To provide guidance to child protection workers on procedures when allocating cases for case management, transfer, shared case management, requesting co-work or services for child protection matters and children in the CEO's care, and the case closure process.
Note: CEO refers to the Chief Executive Officer of the Department of Communities (the Department).
Children in the CEO's care
Carers (including family and significant other carers)
The purpose of a case plan is to provide a clear explanation of why the Department of Communities (the Department) is involved with a family, and identify our expectations and next steps in working with the family. A clear case plan minimises the perception that the Department 'moves the goal posts’.
Case planning is an ongoing process throughout the duration of a case. It involves assessing, planning, reviewing and evaluating case information. The case plan must be reviewed regularly so the case does not become stagnant. Supervision (either individual or group) can be used to progress individual cases, for example, by undertaking a group Signs of Safety mapping. Refer to the Signs of Safety and Case Planning Flowchart (in related resources).
Case planning must consider a range of problems that may affect a family and the individuals in a family. These include, but are not limited to:
When case planning for children in the CEO’s care, refer to Chapter 3.4: Permanency planning.
Case management is the process of working in collaboration with relevant stakeholders including the parents and relatives, child, Department specialist staff and other units, carers (including family and significant other carers) and service providers, to undertake the following:
In principle, case management should be in the best interests of the child and follow the movements of clients to minimise disruption to services.
This decision is guided by our operational definition of significant parent. This term is relevant to families where the parents are separated and both parents are known.
In order of importance - the legal guardian is always the 'significant parent', however, where the parents have joint legal guardianship, or where the whereabouts of the legal guardian are unknown, the following should be applied in order as listed:
In accordance with the principles relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, kinship relationships and principal carers should be taken into consideration when determining the most appropriate district for case management.
New referral for an open case or existing client
If there is a new intake for a case that is already open to the Department and being case managed, then the case should be allocated to the district with case management responsibility for the Family Group. The only exception to this is where a new intake is made about a child who is under shared case management. In these circumstances the case should be allocated to the shared case manager.
Where a new referral involves a family member who is already part of an open period of involvement (including as a significant person), the new referral should be allocated, in the first instance, to the district responsible for the open period of involvement regardless of the geographical location of where the family is living.
In these cases, the case managing district can seek co-work and/or services from another district. Once an assessment has been completed and a plan developed, consideration is given to the need to transfer the case.
New period of involvement with a family who resides across different district offices
When there is a new period of involvement for a family who resides across different district offices, the case should be allocated to the district office that covers the geographical area where the ‘significant parent’ resides.
Where there are multiple children and shared case management
Where there is a new period of involvement or concerns for multiple children who reside across different districts and these include children who have a shared case manager, then the case should be allocated to the Family Group district (primary case manager) in the first instance. Dependent upon the circumstances the primary case manager's team leader may reassign the activity to the shared case manager/s in consultation with the shared case manager/s team leader.
Highly mobile and/or transient children and families
Where families are highly mobile and/or transient and there are concerns for their children’s safety, continuity of case management is essential to effectively assess risks and respond to the needs of the child/family.
the Crisis Care Unit (CCU), Mandatory Reporting Service or Central Intake Team
(CIT) has assessed an intake is required, then the last district office with
significant involvement over the past six months should take on case management
responsibility. An exception is where geographical distance makes follow up of
the family impractical. In these circumstances, the paired office or closest
district office to the family’s location should provide the follow up. Refer to
‘Transient families’ below.
Where, following the completion of the initial assessment and case plan, the family remains highly mobile, case management should remain with the receiving district until a residence is established and demonstrated for three continuous months at one address.
Cases allocated inappropriately to a district
Districts that have accepted misdirected reports from CCU or CIT can contact CCU or CIT for re-direction of that case as soon as possible. However, districts can also negotiate transfer with the appropriate district.
Where there is shared residency of the child concerned
Where the residency of a child is equally shared, the district receiving the referral should normally case manage the referral. In these circumstances, consideration should be given to where the child attends school.
Where residency is shared on an unequal basis, the referral is allocated to the district office responsible for the geographical location in which the parent with the majority of the care resides.
All child safety teams should accept co-work requests on merit and determine how the work can be undertaken.
