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1.2.5 Intensive Family Support

Last Modified: 27-Sep-2019 Review Date: 04-Jan-2021

Purpose

To provide guidance to child protection workers in Intensive Family Support Teams (IFS) on the provision of supports to families.

Practice Requirements
 
  • IFS teams must prioritise working with Aboriginal families at-risk of their children coming into care and apply culturally responsive strategies.
  • IFS teams must work within the Signs of Safety Child Protection framework and use tools from the Family Finding Model.
  • All IFS cases must develop and regularly review a safety plan with families.
  • All new IFS cases must have a Multidisciplinary Case Consultation within 30 days of opening in IFS to determine the direction of the case; and then be reviewed every 30 calendar days during supervision or other meetings.
  • All perspectives in Multidisciplinary Case Consultations must be recorded in Form 895 Multidisciplinary Case Consultation (in related resources).
  • IFS cases are time limited for 6-12 months depending on the needs of the child(ren).  

 

Process Maps

Not applicable.

Procedures

  • Overview
  • IFS team roles
  • Training requirements
  • Intake and case allocation
  • Multidisciplinary Case Consultations – planning and consultation
  • Safety planning
  • Services
  • Child Care Subsidy (CCS) and Additional Child Care Subsidy (child wellbeing)
  • Tools and culturally secure practice
  • Case closure
  • Overview

    IFS teams work with open child protection cases where the families are at imminent risk of their children coming into care. The IFS teams provide time-limited, intensive in-home support to create safety and enable children or young people to remain with their family. They respond to the complex range of safety and wellbeing issues affecting families through assessment, planning and assisting families to develop networks that can help them keep their children safe.

    Key elements of the IFS teams include:

    • Stronger focus on working with Aboriginal families, earlier and in a culturally responsive way, to divert children from entering care. Strategies to facilitate family participation in all child protection decisions affecting them are integral to working with Aboriginal families in the IFS teams.
    • The integration of tools from the Family Finding Model (refer to Family Finding Learning Space) to help staff develop strategies to locate and engage family members, and develop natural support networks. With a particular focus on Aboriginal children, the implementation of this model recognises the right of the child to be brought up safely within their own family and community. Where a child cannot be brought up safely by their own family and community they have a right to know them and maintain meaningful connections.
    • Case management is time limited for 6 - 12 months depending on the needs of the children).
    • Review meetings of all IFS cases are held monthly.
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    IFS team roles

    ​The IFS teams include the following roles:

    Team leader

    The team leader has overall management and responsibility of the IFS team members and oversight of all IFS cases in that team. The team leader:

    • liaises and meets regularly with other team leaders to discuss referrals
    • manages/allocates the workload for individual staff members and the team as a whole
    • provides supervision, support and direction to team members in the development of case plans
    • monitors the progress of case goals and, case management where there may be multiple workers engaging a family in the provision of intensive support
    • provides oversight of Multidisciplinary Case Consultations in the IFS team, and
    • provides learning and development opportunities for the team.

     

    Child protection worker / field worker

    Cases in the IFS team are managed by a child protection worker who uses the specialist roles, services and tools available to support families to develop and implement their safety plan. The safety plan is tailored to achieve safety goals and address the danger statement. The child protection worker:

    • maintains statutory child protection responsibilities
    • ongoing assessment of children's safety and develops intervention plans
    • links and refers families to support services in line with the case plan
    • helps parents understand safety concerns for their children and how they can be addressed
    • works with families to build a support network by identifying and engaging safe family and community members
    • maintains connections and shares information with other government, non-government and contracted services that have a role in supporting the family
    • monitors and coordinates relevant services and community resources in line with the case plan
    • provides culturally secure, practical and flexible in-home support in line with the case plan, and
    • maintains electronic client records and case management data.

    Child protection workers can work with families under intensive family support activity and /or provide the Parent Support service.

    The Parent Support service has specific eligibility criteria involving parents with school-aged children up to the age of 18 years who are involved in antisocial and/or criminal behaviours together with truancy to help them gain control of their children using a Responsible Parenting Agreement. Refer to the Parent Support entry for a full description of the Parent Support service.

