stage 1: Planning to assess likelihood of reunification

    For this stage all case planning is documented in Form 515a Signs of Safety Assessment and Case Planning Form: Stage 1 Planning for reunification/permanent care (also in related resources).  

    Discussion with parents  

    After a child has been taken into temporary care, parents are likely to experience a range of emotions including grief and loss. 

    Significant events such as a child coming into the CEO's care present a unique opportunity for change in the lives of the parents and their child. During a period of intense crisis, parents may be more motivated to work with us. Child protection workers must emphasise that families have the strengths to come up with their own solutions. 

    Child protection workers' first contact with the parents after their child is taken into the CEO's care is critical to support the parents to work through some of their emotions and focus quickly on what they need to demonstrate to get their child home. 

    Child protection workers should talk with the parents about the following: 

    • acknowledge that the removal of the child has created a significant crisis in the family’s life
    • emphasise that our aim is to make the process of the care arrangement and reunification as positive as possible
    • explain why the child is in the CEO's care and what steps the parents need to take so their child can be returned home
    • explain what parallel planning is
    • explain that the care arrangement is temporary, but the parent’s actions will determine the outcome of their child’s future
    • explain that the parents will need to work with us to demonstrate their child is safe in their care, and
    • discuss ways the parents can remain connected to the child.

    Child protection workers must record the discussion and share their views with the parents.

    One of the greatest losses a parent faces when a child is in the CEO's care is the opportunity to make day-to-day decisions for their child. Child protection workers must discuss and share these decisions with the parent to reinforce the parent’s responsibility to, and concern for, the child.

    The child protection worker must ask the parent to provide:

    1. any additional background information about the child and their family
    2. their current wishes about where their child should live, and
    3. who in their family has an important relationship with their child which should be maintained even if the child is in permanent care.

    Discuss who could be part of a possible safety network with the parents

    The child protection worker must ask the parents to identify people who might be able to be part of the safety network wherever possible.

    The role of the safety network will be to:

    • respond and manage the foreseeable threats and dangers to a child during contact, and
    • provide informal practical and emotional support to the parents.

    For further information refer to Helping Families to Develop a Safety Network (also in related resources).

    Working with the child

    Children who are taken into the CEO's care will also experience a range of reactions to separation including grief and loss.

    Child protection workers are expected to understand that a child’s reaction to parent separation or loss is affected by a range of factors including the:

    • child’s age and stage of development
    • child’s attachment to the parent, and
    • parent’s bonding to the child.

    Other issues that may impact on the child’s reaction could include:

    • their past experiences of separation
    • the child’s perceptions of the reasons for separation
    • the child’s preparation for the move
    • the parting message the child receives
    • the post-separation environment
    • the child’s temperament, and
    • the environment from which the child is being moved.

    Explaining to the child what is happening (commencing Words and Pictures)

    The child protection worker must give the child information (the amount of details provided should be appropriate to the child’s age and level of understanding) about what is happening including:

    • what is happening to their family
    • why people are so concerned about them
    • what a foster family is: families that take care of children when their parents cannot
    • when they can see their parents and siblings next, and
    • if placed with a family member what does this mean for the child, parent, carer and other family members.

    The child protection worker should also give the same information to the parents and carers so the same messages can be given to the child. This type of information will need to be discussed on an ongoing basis with the child.

    Preparing for the Signs of Safety mapping with the family

    Signs of Safety internal mapping (internal case planning meeting)

    The child protection worker must convene an internal Signs of Safety meeting within seven working days of a child entering provisional protection and care to identify our expectations.

    The purpose of the internal mapping is to be clear before meeting with the parents and their safety network about:

    • what behaviours we need to see for the child to be returned home
    • how this could be broken down into achievable steps over specific time periods, and
    • how we and the safety network will monitor the plan.

    The timeframe and trajectory for reunification and case closure should be documented in the safety plan.

    Child Protection and Family Support division's expectations to the family must include:

    • Harm statement (actual harm): who (name the person/s if known) caused harm (describe the behaviours) to whom (child) and the impact of the harm on the child. This information is documented in the affidavit.
    • Danger statement(s): what we are worried will happen to the child if the child was returned to the parents’ care. This information is documented in the affidavit.
    • Strengths: what strengths and observable behaviours the parents have demonstrated that make us think reunification is likely.
    • Our goals: the specific behaviours that we need to see the parents demonstrate for the child to be returned to their care.
    • Draft safety plan focusing on parental contact arrangements, including the following:
      • how the parents can demonstrate the behaviours that we need to see through contact.
      • how this could be broken down into achievable steps over specific time periods
      • how we and the safety network will monitor the plan
      • timeframe and trajectory for reunification and case closure, and
      • likely consequences and bottom lines.
    • Possible next steps in working with the family towards building future safety for the child (case plan including supports and services).

