Family Group Meetings (“FGMs”)

Introduction

A Family Group Meeting (“FGM”)  to make a case plan has to be held before a child protection order can be made.

The purpose is to develop a written plan for meeting the child’s protection and care needs with input from parent/s and the child’s family. This is required to be updated regularly.

Who can go to a case planning meeting?

The meeting will have a convenor, who is responsible for ensuring that the meeting takes place fairly. The convenor must give the following people a reasonable opportunity to attend and participate:

  • The child, unless it would be inappropriate because of the child’s age or ability to understand;
  • The child’s parents;
  • A support person for the child or the parents;
  • Other members of the child’s family the convenor considers likely to make a useful contribution;
  • Other persons with whom the child has a significant relationship, such as a carer;
  • Any legal representative of the child;
  • The Recognised Entity;
  • The Public Guardian;
  • Anyone else the convenor considers likely to make a useful contribution.

The requirement to allow these persons to attend the meeting applies whether or not the parents agree.

If the convenor is satisfied that a person’s attendance or participation would be contrary to the purpose of the meeting or not in the child’s best interest, then the convenor is not required to invite the person.

What things must Child Safety Services do before a meeting?

  • Tell invitees that it will be a case-planning meeting.
  • Inform the invitees that the child is a child in need of protection.
  • Outline the child’s assessed risks and assessed needs.
  • Provide details of the proposed meeting including day, time, and venue.
  • Provide opportunities for attendees to identify issues.
  • Get the views of people who can’t come to the meeting.

A written plan comes from a meeting and may include:

  • A goal or goals to be achieved.
  • Living arrangements.
  • Services to be provided.
  • Matters for which Child Safety Services will be responsible.
  • Matters for which a parent or carer will be responsible.
  • Contact with parents/child’s family group.
  • Health matters, such as the creation of a child health passport.
  • Education matters, such as where the child is going to do to school or an ‘education support plan’.
  • Arrangements for maintaining ethnic and cultural identity.
  • A proposed date to review the plan.

What is a child health passport?

The child health passport refers to a process, as well as a document.

The child health passport process commences with the collection of a child’s essential health information, when a child is placed in out-of-home care. The child health passport process includes:

  • gathering essential health information about the child
  • preparing the child’s health care file
  • deciding whether a health or dental appraisal or assessment is required
  • arranging a health or dental appraisal or assessment
  • consideration of the involvement of child, parents and carer in the health assessment
  • preparing the child health passport folder
  • arranging required follow up appointments and assessments, if applicable
  • including information about a child’s identified health and dental needs when completing the child’s strengths and needs assessment and developing or reviewing a case plan
  • collecting non-essential health information.

The child health passport is also a folder, containing a copy of relevant documents applicable to the child’s health. It is provided to the child’s carers to enable them to adequately respond to the child’s health needs for the duration of the out-of-home care placement.

What is an Education Support Plan?

In Queensland, every child and young person who is in out-of-home-care and subject to a child protection order that grants guardianship or custody to the Chief Executive (the Director-General of Child Safety Services), and is of compulsory school age or enrolled in a state or non-state school, should have an Education Support Plan.

An Education Support Plan aims to improve the educational experiences and outcomes for a child or young person in out-of-home care. The plan outlines goals, strategies and the accessibility of services and programs that will help children and young people reach their academic potential.

The school principal will finalise an Education Support Plan within one month of a student’s enrolment or from being advised that a child or young person is in out-of-home care. The child or young person should be involved in the development of the plan in a way that is appropriate for their age and development.

The Education Support Plan is a working document and is reviewed and updated as the needs of the child or young person change. It must be reviewed at least once a year or when the child or young person changes school.

Your Child Safety Officer may speak with you prior to meeting with the school, or invite you to attend an Education Support Plan development meeting.

Can the case plan be changed?

Yes, the case plan can be changed within seven days of being developed. It will only be amended if it is in the child’s best interests and the current plan is clearly impracticable. Written notice of the change/s must be given to all of the people who attended the meeting. After seven days, a case plan can be changed by holding a new meeting to develop a new case plan.

You can also tell the Magistrate about your objections to the case plan at a mention of the matter in court and ask the court to order a new family group meeting be held to develop a new case plan.

What happens next?

Copies of the plan must be given to the child (if appropriate given the child’s age and ability to understand), parents, and anyone else who Child Safety Services thinks should get a copy or who is affected by the plan. The case plan must also be explained to the child in a way and to the extent that is reasonable, given the child’s age and ability to understand.

Child Safety Services must support the plan, for example by providing or arranging a service to assist the family.

Most case plans must be reviewed at least every six months. From this review, a report and a revised case plan must be completed.

How often should it be reviewed? Things to look at are: the child’s age and circumstances; nature of arrangements in place under the plan; any problems or potential problems or ways it might be improved; and the length of the order in place.

When developing a case plan towards reunification, the plan may also include back up plans if reunification is unsuccessful and the processes that will be followed.

If you get back a case plan after the meeting and you do not think it is correct, or what was agreed to, then you can write a letter to Child Safety, stating what you think was said and agreed to. This is important as otherwise it is assumed that the plan is correct and it is shown to the court.

Preparation for Family Group Meetings, Court Ordered Conferences and case plan reviews

It is important to prepare for a meeting with Child Safety Services, so that you can help to create a case plan that will work and that is appropriate for your needs and for the child’s needs.

Family group meetings often ask the following questions.

  • What are we worried about?
  • What is going well?
  • What needs to happen (and who needs to do it?)
  • How will we know when we get there?
  • How long will it take to achieve the outcomes? Why?
  • What is the next step?
  • What contact is occurring? Will that increase if things are going well?
  • How often will contact be reviewed?

It is useful to write out each of these questions and write the answers that you would give, and how you think Child Safety Services would answer. Bring your notes to the meeting to help you remember the things that you would like to raise.

Remember, you can take a time out at any time throughout the meeting, especially if you need to think about a Child Safety Services proposal before you agree to it.

What is SCAN?

Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect (SCAN) meetings are held to discuss cases of suspected child abuse and neglect and to make recommendations about how to best assist families keep children safe from harm or risk of harm. Officers from government who have an interest or involvement in the case (such as Child Safety, Health, Education, Queensland Police Service and if relevant, recognised Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander entities) meet together to make recommendations for a child.

The information discussed in these meetings may assist Child Safety Services and their work with families. Whilst the minutes of these meetings are confidential, you can expect your Child Safety Officer to advise you if your family is to be referred to SCAN and to discuss the outcome of these meetings with you.

If you are making a Right to Information Application for information regarding your matter you should also request copies of hand and electronically recorded material from the SCAN meeting.

 

 

 

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The way Child Safety Services works with you – the ‘Framework for Practice’

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