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Introduction

Child protection is a paramount concern for any society, and ensuring the safety and well-being of children is an overarching priority (Children and Young People (Safety) Act 2017, SA; Fernandez, 2021). This report provides a comprehensive summary of a case management process that unfolded over six weeks of group work, focusing on a hypothetical scenario that was brought to the attention of Child Protective Services. The case revolves around a report submitted by Lai, a ten-year-old girl, regarding the safety of her younger sister, Alida, who is nine years old. This case is complex and is further complicated by the interplay of diverse factors surrounding the parents, Ben and Nancy, and their youngest child Jai. and the family’s engagement with multiple community services. The factors include the impact of family violence and alcoholism, cultural considerations, and the experiences of a disability.

The report commences with the initial case intake, where we will outline the circumstances surrounding Lai's report, highlighting the critical elements that prompted intervention. This report will then delve into the assessment phase, where we explore the factors contributing to Alida's safety concerns. Subsequently, we will discuss the intervention strategies and steps taken to address the situation and safeguard the children. An essential element of this intervention is the inclusion of a case conference and a Family Group Conference (FGC), emphasizing a collaborative, child centre and family-centred approach (Barn & Das, 2015). As the case management process unfolds, we will examine the termination phase, reflecting on the achievements and challenges encountered during the intervention. Finally, the report will conclude with an evaluation of the entire process, assessing the effectiveness of the intervention strategies employed.
This case management summary report emphasises the need of a well-coordinated and child-centred approach to child protection, which places a strong emphasis on collaboration between child protective services, the family, and other relevant authorities, to ensure the safety, wellbeing, and holistic development of the children involved.

Intake

During the intake phase, the Department for Child protection (DCP) need to follow the steps outlined in the Manuel of Practice. (DCP, 2023) There are 3 main steps that a Department for Child Protection worker needs to follow which are: “gather information, review past child protection history and record the information and advise the call centre.” When a DCP worker is gathering information, they need to ensure it is detailed and include information about the young person, their family, issues of concern and the involvement of services. For the purpose of this essay, the DCP social worker has identified primary services including domestic violence, hospital and a primary school. A social worker from each service was invited to attend a meeting and discuss the intake further.

The meeting was held in a meeting room at the Department for Child protection office to ensure confidentiality of the discussion. The main risk that was discussed was the injuries and possible neglect that Alida was sustaining and why she was identified as the only target. Other risks identified were the vulnerability of the children due to their young age, one of the children having a disability and excessive alcohol consumption.

One of the biggest considerations about the violence that was discussed was the cultural background of the mother being Chinese-Australian. In Chinese culture it is very common for parents to use harsh discipline on their children. (Xing, X Et. al, 2017) while this is not acceptable in Australia, it needs to be addressed through educating the parents and possibly involving cultural services.

The CARL report was missing a lot of detailed information which was needed to properly assess the risk, particularly because it is from a child’s perception and understanding, are the words they use correct. For example, when describing the mother as an alcoholic, what is the child’s understanding of an alcoholic? how much alcohol is the mother consuming? Or the relationship between the parents the report states that they “attend relationship counselling due to their fighting”. What does the fighting look like? i.e. physical, verbal. It would also be important to have more of an understanding of their living arrangement and any other cultural information.

Due to the limited information, the child protection risk was deemed a low level at the time of intake. The Department for Child Protection will do a comprehensive assessment to gather further information and ensure there is measures in place to minimise future harm and violence withing the family home.

Assessment

The assessment stage of this case took place at the Department for Child Protection (DCP) Noarlunga office. Present at the meeting was the lead social worker within DCP, the school social worker, a representative from a local domestic violence centre, and the social worker from the hospital Alida had received treatment from. The purpose of the assessment was to gather information from all notifications made to the department and then gather accounts and further information from all present stakeholders. From this, the degree and extent of harm would initially be able to be identified through common themes and key issues present (Australian Institute of Families, 2017).