    For further information, refer to Considerations for Supervisors When Internally Mapping a Case (also in related resources).

    Planning contact arrangements

    Contact arrangements must be developed before the care arrangement or within seven working days of the child coming into provisional protection and care as part of the child’s provisional care plan.  Refer to Chapter 3.4: Care planning - provisional care plans, care plans and Viewpoint for further information.

    Contact arrangements must include:

    • purpose of the contact
    • the type of contact (direct or indirect, individual and/or group)
    • frequency (what level of contact would best suit the child)
    • who can be present
    • where the contact is to be held
    • whether contact is to be supervised (and who will supervise it including an appropriate safety network/family member) or unsupervised
    • the role and expectations of all those involved, and
    • who will provide feedback on the contact to the child protection worker, and who/how feedback will be given to the parents.

    For further information, refer to: Guide to Developing Contact Arrangements, Unsupervised Contact Arrangement and Supervised Contact Arrangement (also in related resources).

    The contact schedule and agreement must be reviewed at least monthly, or more frequently if required, as part of the Signs of Safety review meeting (review of Form 515) and adjusted as appropriate in the best interests of the child.

    Parental contact arrangements

    The child protection worker must develop parental contact arrangements in the context of the safety goal(s) and safety plan.

    The purpose of reunification contact with parents is to:

    • maintain and strengthen the parent’s connection with the child
    • help the child manage the impact of being separated from their family
    • provide ongoing opportunity to assess the parent’s capacity and willingness to care for and demonstrate safety, and
    • facilitate the opportunity for parents to learn parenting skills, practice those skills and receive feedback on their progress in relation to the safety goal(s).

    The contact arrangements should prioritise the child’s safety and wellbeing while enabling the parents’ needs to act as naturally as possible.

    As part of the internal Signs of Safety meeting, the child protection worker must plan and agree with their team leader on the present and proposed future contact arrangements. Parents must be advised of the plan.

    Enhanced contact centres

    Child Protection and Family Support division have Enhanced Contact Centres in the metropolitan area to provide suitable child and family-friendly environments for contact. The centres are for children aged 0-5 years and their parents.  Workers model responsive and consistent behaviours that help children to feel emotionally safe for parents.

    Where it is appropriate for a child and their parents to have contact at an Enhanced Contact Centre, child protection workers should arrange this at the centre nearest to where the children live.

    Child protection workers should refer to the following documents (in related resources) when setting up Enhanced Contact Centre arrangements:

    Sibling, other family and signficant other contact arrangements

    As part of the provisional care plan, the child protection worker must plan how the child will stay connected with siblings, other family members and significant others.

    Child protection workers should describe the purpose of contact for each family member and how this reflects the type of order being sought. The contact arrangements should be reviewed at least monthly as part of the Signs of Safety review meeting and adjusted as appropriate in the best interests of the child.

    For children who do not have regular contact with their parents, the role of extended family in providing a sense of culture, identity and connectedness is critical. In the case of Aboriginal children, persons who are regarded as significant in the child’s network under customary law or tradition are included in the term ‘family’.

    Practical considerations for planning the meeting

    Child protection workers also need to consider:

    • who needs to attend the meeting (parents, safety network members, our staff, other professionals, carers and child if age appropriate)
    • if there should be one meeting that all participants attend or a number of meetings (for example, in family and domestic violence cases), and 
    • how to include the voice of the child (for example, if the child cannot attend – use of audio, letters or pictures).

    Refer to Facilitating a Signs of Safety Meeting with Families (also in related resources) for further information.

    Role of the carer

    It is important to begin building the relationship between the parent and the carer from the first meeting. The child protection worker should explain to the parents and carer that it takes more than one person to meet a child’s many needs and they are likely to:

    • have shared goals to do what is best for the child
    • have their own unique knowledge, abilities and role for helping the child, and
    • both participate in decision making and working together in order to help the child.

    The child protection worker and carer should agree on what information about the care arrangement can be shared with the parents. Care arrangement information should not be shared if there are risks for the safety of the child, carer, or the carer’s family.

    The child’s carer should be involved wherever possible in the reunification process. The child protection worker should invite the carer to the Signs of Safety meeting. If they are not able to attend or if there are safety issues, the child protection worker should work with the carer to keep them involved in the process and obtain their views.