     

    Senior child protection worker / senior field worker – Aboriginal Intensive Family Support Worker

    The senior Aboriginal Intensive Family Support Worker provides intensive in-home support with at risk Aboriginal families to improve family capacity to safely care for their children and to prevent children from entering out-of-home care. The senior Aboriginal Intensive Family Support Worker:

    • provides cultural advice to other IFS team members to support their engagement with Aboriginal families
    • provides culturally secure, practical and flexible in-home support in line with the IFS case plan
    • links and refers families to support services in line with the case plan
    • helps families build a support network by identifying and engaging safe family and community members
    • helps parents understand safety concerns for their children and how they can be addressed
    • makes referrals, maintains connections and shares information with other government, non-government and contracted services that have a role in supporting the family, and
    • maintains electronic client records and case management data.

       

    Best Beginnings Plus Worker

    The Best Beginnings Plus Worker delivers the Best Beginnings Plus program for expectant parents or parents of infants under two years of age. Best Beginnings Plus Workers provide intensive in-home visits and focus on the needs of infants through building family's knowledge and skills in parenting, child development, child safety, attachment and family functioning. The Best Beginnings Plus Worker:

    • works alongside a child protection worker managing the family case
    • participates in Multidisciplinary Case Consultations
    • begins engagement with families at pre-birth, or when children are under 12 months of age
    • respects cultural identity and Aboriginal parenting practices
    • provides practical support and culturally sensitive information to families
    • uses a trauma-informed approach, and
    • maintains specialist knowledge in antenatal and early years child development

    The Best Beginnings Plus Worker may deliver the program and work with families who are case managed by child protection workers in the Child Safety and Care teams. They will however remain line managed by the IFS team leader. 

    Refer to the Best Beginnings Plus entry for a full description of the Best Beginnings Plus service.

     

    Parent Visitor

    The Parent Visitor is supervised by the team leader and may work alongside multiple child protection workers. The Parent Visitor provides additional practical support in IFS teams through in-home and community visits to families and is responsible for helping parents and children/young people with a range of activities including:

    • implementing the actions in a family case plan (including establishing an individualised parenting plan in collaboration with a family and child protection worker), and
    • achieving the goals in their parenting plans or Responsible Parenting Agreements (i.e. developing household management skills and routines).

    The Parent Visitor:

    • works collaboratively with IFS team members to develop a parenting plan, identify parent's strengths, establish goals, review progress, and participate in team meetings
    • develops and implement culturally appropriate strategies and approaches where necessary
    • provide appropriate resources to children and parents including referral sources, resource materials and information
    • build effective relationships between families, government/community agencies and other key stakeholders
    • attends Multidisciplinary Case Consultations when required (Parent Visitor reports can be discussed at Multidisciplinary Case Consultations)
    • provides regular written reports about their work with families to the child protection worker managing the case. Reports should be weekly or at intervals negotiated in line with family needs and case plans. Reporting can be via Form 895/word document or by email. The child protection worker is responsible for saving the reports on the family's Objective case file.

     

    Youth and Family Support Worker
    The Youth and Family Support Worker may work across the three district teams – IFS, Child Safety and Care teams – in accordance with district needs and staffing. This worker provides culturally responsive in-home support to Aboriginal families. They visit Aboriginal families and work intensively with them to address multiple issues (including family and domestic violence, school nonattendance, criminal activity, and other issues impacting on the wellbeing of children in the home.) The Youth and Family Support Worker:

    • provides support and advice and acts as a role model and mentor to at-risk families
    • links family members to relevant agencies and community resources to create a safe family environment and protect children from abuse and harm
    • works alongside other IFS team members to provide support, advice and services
    • is located within an IFS team but may also work across the other Child Safety and Care teams through consultative, co-working and mentoring activities
    • provides regular written reports about their work with families to the child protection worker managing the case. Reports should be weekly or at intervals negotiated in line with family needs and case plans. Reporting can be via word document or by email. The child protection worker is responsible for saving the reports on the family's Objective case file.
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    Training requirements

    ​As part of their orientation, new staff members who join an IFS team have twelve months to complete their training requirements.  

    They must first complete:

    • Orientation Program 1 – Child Protection and Signs of Safety
    • Orientation Program 2 – Integration of Child Protection and Signs of Safety.

