Protective intervention phase - advice

This advice provides additional information about the protective intervention phase.

Document ID number 2041, version 2, 1 March 2016.

Introduction

See procedure Protective intervention for tasks that must be undertaken.

Child protection is responsible for preparing a case plan addressing the protective intervention needed where a report of child abuse or neglect is substantiated. The protective intervention phase therefore follows the substantiation decision.

The protective intervention phase has the following functions, given that protective concerns have been substantiated:

  • Commence and continue case planning while the case remains in this phase.
  • Implement the case plan by working with the family towards the permanency objective for the child, and to address the protective concerns wherever possible.
  • Where the family is willing to co-operate and it is assessed that there is a reasonable prospect of resolving protective concerns in a reasonable period of time, work with the family by agreement. A court order is not required to support this intervention.
  • Monitor the safety and development of the child and whether any court action is required.
  • Where court action is initiated, manage the process and administer the order as required.

The role of the practitioner during protective intervention phase

During this phase the practitioner works to engage the family in a partnership including other agencies and professionals as required, to plan and act to intervene in response to the identified protective concerns. A case plan for the child is developed, and arrangements for review are made when required, by the child protection practitioner in consultation with the child, the parents and other relevant parties. The case plan must include a permanency objective (s. 167 CYFA) and all significant decisions made concerning the child. The associated actions table clearly sets out the goals and tasks required to address the protective concerns and implement the case plan.  See procedure Case plan preparation and review for tasks that must be undertaken.

Where a protection application has been issued

See procedure Court for tasks that must be undertaken.

Protective intervention without a protection application

The purpose of protective intervention without a protection application is to:

  • identify the appropriate permanency objective for the child and prepare a case plan
  • complete any further assessment needed regarding the capacity of the parents to protect the child from harm in the future, meet the child’s developmental needs, and provide for their care and wellbeing
  • work with the family and others to provide the widest possible assistance to address the impacts of harm and enable the parents to demonstrate and address any issues with their capacity to prevent future harm without the need for court intervention and,
  • assess progress towards the permanency objective; monitor and assess risk, and if the child is in need of court ordered protection at any time, initiate a protection application.

In these cases, the practitioner will:

  • engage the family in developing a case plan for the child and the actions table to specify what will happen to address the protective concerns and implement the case plan
  • monitor progress towards the permanency objective and implementation of the case plan
  • manage collaborative working relationships with the family, community-based agencies and other professionals.

Duration of protective intervention without a protection application

Following the substantiation of protective concerns, a case plan for the child is to be prepared.

The initial maximum timeframe allowed for protective intervention without a protection application, is 90 days from receipt of the report. The supervisor and practitioner will support and monitor the implementation of the case plan, and undertake a review within 90 days of progress towards the permanency objective.

Extension of protective intervention beyond 90 days

If after 90 days, further intervention is required to achieve the permanency objective and implement the case plan, but legal intervention is unnecessary, the period of protective intervention may be extended for up to a further 60 days with the approval of the team manager.

An extended period of protective intervention beyond 90 days (up to 120 days) may be approved by a team manager, if they determine that:

  • the parents have demonstrated some capacity and willingness to ensure the child's safety and development, and provide for their care and wellbeing, and
  • further time limited protective intervention is likely to resolve the identified protective concerns without the need for court ordered intervention.

Extension of protective intervention beyond 120 days

If after 120 days, further protective intervention is likely to be sufficient to resolve the protection concerns without the need for court ordered intervention, the period of protective intervention may be extended for up to a further 30 days (to 150 days) with the approval of the area manager.

An extended period of protective intervention beyond 120 days may be approved by an area manager, if they determine that:

  • implementation of the case plan as specified in the actions table is progressing and
  • the parents are demonstrating the capacity and willingness to ensure the child's safety and development, and provide for their care and wellbeing, and
  • further time limited protective intervention is likely to resolve protective concerns without the need for court ordered intervention.

The decision to extend must have a clear rationale and the actions table must specify goals, tasks and timelines to be completed during the period of intervention to achieve the permanency objective. The case plan must be reviewed by the relevant supervisor in supervision every 14 days until the protective concerns are addressed.

Extension of protective intervention beyond 150 days

If the matter remains undetermined, that is without a protection application or closure, after 150 days, the child protection operations manager must be consulted and determine the future direction of case management.

