Case Planning

Case planning addresses the contributing factors that have led to the abuse and/or neglect of the child. Case plans should provide a clear and specific guide for the caseworker and the family in order to change individuals' behaviors and the conditions that negatively influence safety, risk, and family functioning.

Information obtained through the Family Assessment informs what changes need to occur via case planning in order to resolve safety threats, reduce risk, and/or to enhance child well-being. A Family Assessment must be completed prior to the development of a case plan, except for Deserted Child, Emancipated Youth, or Permanent Surrender cases.

Case plans must be developed when services are provided to the child and one of the following occurs:

  • In-home supportive services have been agreed upon by the parent.
  • The court requests the PCSA to prepare a case plan when the child and his/her parent, guardian, or custodian do not attend a detention or shelter care hearing and the complaint alleged that a child was an abused, neglected, or dependent child.
  • The PCSA files a complaint pursuant to 2151.27 of the Revised Code alleging that the child is an abused, neglect, or dependent child.
  • The PCSA has court ordered temporary custody or permanent custody of the child.
  • The court orders the PCSA to provide protective supervision for a child living in his/her own home.
  • The court orders the PCSA to place a child in a planned permanent living arrangement.

The PCSA shall develop and complete the case plan within thirty (30) days based upon whichever of the following occurs first:

  • The agreement for in-home supportive services;
  • The date the complaint was filed;
  • The date the child was first placed away from his/her own home; or
  • Prior to the adjudicatory hearing.

When sufficient information is not available to complete the case plan, the PCSA should specify in the case plan the additional information which needs to be obtained in order to complete the case plan and the steps that will be taken to obtain missing information. In this situation, the agency is provided an additional 30 days to complete the case plan.

Engaging the Family in Case Planning

Developing a helping relationship with abused and neglected children and their families is critical to changing the conditions or patterns of behavior that contributed to maltreatment or risk thereof. A family-centered approach to engaging the family may increase their readiness and ability to change. By involving families in the processes of family assessment, case planning, and service delivery, family are more likely to be receptive to service provision. When families are able to identify strengths and problems in their family functioning, they may contribute more to their own growth and can make more productive changes.

Techniques for Building Rapport(47)

  • Approach each individual involved with an open mind.
  • Find out what is important to the child and to the family.
  • Use mirroring. Take note of words used by the child or family and try to incorporate them into the conversations.
  • Listen to the child or parent's explanation of the situation without correcting or arguing.
  • Ask questions rather than issue threats or commands.
  • Clarify expectations and purposes. Clearly explain the helping process and the caseworker's role in working together toward solutions.
  • Help the child and parent or caretaker retain a sense of control.
  • Clarify commitment and obligations to the working relationship.
  • Acknowledge difficult feelings and encourage open and honest discussion of feelings.
  • Be consistent, persistent, and follow through.
  • Promote participatory decision-making for meeting needs and solving problems.

Engaging the Resistant Client(48)

Due to the involuntary nature of the majority of PCSA cases, it is not unusual for families to resist offers of help. Resistance is a normal and predictable response when people feel forced to change. Caseworkers should not personalize resistance. To deal with resistance effectively, caseworkers should first change their perspective of resistance and try to see the behavior as a potential strength. How the caseworker responds to resistance is crucial in avoiding continued abuse or escalation of inappropriate behavior.

Engaging families while avoiding resistance:

  • Be clear, honest, and direct. Keep an open mind. Caseworkers should maintain a non-defensive stance.
  • Acknowledge the involuntary nature of the arrangement. Caseworkers should explain the structure and content of intervention to the children and family.
  • Be matter of fact and non-defensive in explaining the legal authority that permits intervention. Caseworkers should not get into a debate about authority; instead caseworkers should state what their authority is and what legal recourse the children and family may have to challenge it .
  • Contact children and families in a manner that is courteous and respectful, and assesses strengths as well as risks.
  • Elicit the parent's concerns and wishes for assistance and convey understanding of the parent's viewpoint, including reservations about PCSA's involvement.
  • Reduce the children's and family's opposition to interaction by clarifying available choices, even when choices are constrained, by emphasizing freedoms still available and by avoiding labeling.
  • Earn the respect of the children and family (and gain psychological influence) by being a good listener who strives to understand their point of view.
  • Respect the right of the children and family to express values and preferences different from those of the caseworker.
  • Acknowledge difficult feelings and encourage open and honest discussion of feelings.
  • Reframe the family's situation. This is particularly useful when the children and family are making arguments that deny a safety threat, risk contributor or other need or problem; it acknowledges their statements, but offers a new meaning or interpretation for them. The children's and family's information is recast into a new form and viewed in a new light that is more likely to be helpful and support change.