    The carer may facilitate reunification through mentoring the parents and having a role in contact. Development of a positive relationship between the carer and parents will help the child avoid the stress of divided loyalties and allows the carer to play a supportive role after reunification. The use of the Communication Book for Foster Families and Birth Parents (in related resources) should be discussed with the carer and parents so that it is used in a positive manner and supports the child’s transition between them.

    Refer to the following related resources for more information:

    Signs of Safety meeting with the family (case planning meeting)

    The child protection worker must arrange a Signs of Safety meeting with the parents and key stakeholders within 30 working days of the child entering temporary care.

    The purpose of the meeting is to:

    • explain the reasons why the child is in need of protection (harm and/or danger statement)
    • explain what we are worried will happen to the child if the child was returned to the parents’ care (danger statement)
    • identify what strengths and observable behaviours the parents have demonstrated that make us think reunification is likely (strengths)
    • explain our safety goals so that parents understant what they need to demonstrate for their child to be returned to their care and reach consensus on the family goals
    • identify the family’s ideas about what needs to happen for the child to be returned to the parents’ care (family’s views and goals)
    • discuss the next steps for the primary permanency plan (reunification): our's and the family’s plan of how foreseeable dangers and threats will be managed through contact arrangements to allow the parents to demonstrate safety, and how this will be monitored (safety plan including contact arrangements)
    • discuss the plan for the development of a Words and Pictures explanation for the child
    • talk about parallel planning and the timeframe requirements, and
    • talk about the next steps for the secondary permanency plan (permanent care): review the genogram and ecomap to explore whether any members of the safety network are possible care arrangement options, identify the family’s ideas about permanent care options, and discuss timeframes for decision making.

    The meeting is also an opportunity to identify who might be involved in the child's care team.

    As part of the planning process, consideration should be given to any:

    • complicating factors: issues that make working with the family more difficult in building or sustaining child safety so the child can be returned to the parents’ care, and
    • missing or new information: is any additional information required or new information obtained that needs to be considered in relation to the safety plan (note: child protection workers should search the FDV Triage Application for reports of family and domestic violence involving the prospective carer/s, other adults living in the home and regular visitors to the home).

    The case plan must document our expectations of the parents and the actions that we will take if parents are unable to demonstrate their capacity to provide appropriate care, and the review date. A clear case plan will minimise the sense that we ‘move the goal posts’.

    Child protection workers must document the outcome of the meeting using Form 515a Signs of Safety Assessment and Case Planning Form: Stage 1 Planning for reunification/permanent care (in related resources).

    Documenting the plan for parents and safety network members

    Although Form 515 Signs of Safety Assessment and Case Planning Form is the formal document, the child protection worker should consider what the most appropriate format is to document the safety plan, the timeframe and trajectory for reunification for parents and other stakeholders.

    Preferably, the safety plan should be documented in a ‘user-friendly’ one page sheet in an accessible format for the parents, child (where age appropriate) and safety network members. Child protection workers should consider the use of calendars and visual formats to document the timeframe. The document must assist parents to know how they are progressing within the agreed timeframes.

    Assessments, supports and services for the parents

    Assessments, supports and services required for the parents to achieve reunification must be identified as part of the case plan. Assessment of the parent’s needs must commence as soon as practical after the child enters temporary care to work towards building parent’s capacity to provide safer care.

    The types of assessments, supports and services required for each child and their family will vary depending on the reasons for the child needing to be taken into care.

    Generally, the allocated child protection workers should provide reunification assessment and support, however in some cases, and where available, it may be appropriate to refer this to community sector services contracted by Child Protection and Family Support division. Child protection workers should consult with their team leader and/or the senior child protection worker placement services for advice about the appropriateness of the referral and availability of services in their district.

    Child protection workers should make contact with the community sector service provider as soon as possible, where available, to determine suitability and any waiting list. Waitlists must not delay reunification. The child protection worker will need to explore what other options are available to support reunification where a delay in access to these services is likely. This includes child protection workers undertaking the reunification work.

    Once a referral has been accepted, the child protection worker must convene a meeting with workers from the reunification service, parents and our workers to identify the work to be completed and clarify roles. Workers from the reunification service must be invited to case plan reviews to discuss progress.

    Words and Pictures

    As part of the ongoing work with the family, child protection workers should involve the parents and child in the development of a Words and Pictures to explain to the child why we and the Court decided the child could not live with their parents.

    Further information can be found in the following documents (also in related resources):

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    Stage 2: Assessment of likelihood of reunification

    For this stage all case planning is documented in Form 515b Signs of Safety Assessment and Case Planning Form: Stage 2 Assessment of likelihood of reunification/permanent care options.