For children and families involved in a period of further protective intervention where harm or the risk of harm has been substantiated, the purpose of further intervention is to:

  • improve and support the capacity of the parents to protect the child in the future, in terms of their safety and developmental needs, and provide for their future care and wellbeing, and
  • work intensively with the family to provide them with the widest possible assistance to address the impacts of past harm and demonstrate parenting capacity to prevent future harm and avoid the need for court ordered intervention.

During protective intervention

Throughout protective intervention the practitioner will continue to monitor and assess children's needs and parental capacity, to make judgments about the types of assistance that should be provided to a family, and protection that should be offered to the child.

Families should be engaged in the assessment wherever possible. With the family's agreement, much information can be gathered that will assist in forming a picture of circumstances and the general functioning of the family. When conducting assessments during protective intervention it is important to gain understanding of:

  • relationships between family members and anyone else in the household (consider the intensity of relationship between the primary caregiver and their adult partner)
  • the child's age and level of functioning and development, behaviour management and child rearing practices
  • interactions between the parents and children
  • interactions between siblings
  • the family's strengths and resources
  • access to supportive family members and other relatives or friends
  • willingness of the family to use community services and supports
  • religious, racial, cultural and linguistic considerations
  • the child and family's perceptions of protective concerns
  • solutions the whole family has already tried
  • willingness and capacity to change
  • capacity of parents to accept responsibility for circumstances and to prioritise their child's needs
  • impact of migration or refugee processes
  • stresses within the family
  • the impact of poverty or environmental disadvantage (for example social isolation)

If information during assessments is collected in a consistent and systematic way, it can be objective, and with periodic reassessment, permit the family and practitioners to assess change in family behaviour and the influence of interventions, services and supports.

Case planning during protective intervention

A case plan will be developed at substantiation for each child in this phase. The plan sets out the plan for the child and the accompanying actions table articulates the changes required to be made by the family to address the protective concerns, meet the permanency objective and meet the child’s longer term safety and development needs. The actions table plan should also clearly set out ongoing monitoring, assessment and review arrangements.

This is consistent with the decision-making principles of the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 (CYFA) (s. 11), which state that:

  • wherever practicable, decisions are to be reached by collaboration and consensus
  • the child and all relevant family members (except if their participation would be detrimental to the safety or wellbeing of the child) should be encouraged and given adequate opportunity to participate fully in the planning process.

Therefore the case plan should be developed in partnership with the child and family. Informal meetings and discussions with the immediate and extended family and relevant professionals may be sufficient. Convening of a Family-led Decision Making meeting should occur for all Aboriginal children, and may be preferable where available, in many other cases. A more formal meeting chaired by the case planner may be arranged if this will assist the parents and any other individuals critical to the case plan to come together, or where agreement cannot be reached otherwise, or where requested.

See procedure Case planning for tasks that must be undertaken.

Aboriginal family-led decision making

ACSASS must be consulted about case planning for an Aboriginal child and unless a family objects, invited to participate in meetings and processes to prepare the case plan.

A referral to the Aboriginal Family-led Decision Making program is required within 24 hours of substantiating protective concerns for an Aboriginal child. The additional decision-making principles of the CYFA require practitioners to provide members of the Aboriginal community to which the child belongs and other respected Aboriginal persons with an opportunity to contribute their views to case planning and decisions

The participation of extended family and community members in case planning processes can occur through Aboriginal Family-led Decision Making. See procedure Case planning for Aboriginal children for tasks that must be undertaken.

Ending the protective intervention phase

The protective intervention phase ceases when:

  • a protection order is made by the Children's Court; or
  • the Court does not make an order, either because the application is dismissed or withdrawn; or
  • the practitioner assesses that there is no further risk of significant harm to a child and the case planner determines it can be closed.

Considerations for good practice

Engaging family members

Engaging families in identifying and responding to protective concerns is critical to the effectiveness of protective intervention. Social isolation is a major indicator and precipitant of vulnerability. Extended family and other social supports can help to strengthen families, promote resilience and reduce risks to a child.

The child's views and wishes should also be taken into account in the case plan and decision making.

Critical decisions about the need for protective involvement with a family should not be based only on apparent cooperation by the parents. Parental cooperation, including acceptance of support services, should not be assumed to guarantee the child's safety and wellbeing, especially in a context of serious harm or risk of harm. Parents may articulate a willingness to cooperate that is not evidenced in their actions or behaviour. Parents' agreement may also be indicative of their desire to avoid more formal and intrusive court based intervention.

The child development and trauma guide will assist practitioners in assessing the impacts of abuse and neglect on a child’s development and in making judgments about appropriate protective action.

Additional information

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