Circumstances where a district office may request another district to provide co-working could include:
For all co-working requests, the requesting district office should specify the type of request and the expected duration of the request (one-off, over a set period of time, or ongoing to case closure). Where requests are for ongoing support, these should be reviewed by the team leader responsible for co-working the case. Both team leaders should undertake a review every three months.
The role of the co–worker is to act as an agent for the case managing district office to implement the case plan, including relevant and agreed aspects of the care plan (where applicable). Responsibility for care planning and approval of expenditure and case costs must remain with the district office that holds case management.
Discussions and agreements regarding requests to provide co-work or services must involve the relevant team leaders, Aboriginal practice leaders, child protection workers and, where applicable, senior child protection workers – placement services.
Form 477 Request for Case Transfer Co-Worker or Shared Case Management (in related resources) must be completed when requesting co-work, tasks or services or shared case management.
Shared case management allows the allocation of a child protection worker for individual children in the CEO's care within the same family group to be case managed by different districts.
Shared case management is not appropriate within the same district or usually across metropolitan districts. In exceptional circumstances where it is in the child's best interests for shared case management to occur across metropolitan districts, this must be discussed and agreed with the assistant district director before such a request is made.
Where shared case management occurs primary and shared case managers must:
For information about allocation, criteria and processes for shared case management requests please refer to related resource Shared Case Management.
The role of the country liaison officer is limited to the completion of one-off tasks for country cases where the work needs to happen in the metropolitan area and the paired district is unable to complete the task. To request a task, child protection workers must complete Form 476 Request for Case Work Task Support from Country Liaison Officer - Country Services (in related resources).
It is inappropriate to request a task service for cases that should be co-worked, such as when a child from a country district is residing in the metropolitan area. In this instance, a co-worker must be requested by the case management district and be appointed by the receiving district.
Children in the CEO's care who are held in detention and who are case managed by a country district should be referred to the country liaison officer. In circumstances where the country liaison officer does not have capacity to complete the task, the country district should request the paired district to undertake the work – refer to the paired district table below.
The paired district model should only be used for families moving between country and metropolitan districts who present outside of their usual district of residence where short term support, assessment or intervention is required.
If a family presents at a district office that is outside of their area of normal residency and there are immediate safety risks identified, then an initial assessment must be conducted and a case plan developed by the office where the family present. Subsequently the case can be allocated to the paired district office. This includes both new referrals and open cases.
The following is the current paired district arrangement:
The nominated paired district model may not always be the office best placed to respond when the best interests of the child is considered, because the family may present at a district office that is a significant distance from the paired district. In these circumstances, the metropolitan and/or country district should undertake the casework required.
Case practice responsibility for a child subject to a child protection concern should be managed by the district where the child resides.
Case responsibility for cases cannot be shared between districts unless a shared case management allocation has occurred. However, for reasons such as proximity or geography, it is reasonable to request other districts to assist with case tasks with families who are residing in their area, even though case management responsibility is not being or cannot be transferred at that time. It is expected that the other district will assist the requesting district with tasks in this situation.
Transferring child protection cases
The transfer of cases at the duty interaction, initial inquires and SWA phase should not be delayed, as knowledge of the safety and needs of the child may be limited at this point and action may need to be taken promptly to safeguard or promote the child's wellbeing.
A family may relocate to another district office area during the SWA. This could be for a range of reasons including to avoid child protection involvement, transience or a genuine attempt to relocate. In these situations, if the district has commenced the SWA it may be appropriate for the district to complete the assessment including whether any action needs to be taken to safeguard or promote the child's wellbeing.
Districts should consider completing the SWA in the following circumstances:
Where the decision is to delay further assessment, for instance, the family is returning to or moving to another district, then a case transfer should occur. To facilitate the transfer, the transferring district will convene a case planning meeting with the family and the receiving district should attend. The transferring district will develop a case plan, which the receiving district must implement and manage.
In some situations it may be more appropriate, and in the best interests of the child and family, for the case to be transferred to the district where the family has relocated and for this district to complete the assessment.
Once a decision has been made to transfer a child protection concern to another district for intake and/or further assessment, the case is transferred at the earliest possible opportunity to make sure of consistent, effective and efficient service to children and families. The district must take into account the timeframe of 30 calendar days to complete a SWA, and actively manage this.