    Staff members must then complete:

    • Orientation Program 3 – Intensive Family Support
    • Orientation Program 4 – The Care Team Approach to Planning.

    After the completion of Orientation Programs 1-4, members should also complete the Foundations Plus Program which includes:

    • Core: 1) Family and Domestic Violence 2) Infant, Child and Parent Mental Wellbeing 3) Aboriginal Cultural Responsiveness 4) Promote Change with Families with Multiple and Complex Needs
    • Signs of Safety: 1) Safety Planning with Words and Pictures 2) Purposeful Conversations Using Three Houses 3) Facilitating Family Meetings 4) Facilitating Pre-Birth Planning.

    Existing staff members working in an IFS team may choose to complete Orientation Program 3 -Intensive Family Support. However, they will need to complete Orientation Programs 1 and 2 first.

    Staff can register for relevant training through the Employee Self Service

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    Intake and case allocation

    ​The majority of referrals to the IFS team will come from Child Safety teams following the completion of a child safety investigation (CSI) where harm and risks are identified and the family need support to implement a safety plan to addresses issues of concern. IFS teams primarily work with families who have multiple complex problems and who are at risk of their children entering care.

    • Families with SWAs substantiated for Significant Harm or Likelihood of Significant Harm but without recommended intervention action
    • Families where the children are involved in antisocial behaviour, criminal activity, and/or truancy, and where parents find it hard to ask for help or have trouble working with other services
    • Expectant parents or those with a child under 12 months of age with significant risk of neglect and/or abuse, as well as poor attachment, developmental delay and poor life outcomes. In particular, Aboriginal families, children in care who are expectant parents, and families involved in child protection pre-birth planning.

    When a family is being managed within the IFS team and a new safety concern arises, the safety of a child or young person must be discussed immediately with the team leader. If it is decided that the safety concerns require a CSI, then the IFS team must also complete the CSI of the new concerns. If the family is open for Parent Support services, this casework is suspended until the CSI has been completed.

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    Multidisciplinary Case Consultations – planning and consultation

    ​A Multidisciplinary Case Consultation is an internal consultation held between specialist staff that focusses on the best interests of the child and considers different professional perspectives needed to engage families with experiencing multiple complex issues.

    When a new child protection case is allocated to the IFS team, a Multidisciplinary Case Consultation must be held as part of a case transfer process and to assist with developing a case plan and identifying which supports/services a family needs. The Multidisciplinary Case Consultation will:

    • consider different professional perspectives and the trajectory for a children based on the safety concerns
    • use completed danger statements and safety goals to develop a response to families and identify who in the IFS team should help the family, if external services should be engaged, and how they can create safety for the children
    • use the formulation exercise from Family Finding Model for a comprehensive start to meaningful case consultation and planning, and
    • ask specialist staff about their professional perspective and rationale for their response to the scaling question.     

    After the first Multidisciplinary Case Consultation, IFS cases must be reviewed once a calendar month to avoid case drift. Case reviews can occur during supervision or other meetings. In some circumstances, child protection workers may choose to hold another Multidisciplinary Case Consultation. For example, when engagement with the family is difficult to establish or maintain, or the case is 'stuck' and case drift becomes a risk.

    The initial Multidisciplinary Case Consultation may take an hour and includes completing Part A for each child and Part B for the sibling group, refer to Form 895 Multidisciplinary Case Consultation (in related resources).  Subsequent Multidisciplinary Case Consultations involve part B only and should take around 30 minutes. 

    Part A is completed once for EACH child (allow extra time for multiple siblings) and includes:

    • formulation exercise (profiling each child)
    • identifying safety concerns
    • completing Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) score. Refer to the ACEs Primer educational video for further information about ACEs scores.
    • considering the five-year trajectory for the child
    • listing and rating significant persons in the child's life, and
    • scoring the child on a Connection Scale.

    Part B is completed for the sibling group or family (not an individual child) and includes:

    • case update information (for subsequent Multidisciplinary Case Consultations)
    • scaling progress toward safety goals and providing a rationale by each specialist. Refer to the Multidisciplinary Case Consultation Prompt Resource (in related resources) for a scoring guide, and  
    • identifying missing information, next steps and rationale.