    Signs of Safety review meetings with the family (case planning review meeting)

    The child protection worker must review Form 515 Signs of Safety Assessment and Case Planning Form (case plan) at least monthly with the family, safety network and key stakeholders to assess progress on the primary and secondary permanency plans.

    The purpose of reviewing the primary permanency plan of reunification is to identify the parents’ action or inaction regarding:

    • the safety plan, and
    • any services and supports required or provided.

    The review meeting should allow the reality testing of the parent’s behaviour, reinforce the timeframes for decision making to motivate parents to make the required changes, and emphasise that parents are responsible for making the changes with the support of the safety network and Child Protection and Family Support division.

    The child protection worker must document the outcome of the meeting using Form 515b Signs of Safety Assessment and Case Planning Form: Stage 2 Assessment of likelihood of reunification/permanent care options.

    Also refer to Solution-Focused Scaling Questions (also in related resources).

    New child protection concerns

    If a new child protection concern arises in relation to the parents’ care after the child enters provisional protection and care, this must be assessed.

    If the concern is substantiated and the parents do not have the capacity to protect, a new harm and/or danger statement and safety goal should be added. The child protection worker must also review the safety plan and include how the new safety goal can be managed through contact arrangements. A review must also occur to determine whether reunification remains the primary permanency plan.

    Multiple sources of information

    The child protection worker must consider multiple sources of information to assess the action or inaction by the parents, including direct observations and interviews with:

    • the child
    • the parents
    • siblings, and
    • significant others.

    The child protection worker should also consider other relevant perspectives and sources of information including:

    • carers
    • service providers, professionals from placement services and family services, and other professionals involved with the child and family, and
    • file records regarding the child and any siblings. Case records can reveal critical historical information on previous interventions and must be integrated into the present assessment.

    Working with the parents and direct observation of contact

    The quality of the parent’s relationship with their child protection worker has a significant impact on the likelihood of reunification. If parents do not perceive and experience the casework relationship as empathetic, empowering, deeply engaging and family focused, they may lose incentive to persist with the changes required.

    Observing contact is a key way for a child protection worker to be involved with the family. The child protection worker must observe contact on a regular basis and advise the parents of the purpose of the observation. This could include:

    • observing only and not intervening unless on safety grounds, and/or
    • teaching and modelling tasks with parents during the contact. For example, preparing food, playing appropriately, or bathing a baby.

    Teaching and modelling is targeted to address specific issues related to the danger statements. If a baby is very young they may be asleep, and the contact could be adapted to discuss a particular issue or complete a specific task with the parent, such as discussing their expectations for the baby or planning a budget.

    This allows child protection workers to meet with the child and the parents to observe the interaction between them. It also provides an opportunity forchild protection workers to discuss how contact is going with the child.

    Refer to Parent - Child Observations for further information (in related resources.

    Role of the family resource employee (FRE) and safety network members in contact arrangements

    Consideration needs to be given to the role of the FRE in supervising contact and how observations about contact will be reported to inform the assessment for reunification. The role of the safety network in supervising contact should also be discussed. Where possible, safety network members should be encouraged to support and supervise some of the contact visits.

    Child protection workers should also consider what processes are set up for the child's involvment in the planning around contact (where age appropriate) and how they will give feedback to inform the reunification process.

    Child protection workers should refer to the following documents (in related resources) when setting up and reviewing contact arrangements:

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    Stage 3: Decision whether to proceed with reunification (timeframes and best interests)

    For this stage all case planning is documented in Form 515c Signs of Safety Assessment and Case Planning Form: Stage 3 Decision whether to proceed with reunification (also in related resources).

    Preparing for the Signs of Safety meeting to decide whether to proceed with reunification

    Signs of Safety internal decision mapping (internal case planning review meeting)

    Child protection workers should refer to Timeline - planning tasks in the first year a child enters care (also in related resources) for further information regarding the progression of planning tasks before this meeting.

    To determine what is in the child’s best interests (s.8 of the Act), an internal Signs of Safety mapping should assess the action and/or inaction taken by the parents (where relevant), and any other relevant information under each of the following matters:

    • the need to protect the child from abuse
    • the parent’s capacity to protect the child from abuse
    • the parent’s capacity, or of any other person, to provide for the child’s needs
    • the nature of the child’s relationships with parents, siblings, other family and significant others
    • the parent’s attitude to the child and to parental responsibility they have demonstrated
    • any views expressed by the child, having regard to the child’s age and level of understanding in determining the weight to be given to those views
    • the importance of continuity and stability in the child’s living arrangements including separation from parents, siblings or other family, a carer or any other person the child has recently been living with, or any other person significant to the child’s life
    • the need for the child to maintain connectedness with parents, siblings, other family and significant others
    • the child’s age, maturity, sex, sexuality, background and language
    • the child’s cultural, ethnic and religious identity (including any need to maintain a connection with the lifestyle, culture and traditions of Aboriginal people)
    • the child’s physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, developmental and education needs
    • any other relevant characteristics of the child, and
    • the likely effect on the child of any change in his or her circumstances.