Developing the Case Plan

Case planning has five permanency planning goal options:

  • Maintain child in his/her own home; prevent removal
  • Return child to his/her own parent/guardian/or custodian
  • Placement of a child in a planned permanent living arrangement, excluding adoption
  • Independent living
  • Adoption

Regardless of the method of involving the family, both the family and caseworker must decide which risk contributors identified in the family assessment should be addressed through the provision of services. Interventions intended to resolve safety threats should be prioritized first, with decreasing risk contributors next, followed by increasing well-being. Family strengths should also be identified and utilized to assist families in addressing needs within the family system. Strengths can help counterbalance the effects of the concerns and can provide a stronger foundation for the ongoing stabilization of the family system.

A well written Case Plan is one that is tailored to the family's needs. It should be family-friendly, meaning that the caseworker writing the Case Plan takes into account the family's unique qualities (e.g., reading ability, intellectual difficulties). It must clearly promote an understanding of the behavioral changes the family is expected to make, how they are expected to make these changes, and how the family and agency will know the expected changes have been made.

Each expected change/service should identify the following:

  • Specific behaviors or conditions that need to change
  • Service activities for facilitating change
  • Agency/Caseworker role in assisting family make identified changes
  • Methods, standards, and/or criteria for measuring progress regarding change
  • Points in time when progress will be measured

The behavior changes identified in the case plan that need to occur to address safety and reduce risk, should be:

  • Strength-based
  • Concrete
  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Culturally sensitive

Once the case plan has been completed, the parent, guardian, or custodian and other parties, such as the guardian ad litem (GAL) or court-appointed special advocate (CASA) shall sign the case plan and copies shall be provided to all parties to the case plan.

The appendix of this manual contains a "Case Plan Task List." This task list is a tool which may be used with families during home visits or other contacts to assist in the completion of the case plan activities. It involves the identification of specific tasks and the responsible person(s) and expected completion dates of each assigned task.

Amending the Case Plan

The case plan must be amended if any of the following occur:

  • The conditions of the child and his/her parent, guardian, or custodian, or pre-finalized adoptive parent change and the changes affect the provision of supportive services;
  • There are changes in the goals for the child and/or changes family members need to address to alleviate concerns;
  • The child needs to be placed in a substitute care setting, returned to his/her parent, guardian, or custodian or pre-finalized adoptive parent, or moved to another substitute care setting;
  • The child has attained the age of sixteen (16) and programs and life skill services will be offered, if appropriate;
  • A change in the visitation plan for a child in substitute care needs to be made;
  • Relevant factors within the parent, guardian, or custodian, or pre-finalized adoptive parent's environment are identified by the PCSA; or
  • A party must be added or deleted from the case plan.

The agency must seek agreement to implement the amended case plan by obtaining signatures of the parent, guardian, or custodian and/or other parties to the case plan. If agreement cannot be obtained, the PCSA shall follow procedures as outlined in Ohio Administrative Code rules 5101:2-38-01 and 5101:2-38-05.

Supplemental or Concurrent Planning

Concurrent planning or supplemental planning (the term Ohio uses) means that the agency is working toward family reunification, while at the same time establishing an alternative permanency plan to be implemented if children cannot safely return to their biological parents. (49) The primary plan is to get children and parents back together. However, at the same time, there is an alternative plan for the child to live in another permanent home in case the child cannot return to his/her own family. (50)