     

    Multidisciplinary Case Consultations are attended by:

    • internal staff such as team leaders, child protection workers, Aboriginal practice leaders, psychologists, senior practice development officers, senior child protection workers Family and Domestic Violence, Best Beginnings Plus Workers, senior child protection workers Placement Services, Education and Legal Support Officers, and
    • external professionals from other agencies/services working with the family who are able to provide relevant information about the child.

    Note, specialist staff attending Multidisciplinary Case Consultations are not the delegated case decision makers and the Multidisciplinary Case Consultations do not need to reach a unanimous position. The role of Multidisciplinary Case Consultation chairperson can be rotated amongst the specialist staff to share the workload. The Multidisciplinary Case Consultation chairperson can use the Multidisciplinary Case Consultation Prompt Resource to help generate discussion and to challenge attendee's thinking. There may be occasions where it is helpful to provide any key documents to specialist staff (for example, a CSI Outcome Report, genogram or chronology) for them to read prior to the consultation.

     

    To record Multidisciplinary Case Consultations:

    • All attendees must receive a copy of the completed Form 895 Multidisciplinary Case Consultation (in related resources).
    • Discrepancies in the recording of perspectives and decisions in Form 895 Multidisciplinary Case Consultation should be addressed immediately
    • Attendees must electronically approve Form 895 Multidisciplinary Case Consultation or provide a confirmation email
    • Final versions of Form 895 Multidisciplinary Case Consultation must be stored on the child's Objective file using the naming convention 'MCC (child's name) Date'.

       

    After the first six months of an IFS service period, a Multidisciplinary Case Consultation should be held to discuss various options:

    • IFS service ceases with no further action from the Department
    • Refer to community service organisation when there is no further role for the Department but the family needs other assistance
    • Extend IFS involvement for another six months if safety concerns remain
    • Take intervention action to bring children into care if risks warrant it (note that only a district director can make the decision to proceed with intervention action).

     

    Refer to the Multidisciplinary Case Consultation (MCC) Information Sheet Frequently Asked Questions in related resources for more information.

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    Safety planning

    ​Child protection workers must develop a safety plan with families in all cases and review it regularly with the family and safety network.

    Signs of Safety mapping should be undertaken with the family and key stakeholders to determine what the level of safety is to inform safety planning. A safety plan is a written agreement based on the safety goals developed with the family, safety network and the Department that establishes how foreseeable danger and threats to a child's safety will be managed.

    Refer to Chapter 2.2: Signs of Safety - child protection practice framework and Elements of a Safety Plan (in related resources) for further information.

    In cases involving family and domestic violence also refer to Chapter 2.3: Safety planning - emotional abuse - family and domestic violence.

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    Services

    Internal services and supports available within IFS teams include:

    • Best Beginnings Plus
    • Parent Support
    • Parent Visitor
    • Youth and Family Support Worker.

    Community sector agencies are also funded to provide family support services: 

    Intensive Family Support Services

    Intensive Family Support Services (IFSS) provide trauma informed culturally competent in-home practical support for the whole family to enhance safety and wellbeing. This includes families who are most at risk of entering care if nothing changes or whose children are in out of home care and require in-home support to assist the reunification process.

    IFSS services take the Department's referrals only. The referral forms can be generated from a Service Referral in Assist by completing referral information as detailed in the relevant user guides. The generated referral will be published to Objective into the Case File and linked to the Service Referral in Assist. The referral form will be required to be edited and finalised in Objective.

    IFSS are located state wide in all metropolitan and country districts. A list of IFSS contact details in each metropolitan district is available in related resources in IFSS and FSN Contact Details (Metro).  

    Aboriginal in Home Support Service (AISS)

    AISS is delivered by Wungening Moort, an Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation, to provide a trauma-informed, culturally relevant intensive in-home practical support service. AISS will work with Aboriginal families to address significant issues impacting their parenting and their ability to keep their children safely at home. Families living in the Perth metropolitan area who are most at risk of their children entering care if nothing changes, or children who are currently in out-of-home care from the IFS Teams and will be prioritised. The service also works collaboratively as a formal Partner Agency of the Family Support Network, and is provided across all metropolitan child protection corridors: Cannington-Armadale; Fremantle-Rockingham, Mirrabooka-Joondalup; and Perth-Midland.