If a case in duty/intake is to be transferred, a comprehensive duty interaction and/or initial inquiry recording, approved by the team leader, must be completed and approved by the team leader to facilitate the transfer. In these circumstances, a case transfer summary is not required. The transfer will be initiated by the team leader via email and/or a telephone call to the receiving district team leader. Where there are points of contention, attempts to resolve the matter at a local level must have been tried through a telephone call between the team leaders, before it is elevated to the assistant district director.
Transient and highly mobile families
In relation to a highly mobile family, case transfer can occur when the family is settled in the new region. A highly mobile family is deemed to be settled in a new region if family members have resided there for a period of 12 weeks and have stated an intention to remain in the area. This is regardless of the nature of their accommodation and the date on which they made contact with the Department.
A case transfer cannot occur where the family is in temporary accommodation due to its short-term nature. Short-term accommodation could include a refuge or short-term emergency housing. Transitional housing or caravan parks are not considered temporary accommodation because families can use them for significant periods.
If the family does not have a history of being highly mobile, the case should be transferred at the earliest possible opportunity to provide consistent, effective and efficient service to the child and family. In these circumstances, there is no requirement to impose a minimum residence period.
For children in the CEO's care who are in a stable care arrangement, consideration must be given to transferring the case to the district office where the child resides. A co-worker should be provided by the district office where the parents live.
All case transfers should be determined on the best interests of the child and consideration given to any negative, unintended consequences, which could result from the transfer not being expedited, such as delaying the reunification of children with their parents.
Before requesting a case transfer
The following case planning actions must be undertaken prior to transferring a case:
When a case transfer is delayed because the timing for transfer is not appropriate or administrative tasks are not complete, co-work support/services can be sought in the short term from the district in which the family resides.
Responsibilities of the transferring district
The child protection worker must complete the following administrative requirements before the case transfer:
Once the transfer has been formally accepted, the child protection worker must send the Child History Folder and any archived paper files to the receiving district.
A child who is placed in a metropolitan residential care home or high needs care arrangement that is outside of their case management district will continue to be managed by that district and cannot be transferred.
Where a country district is managing the case, a referral for support should be made to the country liaison officer and/or a request for co-work to the paired district.
If a metropolitan district is managing the case, they must provide comprehensive case management for the child and not request co-working.
When a child in the CEO's care relocates to another state, territory or New Zealand, a request for ongoing casework assistance must be considered. To request casework assistance from another state, child protection workers must complete Form 904 Request for Interstate Casework Assistance from WA and forward it to the WA ILO via WAInterstateLiaison@communities.wa.gov.au with a copy of the child's Care Plan.
For more information refer to Chapter 3.4: Interstate and New Zealand liaison
It is expected that the need for a dispute resolution process will be rare.
Whilst a request is being disputed, a child protection response must continue for all cases, this includes new referrals and children in the CEO's care.
If there is a dispute over a case transfer or request for co-working or services, or shared case management, the following process should occur:
The dispute resolution process, from initiation of the request by the referring district to final arbitration, should take no longer than ten working days and, ideally, be resolved much earlier.
Child protection workers must review and evaluate the circumstances of the case and the work undertaken before a case is closed. The case closure process includes people who had significant involvement with the case. Child protection workers should consider:
A case closure should include the following information:
Case closure where it has not been possible to conduct or complete a SWA
The decision that the Department is unable to undertake or complete the SWA must be made after reasonable efforts have been attempted to locate the child and/or the family. Strategies attempted should be documented on the Objective file, and may include:
If the family cannot be located, a Local Alert should be placed on Assist indicating an incomplete SWA and requesting the officer contact the relevant district office when the family's location is known so that the assessment can be finalised.
If information is later received that results in the ability to assess a previously incomplete SWA, this should be referenced in the SWA outcome report.
Before closing the 'Case Plan' in Assist, and thus the case itself, child protection workers must close all open items including activities, funding and issues. Select 'Case Plan Closure' from the 'Type' drop down menu in Assist and update the overall goals, decisions and actions before submitting for approval.
After saving all Case Closure reports or documents in the relevant Objective files (case files or Child History File), the files need to be closed.
Child protection workers can refer to the Assist User Guide - Closing a Case Plan (in related resources).