Through a multidisciplinary approach, a risk and safety assessment were utilised to highlight the risk factors that were present (Moore, 2016). This then allowed an assessment of how likely they were to re-occur and what protective factors were present within the family and wider community. A wider focus on the children’s socio-emotional wellbeing was also present through a child wellbeing assessment, as was the developmental stages of all children present in the case, considered (Fernandez & Delfabbro, 2020). Analysing the social and emotional support network of both parents allowed for an assessment of the close and extended family members (Connolly & Katz, 2019). The indicators of concern and present risk factors were.

  • On going physical and emotional abuse directed at Alida by Mother
  • On-going exposure to both family and domestic violence
  • Physical injuries on child that required medical attention
  • Consistent and on-going exposure to excessive alcohol abuse The ongoing risks and dangers present were.
  • Possibility of further and on-going serious physical injuries with the possibility of death
  • On-going health and developmental impacts on children
  • Possibility of psychological problems and post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Areas for further discussion/more information and complicating factors were;
  • Cultural factors, is this behaviour possibly within the norms of punishment.
  • Family identifies as Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander- high risk of intergenerational trauma (Calma et al., 2017).
  • The Father’s work being away from the family home and therefore lack of Father’s presence.

The demonstrated protective factors and safety within the case were identified as;

  • The family has shown they are able to access support services relevant to their needs.

  • Children have previously been able to access medical treatment for injuries.

  • Grandmother is present as a protective factor, who has demonstrated she is trying to assist as much as possible.

The multidisciplinary team put in place both short term safety goals, and long-term goals for both the children, Mother and Father.

Immediate

  • Safety and risk assessment of the family home and living conditions.
  • Explore other kinship options/ what other family supports are there?
  • Possibility of short-term emergency placement with Grandma.

Short and long term

  • Facilitate a family group conference (FGC), ensuring the family feel like they are present and involved in the decision-making process and building the strength of the family through the required services.
  • Ensure safety plan for family has been written. This is to include what support services the parents are accessing, and ensuring the house is in a liveable condition.
  • Full paediatric assessment for physical and developmental needs and concerns.

Family group conference

Family group conferences (FGC) in child protective services, are structured preventative meetings which involve all family, professionals, and stakeholders involved in the safeguarding of children who have been deemed at risk (Barn & Das, 2015; Fernandez, 2021). The FGC model, which was initially developed in response to the overrepresentation of Māori children in New Zealand’s child welfare system, has been customised to offer a comprehensive and culturally inclusive approach. These adaptations aim to be more inclusive in its considerations and provide equitable outcomes for disproportionately represented Indigenous communities (Barn & Das, 2015; Fernandez, 2021).

Working under the Children and Young People (Safety) Act 2017, these conferences provide space for the immediate and extended family, the child protection team, and any other services involved with the children to cooperate and ensure all matters regarding the safe planning of the child, or children, are presented and considered throughout the assessment and planning process (Barn & Das, 2015). The conference is then used to assist the team in formulating strategies, interventions, and action plans to ensure a coordinated response is completed to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the child.

This conference was held at a local community centre and bought together Alida, her siblings Lai and Jai, parents Nancy and Ben, grandmother, and the social work professionals from the local hospital, the department of child protection, the domestic violence service, and the education department. The conference began with a brief overview of the current Intervention Plan and further discussion regarding any new information. The hospital social worker advised that there have been no further admissions at the hospital. Due to Jai’s disability, which puts him at increased risk of abuse, further reporting and documentation has been commenced with NDIS to request further information and support services for the family such as respite care to relieve stress (Barn & Das, 2015). The education department deemed the children to be still at an increased risk, however school attendance has increased but this is to be observed as an ongoing measure. The domestic violence services reported that there were no further reports of violence or abuse incidences made by either parent. However, the social worker advised that safety and risk planning was being conducted as an ongoing activity. Also, the service has acknowledged that continuous reflection has taken place to ensure that the services offered are culturally accessible to them and are further seeking input from Nancy and Ben. The department of child protection advise that they now feel the safety risk should be lowered due to the family being responsive to change, accessing services and the low number of reports submitted.