    The decision of the internal mapping should be:

    The child protection worker must document the decision using Form 515c Signs of Safety Assessment and Case Planning Form: Stage 3 Decision whether to proceed with reunification (in related resources).

    Also refer When Reunification May Not Be In The Child’s Best Interests (in related resources) for further information.

    Signs of Safety meeting with the family

    Child protection workers must convene a Signs of Safety review meeting with the parents, carers, safety network and, where appropriate, the child to advise of the decision. The team leader must attend this meeting.

    The regular monthly review meetings should have given parents a clear indication of the likely case plan, and the decision should not be unexpected.

    If the decision is that reunification is likely proceed to Stage 4: Transition to reunification.

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    Stage 4: Transition to reunification

    For this stage all case planning is documented in Form 515e Signs of Safety Assessment and Case Planning Form: Stage 4 Transition to reunification (in related resources).  

    The aim of transition planning is to minimise any negative impact that the transition can have on the child, carer, and the child’s family. The transition period should occur over a short time period to facilitate the transference of the child’s primary relationships and attachments from the carer to the parents.

    Transition interactions between the child and parents will need to be planned at a sufficient frequency to facilitate the transition home in a timely manner.

    The carer should play a significant and positive role in reunification, and will be an important member of the child's care team during this stage (refer to the Care Team Approach Practice Framework in related resources). The child protection worker must provide the carer with support during the transition process. Child protection workers may refer to the Transition Guide – reunification process (also in related resources).

    Child protection workers should consider encouraging contact between the child and the previous carers and their children once the child has been reunified with their parents. This acknowledges any significant relationships the child may have formed in care.

    These decisions should be based on the needs of the child and made on a case-by-case basis. The arrangements may need to be supported, as they are often sensitive and complex to manage.

    Preparing the child

    The child will experience feelings of loss and sadness on leaving a care arrangement or school, even when a transition has been planned and is seen as positive. It is likely that the child will be feeling uncertainty with separating from familiar people and places.

    The child may have been imagining their ideal ‘parents’ for a long time, and this will need to be managed by the child protection worker, parent and carer.

    Significant others in the network

    People such as teachers and friends may have a significant role in the child’s life that will need to be managed to minimise the loss for the child.

    Birth parents

    Although this is what the parents have been working so hard to achieve, the reality of caring again full time for their child will be a significant adjustment. Child protection workers should plan for and manage this issue with the parents and safety network.

    Considerations for the transition to reunification include:

    • timing
    • how to minimise the disruption to schooling
    • working at the child’s pace, and
    • future contact with previous carers and significant others.

    Refer to the following (also in related resources):

     

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    Stage 5: Post reunification support and review

    For this stage all case planning is documented in Form 515g Signs of Safety Assessment and Case Planning Form: Stage 5 Post reunification support and review (in related resources).

    The case plan should identify supports after reunification to keep the child safe and prevent the reunification from breaking down.

    After-care services and supports can include:

    • provision of family support, parent education and clinical services
    • monitoring the child’s safety and the family’s functioning
    • linkages within the community, and identification of services that can assist at times of difficulty and crisis, and
    • contact with previous carer, if in the best interests of the child.

    Consideration should be given to when an application should be made to have the protection order (time-limited) revoked, or revoked and replaced with a protection order (supervision). Refer to Chapter 3.3: Protection order (supervision) for further information.

    Reunification breakdown and re-entry to care

    Not all reunification attempts are successful and every attempt should be made to minimise the disruption for a child who needs to re-enter care. 

    As part of planning for reunification, consideration needs to be given to the possibility of re-entry to care occurring and the pre-existing relationships that may have been formed in previous care arrangements.

    Child protection workers must be aware that multiple attempts at reunification are not in the best interests of the child and should not be considered.

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    Permanent OOHC: secondary permanency plan

    Permanent OOHC options

    Permanent OOHC options are: 

    • protection order (until 18) and stable care arrangement with:
      • a family or significant other carer, or
      • a foster carer
    • protection order (special guardianship) with a family or significant other carer
    • protection order (special guardianship) with a foster carer
    • parenting order with a person with an established relationship with the child, such as a family member, or
    • carer adoption[1] with a family, significant other or foster carer.

