Communities and Justice

Case planning and review

Permanency case planning helps the Department and PSP providers work collaboratively to achieve safety, permanency and wellbeing for vulnerable children – by keeping them with or returning them to family, arranging a permanent legal guardian, supporting open adoption or providing long term care as described in the permanent placement principles (section 10A).

Permanency case planning is a family-led, goal driven process. It includes ongoing conversations and observations with the child, their carers, parents, family/kin and other persons important to them. It helps parents and family/kin make a clear link between specific actions and behaviours and increasing the safety of their child.

For children already in long term care, permanency case planning starts with the child in their placement and considers stability, the child’s wishes, attachment to carers and connection to family/kin. Permanency planning considers how to maintain stability and attachment and connection to family/kin through guardianship and adoption (and long term care). When a child’s placement is no longer meeting their needs, a review of the possibility of restoration may be made as part of considering a child’s permanency options.

Permanency case planning does not occur at a single 'point in time'. However, it begins when the Department:

  • assesses a child is in need of care and protection
  • sets a case plan goal (preservation, restoration, guardianship, adoption or long term care) in line with the legislative and policy framework.

Permanency case planning is facilitated by a PSP provider to:

  • consider a child’s needs, views and wishes – giving the child a voice
  • consider the concerns the Department, the parents, family/kin and other significant persons hold for the child
  • set out actions in partnership with the parents and family, required by the parents, family/kin and carers, to bring about change (if restoration is the case plan goal)
  • identify and resolve barriers to achieving relational, physical, cultural and legal permanency consistent with the legislated child placement principles (section 10A and section 13)
  • put in place a range of supports to help everyone work together to achieve the child’s case plan goal.

See PCMP resource - Checklist: Permanency Case Planning (PDF, 25.5 KB).

Types of case planning and review

Depending on the case plan goal, case planning results in one or more case plans.

For children being assessed for or progressing to restoration, both a Family Action Plan for Change (Family Action Plan) and OOHC case plan are required.

A family’s Family Action Plan and a child’s OOHC case plan are developed and reviewed within statutory and policy timeframes.

A case plan and cultural support plan (for Aboriginal or CALD children) are all developed as part of case planning. If the child turns 15 years of age in care, they require a leaving care plan. See leaving care planning. 

A behavioural support plan (if required) is one section of the case plan and aims to strengthen positive behaviours and reduce and prevent behaviours of concern.

A health management plan* and personalised learning and support plan** are also developed as part of case planning. See OOHC Health and Education pathways.

Providers use ChildStory Partner to report to DCJ the development and review of plans.

See PCMP Resource - List: case planning timeframes (PDF, 21.3 KB) and OOHC Standard 14: Case Planning and Review.

(* Health Management Plan reviews occur every six months for children under the age of five and annually for children aged over five. ** While the minimum review period is once per year, it is recommended that the child’s needs be reviewed once per semester. The annual review is timed with the case plan review, wherever possible.)

Summary of Proposed Plan (SOPP)

The Department is responsible for developing the Summary of Proposed Plan (SOPP) with the child, their parent, family and kin. The SOPP is signed by the Department and PSP provider. The SOPP details the minimum changes the parent will need to achieve to address the child protection concerns. Changes identified in the SOPP can be made by the time the care plan is filed in the Children’s Court.

The Department files the SOPP within two weeks of the first Court mention of the application.

The Department gives a copy of the filed SOPP to the PSP Provider. The PSP Provider ensures the actions set out in the SOPP are linked to the Family Action Plan so both documents align.

DCJ staff see summary of proposed future plan for the child or young person form.

Family Action Plans for Change (Family Action Plan)

A Family Action Plan is developed within 30 days of an interim order being made to support a child’s parents to make meaningful and sustainable change:

  • to keep their child at home (preservation), or 
  • to have the child safely return to their care (restoration). 

The PSP provider organises for the Family Action Plan to be developed (or if there is an existing plan when the child was not in care, updated). The Family Action plan is developed through a family-led process that involves the child, parents, family/kin, community, networks of support and the Department. 

The Family Action Plan identifies family goals and sets out actions, support, responsibilities, timeframes, and the child’s experiences of the changes needed, to keep them safer. 

For a child with a case plan goal of restoration, a Family Action Plan is developed within 30 days of an interim order being made or within 30 days from when the case plan goal is changed to ‘assess restoration’. The Family Action Plan is reviewed every 90 days.  

OOHC case plans

An OOHC case plan is developed within 30 days of the child entering care and an interim order being made. This is to ensure every child in statutory OOHC receives the care and support they need to experience safety, stability, permanency, cultural and family connection and wellbeing. A case plan is a living document, it is developed with the child and their wider circle of family and people who are important in their life.

Case planning for Aboriginal children is developed through Aboriginal family-led decision making. 

PSP providers are able to create the initiating (first) case plan for a child or young person in ChildStory Partner when they have primary case responsibility. Case plans are regularly reviewed by PSP providers in line with legislation, including when a significant change in the placement or other circumstances of the child occurs. At a minimum, case plans are reviewed at least annually. Every child’s case plan development and review are reported to the Department through ChildStory Partner. 

Cultural support plans

PSP providers develop a cultural support plan for children who are Aboriginal and/or culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD). PSP providers collaborate with family and kin to develop a cultural support plan. 

Cultural support plans for Aboriginal children are developed through Aboriginal family-led decision-making.

The cultural support plan is implemented to support Aboriginal and CALD children to build and maintain their culture and identity. It includes opportunities to participate in relevant activities and experiences that meaningfully build or maintain a sense of belonging and identity. 