Further discussion and input were sought from all the family, including the children, which adopted a child-centred and strength-based approach (Barn & Das, 2015; Fernandez, 2021). The children advised the were happy their dad was home and they felt safe to stay at home. Ben and Nancy assured all members that they intended to continue to attend referred services and act within the best interest of the children, and the grandmother advised she would continue to aid and care for the family when required. The social work team concluded that all members should continue to provide support and services to the family as required, but the case was to be considered low-risk and conferences could be help 6 monthly as a preventative practice without further immediate attention at this stage.

5) Termination

After the family group conference (FCG), the decision was made to close this case.
The decision was based on a family assessment conducted on both Ben and Nancy and a child wellbeing assessment conducted on all three children.

The multidisciplinary team used the Family Assessment Form, by McCroskey, Sladen, & Meezan, 1997 (Meezan & O'Keefe, 1998). The outcome us this assessment centred around the findings of the caregiver and child relationship questionnaire.
The executive functioning capacity of each parent was deemed as strong, on the provision that the parents continue to access services and no further notifications were made to the Department of Child Protection.

A child wellbeing assessment was conducted on Alida, Lai and Jai. The child behaviour checklist (CBCL)(Siddons & Lancaster, 2004) was utilised in this case. The outcome of this showed that the children were happy and excited at the prospect of staying within the family home. As mentioned in the FCG, the children were happy that their Dad (Ben) was home and that they expressed no further safety concerns being at home.

The school social worker has advised that they will continue to keep Alida, Jai and Lai on through a case management perspective, allowing the children a safe space to talk if any further issues were to arise

The hospital social worker has advised that their input is no longer required, however, if they see any of the children in the hospital space again, to pass this information along and make the necessary notifications.

Department of Child Protection will continue communication with the family and have agreed to continue family group conferences every 6 months.
All members of the team involved in this case have recommended that communication and regular check-ins, within their own professional space continue.

References

Barn, R., & Das, C. (2015). Family group conferences and cultural competence in social work. British Journal of Social Work, 46(4), 942–959. https://doi.org/10.1093/bjsw/bcu105
Children and Young People (Safety) Act 2017 (SA), https://www.legislation.sa.gov.au/__legislation/lz/c/a/children%20and%20young%20people%20(safety)%20act%202017/current/2017.25.auth.pdf
Fernandez, E. (2021). Child Protection and the Care Continuum: Theoretical, Empirical and Practice Insights. Taylor & Francis Group
Australian Institute of Families. (2017). Risk and protective factors for child abuse and neglect. https://aifs.gov.au/resources/policy-and-practice-papers/risk-and-protective-factors-child-abuse-and-neglect
Calma, T., Dudgeon, P., & Bray, A. (2017). Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social and Emotional Wellbeing and Mental Health. Australian Psychologist, 52(4), 255-260. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1111/ap.12299
Connolly, M., & Katz, I. (2019). Typologies of Child Protection Systems: An International Approach. Child abuse review (Chichester, England : 1992), 28(5), 381-394. https://doi.org/10.1002/car.2596
Fernandez, E., & Delfabbro, P. (2020). Child Protection and the Care Continuum : Theoretical, Empirical and Practice Insights. Taylor & Francis Group. http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/flinders/detail.action?docID=6383618
Moore, E. (2016). Defining the ‘Case’ to be ‘Managed’ in Services for Children at Risk of Harm and their Families Oxford University Press.

Meezan, W., & O'Keefe, M. (1998). Multifamily Group Therapy: Impact on Family Functioning and Child Behavior. Families in Society, 79(1), 32-44. https://doi.org/10.1606/1044-3894.1796
Siddons, H., & Lancaster, S. (2004). An Overview of the Use of the Child Behavior Checklist within Australia. Australian Council for Educational Research.

Fernandez, E., & Delfabbro, P. (Eds.). (2020). Child protection and the care continuum: Theoretical, empirical and practice insights. Taylor & Francis Group.
Heward-Belle, S., & Tsantefski, M. (Eds.). (2023). Working with Families Experiencing Vulnerability: A Partnership Approach. Cambridge University Press.
Travers, Á., McDonagh, T., Cunningham, T., Armour, C., & Hansen, M. (2021). The effectiveness of interventions to prevent recidivism in perpetrators of intimate partner violence: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Clinical Psychology Review, 84, 101974.

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