    Application for a parenting order or carer adoption must be made through the Family Court of Western Australia.

    For further information refer to related resources:

    Residential care or a specialist care arrangement may be considered as a permanent care option for a child who enters the CEO’s care as an older child (such as an adolescent) under a protection order (until 18), and where the child has complex needs and all other permanent care options have been explored and found not suitable. Child protection workers must complete a Words and Pictures explanation or equivalent for all children in the CEO’s care.

    [1] Adoption is not part of Aboriginal culture, and therefore the adoption of a child in the CEO's care who is Aboriginal must occur only in circumstances where there is no other appropriate alternative for that child (s.3(2)of the Adoption Act 1994).


     

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    Stages of Permanent OOHC

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    1. Planning for permanent OOHC
    2. Assessment of permanent OOHC options
    3. Decision - reunification not likely or in the child’s best interests
    4. Permanent OOHC care arrangement with carer confirmed - supports, contact, ongoing work, role with parents and other family, and
    5. Post permanent OOHC support and review.
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    Stage 1: Planning permanent OOHC

    For this stage all case planning is documented in Form 515a Signs of Safety Assessment and Case Planning Form: Stage 1 Planning for reunification/permanent care (in related resources).

    Child protection workers must plan how permanent care is discussed and explained to relevant parties (such as parents, the child and carers).  This is discussed concurrently with Stage 1: planning to assess likelihood of reunification.

    Permanency planning may require numerous discussions with relevant parties as they begin to process and understand the effect it is likely to have should permanent care be the final decision.

    When a child enters temporary care (provisional protection and care) they may be placed with family, a significant other or a foster carer.  These may be considered as an option for permanent care during permanency planning.

    Child protection workers will need to provide appropriate support to the carer to make an informed decision through:

    • providing clarity about the extent to which the carer can make parenting decisions for the child
    • sharing information with the carer about the child and their background in an open and honest manner
    • listening and respecting the carer's point of view
    • working together to resolve concerns
    • providing appropriate learning and development opportunities for the carer to manage any specific needs of the child
    • including the carer in case planning and decision making
    • allowing the carer to support the child in preparation for contact, and if possible, to attend contact visits
    • providing appropriate supports, and
    • sharing information on what future permanent care is likely to involve.

    Engaging the parents and family

    Child protection workers must engage the child's parents in the case planning and decision making process for permanent care from the outset. This should also include siblings (where appropriate), grandparents, other family and significant others.

    Each family’s journey through the child protection system is unique, although the feelings of grief and loss are shared. Child protection workers must recognise the following impacts on parents:

    • most parents have feelings of bereavement, sadness, grief and anger
    • loss of identity of their role as a parent
    • acknowledge their intense emotions and the effect this may have on their behaviour, and
    • they may not be able to contain their anger enough to take in information or participate in meetings.

    Refer to Permanency Planning - Birth parent grief process (in related resources)

    Identifying possible family and significant other carer options

    Child protection workers must consider the information gathered from the genogram and ecomap to assess whether any members of the safety network are possible permanent care options with family and significant others.

    Where suitable options are identified, a family or significant other carer assessment should be completed. Refer to Chapter 3.1: Care arrangements with a family or significant other carer for further information.

    Planning contact arrangements

    The purpose of permanent care contact is to:

    • be child focused
    • maintain and strengthen the parent’s connection with the child
    • recognise the child’s sense of their past identity and supporting the need to belong
    • help the child manage the effects of being separated from their family
    • help the child understand what has happened and prevent unhealthy idealisation of his or her family
    • counter the child’s feeling of blame and rejection, and
    • assure the child of their parent’s safety.
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    Stage 2: Assessment of permanent OOHC options

    For this stage all case planning is documented in Form 515b Signs of Safety Assessment and Case Planning Form: Stage 2 Assessment of likelihood of reunification/permanent care options (in related resources).

    Signs of Safety review meetings with the family

    Child protection workers must review Form 515 Signs of Safety Assessment and Case Planning Form (case plan) at least monthly with the family, safety network and key stakeholders to assess progress on the primary and secondary permanency plans.

    Discussing permanent care with potential carers

    Long term OOHC carers must be carefully selected, prepared, trained and supported to look after someone else’s child permanently.

    Child protection workers should take a flexible approach to discussing permanent care with the current carer and consider and explore with the carer how they will:

    • develop and maintain a positive acceptance of the child’s family and history, including through contact
    • create a sense of ‘belonging’ for the child
    • maintain continuing stability when things become challenging or hard, such as transition to secondary school
    • create a feeling of security in being loved and valued for themselves and as a permanent member of the carer’s family.