Cultural support plans are regularly reviewed by PSP providers. A formal review occurs at least every 12 months, usually as part of regular case plan reviews. Cultural support plan development and review is reported to the Department through ChildStory Partner.

Leaving care plans

PSP providers develop a leaving care plan for all young people who are in statutory OOHC for over 12 months, and are 15 years of age, or over. 

Leaving care plans are reviewed regularly. A formal review occurs at least every 12 months. Early plans focus on the young person’s goals and skill development. As the young person approaches 18 years of age, the plan includes after care entitlements and details of who will do what, to provide assistance after they leave care. Every young person’s leaving care plan development and review is reported to the Department through ChildStory Partner. 

See section on leaving care planning.

Participation in decision making

The Family Action Plan and the OOHC case plans are living documents, developed and reviewed with the child, their parents, family/kin, carers, and other people important to them. 

  • This upholds the child’s rights to participate in decision making (sections 9-10). Involving children in decision making allows them to express their own views about their safety, welfare and well-being.
  • It also upholds the rights of Aboriginal children, their families, kinship groups, representative organisations and communities to participate in decision making. Involving Aboriginal people in decision making promotes their self-determination and resilience (section 11 and section 12). 

Aboriginal cultural considerations in permanency case planning

Case planning for an Aboriginal child

Case planning for an Aboriginal child is the practice of meeting the child’s need for safety, stability, and cultural continuity, with a focus on permanency. It ensures proactive efforts are made to achieve restoration, where possible, and safely return the child to their family and community. Where restoration is not possible, ongoing case planning ensures proactive efforts are taken to achieve other types of permanency for the child. Case planning occurs in line with the Aboriginal Case Management Policy and includes:

  • Aboriginal family-led decision making
  • applying an Aboriginal cultural lens to practice with the child, their parents, and family/kin, supported by Aboriginal practitioners (if possible)
  • engaging services designed and delivered by the local Aboriginal community
  • safeguarding the child’s cultural rights to grow up and remain connected to their family/kin (including siblings), culture, community and Country.

Also see Aboriginal family-led decision making (PDF, 554.5 KB) factsheet, Aboriginal Case Planning – Safety, Stability and Cultural Continuity and Note on adoption.

Aboriginal identification

When there is uncertainty or disagreement about a child’s Aboriginality, confirmation is needed to:

  • inform casework and/or placement decisions
  • enable a relevant Court to make appropriate orders.

When uncertainty or disagreement occurs, practitioners seek legal advice, liaise with the nominated unit and consult with the child’s Aboriginal community.

Practitioners then take steps to confirm a child’s Aboriginality, using the following criteria.

An Aboriginal child is:

  •  A child who is descended from an Aboriginal who:
    • is a member of the Aboriginal race of Australia and
    • identifies as an Aboriginal person and
    • is accepted by an Aboriginal community as an Aboriginal person.

This is defined in section 4 of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 (ALRA) and referenced in section 5 of the Care Act 1998 and in section 4 of the Adoption Act 2000.


  • A child who is determined by a Court to be ‘of Aboriginal descent’, that is, descended from the people who lived in Australia before British colonisation.

This is in accordance with the decision in Hackett (a pseudonym) v Secretary, Department of Communities and Justice [2020] in the NSW Court of Appeal. See Hackett: Confirming a child’s Aboriginality fact sheet

Helping determine a child’s Aboriginal identity

The Aboriginal Case Management Policy is applied to help determine a child or their family/kin’s Aboriginal identity. See identification and de-identification of Aboriginal children and young people.

Practitioners help a child and their family/kin determine whether they are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, by exploring each family’s unique history and heritage.

  • Cultural identity is explored over a period of time and through a range of conversations with the child, their parents, family/kin and community members.
  • Be curious about how a child or their family/kin have come to identify as Aboriginal. Make a record of all conversations with an Aboriginal child, their family/kin and community regarding their understanding of their identity.
  • Engage with the child’s mother and father to ensure both the mother’s and father’s cultural background is recorded. When this is not possible, engage with extended family and significant people who know the mother or father.
  • Engage the family in exploring the child’s Aboriginal identity using Aboriginal family-led decision making processes.
  • Gather more information from a child’s Aboriginal community. Help a child or their family/kin talk to local Aboriginal people or relevant Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCO).
  • Where appropriate, refer the child’s family to an Aboriginal organisation that provides culturally sensitive research regarding a person’s Aboriginal history and heritage.
  • Use a genogram or other tools to map Aboriginal lineage. Locate and engage family and kin that can provide background about the child’s Aboriginal identity.

Be aware, due to the historic forced removal of Aboriginal children (the Stolen Generations), and mistrust of the child protection system and its treatment of Aboriginal peoples, some Aboriginal people:

  • may be reluctant to self-identify as Aboriginal
  • may not have the information or records necessary to satisfy all criteria of the three-point test.

Do not make assumptions about Aboriginal identity or record a child’s or person’s Aboriginal identity as not Aboriginal as a default position.

Practitioners do not record a child or person’s Aboriginal culture or indigenous status based on the unsubstantiated opinion of another person. Instead, they make their own enquires to determine whether a child or person may be Aboriginal.

If a practitioner needs support in helping a family explore their cultural identity, an Aboriginal consultation can be arranged to help the family form links within their community. This can also help when the child’s cultural identity needs further exploring, or if there are complex issues to be considered.

Collaborating in preservation case planning

Case planning and review for a child with a case plan goal of preservation is guided by the PSP Family Preservation Program (PDF, 754.4 KB) framework.

Last updated:

11 Oct 2023