    The referral forms can be generated from a Service Referral in Assist by completing referral information as detailed in the relevant user guides. The generated referral will be published to Objective into the Case File and linked to the Service Referral in Assist. The referral form will be required to be edited and finalised in Objective.

    Family Support Network

    Family Support Networks (FSNs) are a partnership between the Department and the community services sector. FSNs provide targeted support to families with significant protection concerns and where the support of a number of services is needed. FSNs are trauma informed, culturally competent and prioritise referrals for Aboriginal families.

    FSNs operate across the metropolitan area in four service corridors: Mirrabooka-Joondalup; Perth-Midland; Cannington-Armadale; Fremantle-Rockingham.

    A FSN Lead Agency is located in each of the four service corridors. A Child Protection Leader (CPL) is co-located at each FSN Lead Agency to provide expert consultation, advice and practice support.

    Two streams of service are provided by FSNs: 1) Intensive Case Management (ICM) service and 2) Assessment and Coordination (AC) service.  The referral forms can be generated from a Service Referral in Assist by completing referral information as detailed in the relevant user guides. The generated referral will be published to Objective into the Case File and linked to the Service Referral in Assist. The referral form will be required to be edited and finalised in Objective.

    FSN Intensive Case Management service
    The ICM service provides intensive support to divert children and families from the children protection system. The ICM accepts referrals from Communities only, for families that are not open to child protection.

    The ICM service supports parents to achieve the safety and referral goals developed by the child protection worker through an active and persistent case management approach. Most support is provided within the family's home, through a hands-on practical style of case management. The FSN case plan includes an intensive phase and step-down approach, including exit and transition planning, within a 12 month timeframe. The case management approach led by the FSN may also include a meeting with the family, the CPL, and relevant services to ensure an efficient and integrated multi-service response that addresses the services case plan goals.

    FSN Assessment and Coordination service (A&C service)
    The A&C service can accept referrals from child protection workers, FSN Partner Agencies, non-partner agencies (such as schools and hospitals) in the community, and from families themselves. The target group for the A&C service includes children and families involved with, or known, to multiple agencies, with complex needs, and have had previous involvement with child protection.

    The A&C service links the family with a Partner Agency who will coordinate the range of services required and/or provide ongoing support. This process includes an allocations meeting and may also include a meeting with the family, the CPL, and Partner Agencies to ensure an efficient and integrated multi-service response that addresses the case plan goals.

    Detailed information regarding the FSN is available from the WA FSN website: http://www.wafsn.org.au/.

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    Child Care Subsidy (CCS) and Additional Child Care Subsidy (child wellbeing)

    ​As part of the new child care package, the Australian Government has established the new Child Care Safety Net. The Child Care Safety Net aims to give the most vulnerable children a strong start. It provides targeted assistance to vulnerable and at-risk children and their families, and supporting child care services in disadvantaged communities to address barriers in accessing child care.

    The Child Care Subsidy (CCS) and Additional Child Care Subsidy (child wellbeing)[1] are available for children who are at risk of abuse or neglect. Where a child is at risk of abuse or neglect, the child's situation can sometimes be improved by attending child care or by increasing attendance at child care. In these cases, where the cost of child care to the parents is a barrier, this barrier can be removed by using the CCS and ACCS (child wellbeing).

    You can assist the parent to apply for the Child Care Subsidy (CCS) through my.gov.au (myGov) before enrolment of the child with an approved child care provider. You must confirm that the parent has:

    1. Applied for the Child Care Subsidy (CCS);

    2. Agreed to the Complying Written Arrangement (CWA); and

    3. Confirmed the enrolment.

    When the CCS has been approved you must discuss the ACCS (child wellbeing) with the parent, and advise that they need to provide the child care provider with the ACCS (child wellbeing) Support Letter for ACCS (child wellbeing – child not in care (also in related resources[A1] ) to assist in the payment of child care fees. You can then provide this letter to the childcare provider.