    Child protection workers may also consider exploring other issues with carers, including questions such as:

    • What do you think would be the same/different if you were the permanent carer for the child?
    • How will you respond to the child’s changing and long term needs?
    • What role do you think the child’s family should have in his or her life, and how should they maintain their relationship with the child?
    • How will you work with the child’s birth family?
    • How will you support the child to retain a sense of belonging to their family, and a keep their family identity alongside your family identity?
    • What will happen when the child turns 18 years of age?
    • How will you support the child to manage changes such as school, houses, new additions to the family?

    Children placed in temporary care are not always able to remain in a permanent care arrangement with the current carer. For these children it may be beneficial to consider a referral to the Carer and Child Connection Hub 

    Additional considerations for family carers

    There may be an expectation that family carers should care for a child in a permanent care arrangement. Child protection workers must work with family carers to support them to make an informed choice about whether they want to care for the child permanently.

    Child protection workers may discuss the following issues with the family carer:

    • How will you manage prior attitudes between family members to promote the best interests of the child?
    • Are there significant and long term tensions within the family that make managing contact more challenging?
    • How can you be supported to navigate these relationships?
    • How will you manage your current family role with the new parenting role? For example, a family carer who is the maternal grandmother and will now be the mother and father figure to the child.
    • How will you manage and negotiate ‘normal’ contact with the extended family alongside the safety needs for the child?
    • How will you manage confidentiality within the family?
    • How will you create permanency for the child when the child may not perceive living with you as being outside of the family?

    Assessing sibling groups

    Child protection workers must consider the following to assess each child’s care arrangement needs:

    • each individual child in a sibling group
    • their relationships with each other
    • the dynamics of the group, and
    • how each child sees their role in relation to the other siblings.

    Child protection workers should also consider the following:

    • What are the individual views of each child in the sibling group?
    • Who does the ‘core’ sibling group include?
    • What is the possibility of contact or a care arrangement with other siblings living elsewhere?
    • What opportunities are needed to assess siblings living in different care arrangements?

    Decisions to permanently separate siblings, including which child should be placed with whom, must only occur after a comprehensive assessment. The views of the child and parent should be given consideration.

    Helping children to develop a positive identity and build resilience

    The presence of the following factors has been found to contribute to the child’s ability to combat adversity:

    • cultural connectedness to family, community and land
    • demonstration that the child’s family consider the child’s needs even if they cannot care for the child
    • there are other supportive people in the child’s life
    • the child has a network of supports
    • the child has experienced a secure and harmonious loving relationship with a significant and safe person
    • the child has success in accomplishing tasks that are central to their interests
    • the child has experienced parenting that is responsive, consistent and warm, with praise, support and encouragement
    • the child has experienced parenting that helps them believe they can make a difference in their situation
    • the child has purposeful contact with family members and other key adults from the past
    • positive school experiences
    • friendship with peers
    • interest and involvement with sport, music and hobbies, and
    • the child displays problem-solving and coping skills and strategies.
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    Stage 3: Decision – reunification not likely or in the child’s best interests

    For this stage all case planning is documented in Form 515c Signs of Safety Assessment and Case Planning Form: Stage 3 Decision whether to proceed with reunification (also in related resources).

    Determining which permanent care option is in the child’s best interest

    Child protection workers will need to consider and assess all care arrangement options to determine what is in the child’s best interest.

    Child protection workers must also assess the carer options available to ascertain the following:

    • carer's motivation and understanding of permanent care
    • carer's understanding of the likely effect of the specific trauma from the abuse and neglect the child has suffered, and
    • current and future needs of the child.

    If no suitable options are available, the child protection worker should continue assessing permanent care options.

    Determining what order is appropriate

    Child protection workersshould consider the following when assessing whether to apply for a protection order (until 18) or a protection order (special guardianship):

    • Is active and sustained case management required?
    • How will the parents be involved and participate in the child’s life?

    Refer to Special Guardianship Orders: Checklist and Prompts for CPWs (also in related resources) for information on how to determine the most appropriate order.

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    Stage 4: Permanency plan is permanent OOHC

    For this stage all case planning is documented in Form 515d Signs of Safety Assessment and Case Planning Form: Stage 4 permanent care

    Endorsement of the assessment by the Children’s Court

    Once it has been assessed that permanent care is in the child’s best interests, child protection workers must apply to the Court as the final decision maker. This could include:

    • withdrawing a current protection order application and replacing it with another protection order application such as a protection order (until 18) or protection order (special guardianship), or
    • revoking a protection order (time limited) and replacing it with a protection order (until 18) or protection order ( special guardianship).