    Note:  The CCS and ACCS should cover the costs of child care. As the child is not in care, the Department is not responsible for the payment of child care fees which are not covered by the CCS and ACCS subsidies, unless the district director has agreed to this.

    For detailed information refer to the entry 3.4: Child care attendance.

    [1] The former Special Child Care Benefit (SCCB) has been replaced with the Additional Child Care Subsidy (ACCS).

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    Tools and culturally secure practice

    There are a range of tools and strategies available to the IFS team for working with families. Given the collaborative IFS team approach, it is important to consider who will administer tools as part of the development of the case plan.  

    Family Finding

    Child protection workers should use the Family Finding Model to locate and engage family members and develop a child's natural support networks and lifetime connections (not just until a child turns 18). The Family Finding Model recognises that  individuals can have extensive family networks and every child has the right to either be brought up within their own family and community, and where this is not possible,  to maintain meaningful connections with their family. Keeping children connected to their family protects them from the risks arising from loneliness and isolation.


    The model compliments the Signs of Safety Framework (family meetings, mappings, networks). Both Family Finding and Signs of Safety prioritise early engagement with a child's family and recommend the use of family meetings to involve families in collaborative risk assessment and to develop support networks in planning for the safety, wellbeing and permanency of children.  The development of safety networks can be greatly enhanced by using Family Finding search and engagement strategies and tools. Part A of Multidisciplinary Case Consultations use the Family Finding Formulation Exercise.

    Other Family Finding tools include the Connectedgram and Culturagram.  

    Refer to the Family Finding Learning Space for more information about the Family Finding Model and tools.

    Child Environment Matrix
    The Child Environment Matrix (in related resources) is a tool which assists to develop goals with the parents, and measure progress and effectiveness. An Aboriginal version of the tool is available.

    Case managers may find it useful for a new Child Environment Matrix to be completed at entry, six months and exit from the IFS service however it may be completed at other times. The Child Environment Matrix should be saved on the family's file.

    The Child Environment Matrix assesses families against a series of observable indictors across a continuum (from high risk to ideal scenario). Workers complete the matrix with families and use the results to talk to parents about observations that confirm or challenge the parents' view of family safety and wellbeing. Action plans may be developed based on the Child Environment Matrix results.

    The bottom two stages of the continuum on the Child Environment Matrix may indicate the possibility of child abuse or neglect. If using the Aboriginal version, the indicator for potential abuse is visually represented by the colour red. If a parent scores in any of these the IFS team leader must be informed and appropriate action taken.

    Note, completion of the Child Environment Matrix is compulsory in delivering the Best Beginnings Plus service. Where a family is receiving the Best Beginnings Plus service, case managers should liaise with the Best Beginnings Worker about application of the tool.

    Other tools available include:

    • Safety plans
    • Signs of Safety tools such as Three Houses and Words and Pictures
    • Family and Domestic Violence Toolkit
    • Child Protection Income Management
    • Liquor Restricted Premises applications
    • Disruptive Behaviour Management Strategy.

    Refer to relevant CPM entries and related resources for further details on application of these tools.

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    Case closure

    An exit plan must be developed when the family is coming to the end of their involvement with the IFS team. Child protection workers can consider reducing the intensity of family support in a staged manner, and help the family to review and acknowledge their progress and plan how to sustain positive changes into the future.   Ongoing support options should be considered. Child protection workers may link the family to appropriate community supports, services and/or safety network before case closure.

    Parents may feel anxious about the impending loss of support provided by the IFS team, and these feelings need to be acknowledged and discussed. Exit planning reminds parents that casework will not continue indefinitely and helps them to consolidate positive changes made and make long-term goals.

    When concluding contact (irrespective of whether parents have made gains on the identified issues), child protection workers should tell the family that the case is going to be closed and contact any other agencies that have been involved with the case to notify them of the case closure.

    Case closure can occur at any time where the safety goals have been achieved with the family. Child protection workers should discuss the appropriateness of closing a case, or whether other action needs to be taken during a Multidisciplinary Case Consultation.

    When closing a case, child protection workers should enter data from all completed forms, matrices, and questionnaires on Assist and scan all up to date documents to the case file. Close the file. See the Assist User Guide for instructions.

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