    Child protection workers must advise the Court why permanent care is necessary for the child and how the parents will contribute to promoting the child’s wellbeing through case planning and care planning.

    For further information refer to entries in Chapter 3.3: Intervention action and Protection order (special guardianship).

    Where the Court does not grant the protection order (until 18) and/or protection order (special guardianship), child protection workers must continue with the primary permanency plan of reunification - this reflects the need to work towards reunification with the child’s parents. In these circumstances, child protection workers will need to continue to review the plan as part of the monthly meetings and determine whether a subsequent application should be made to the Court.

    Parent’s consent

    It is likely that the parents may find it difficult to consent to orders even when they are able to acknowledge that the impact of their behaviour has resulted in their child coming into the CEO's care. Some reasons for this could include the perception that they were giving up, or how other people, such as family, may view them if they give consent.

    Contact arrangements

    After the decision has been made that permanent care is in the child’s best interests, contact arrangements should be reviewed to begin transitioning to the proposed permanent OOHC contact arrangements and consider any likely effects of the change for the child. However, proposed permanent OOHC contact arrangements should only commence after the Court endorses the decision.

    Working with the child

    There are a range of documents (in related resources) to help children understand why they are living in permanent care including:

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    Stage 5: Post permanent OOHC support and review

    For this stage all case planning is documented in Form 515f Signs of Safety Assessment and Case Planning Form: Stage 5 Post permanent care support and review.

    Protection order (until 18)

    Refer to Chapter 3.1: Supporting foster carers and Chapter 3.3: Protection orders (time-limited and until 18) for further information.

    Protection order (special guardianship)

    Refer to Chapter 3.3: Protection order (special guardianship) for further information.

    Parenting order

    Refer to Chapter 2.2: Working with the Family Court in the context of child protection matters

    Carer adoption

    Refer to Chapter 3.3: Carer adoption for further information.

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    Care arrangements to independence

    A young person’s age should not diminish the need for long term planning and consideration of what arrangement will:

    • provide consistency of care
    • best promote the young person’s wellbeing
    • provide them with support beyond childhood and into adult life, and
    • promote the young person’s sense of self-esteem and identity.
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    Revoking long-term orders

    The Child Protection and Family Support division's permanency planning policy does not change a parent’s right to seek a revocation of a long-term protection order.

    In cases where a child is placed in permanent care under a protection order (until 18), and where the child has been in a planned and stable care arrangement that meets the child’s needs for more than two years, a change in the care arrangement is generally not appropriate.

    If a child’s parents make application to revoke a protection order (until 18), the child protection worker will need to conduct a review of the child’s circumstances to provide a report to the Court. If the review supports the revocation, despite the length and stability of the care arrangement, the reasons must be documented in the case plan. The matter must then be referred to the Executive Director, Country or Metropolitan Services (whichever is relevant) for approval before making a recommendation in the report that supports the application for revocation. Refer to Proposal to Support or Apply for Revocation of Long-Term Orders (in related resources).

    Any party to the initial proceedings may apply to the Court for the revocation of a protection order (special guardianship). Child Protection and Family Support division will be notified if another party makes a revocation application to the Court.

    Only the CEO may apply to the Court for the revocation of a protection order (special guardianship) to replace it with another protection order.

    Following the application, the Court can decide to keep the original order, revoke the order, or make a different protection order for the child.

    In cases where a child’s family makes an application to revoke the protection order (special guardianship), we may conduct a review of the child’s circumstances and provide a report to the Court. If it is determined that it is in the child’s best interests to remain under the protection order (special guardianship), we may assist the child and/or special guardian with legal support. 

    Information on comparing the long term orders can be found in Long Term Out-of-Home Care Orders for Children in the CEO’s Care (in related resources). Also refer to entries in Chapter 3.3: Protection orders (time-limited and until 18) and Protection order (special guardianship). 

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    Exceptional circumstances

    When a child is on a protection order (until 18) the permanency plan is permanent OOHC.

    In exceptional circumstances and with district director approval, it may be necessary to review this permanency plan to assess if return to live with family is likely and in the child’s best interests.

    Exceptional circumstances would occur when the child’s permanent care arrangement breaks down and alternative permanent care options need to be assessed. For instance, this may be due to a significant change in the carer’s family circumstances such as a severe illness, or if it is assessed that the carer can no longer meet the child’s needs. At this time, returning to live with family (along with permanent care options) could be considered and further assessed if the reason the child was brought into the CEO's care has been addressed and no longer exists.

    The child’s current needs and best interests determine decision making in these circumstances.

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