A case plan must include clear outcomes, goals, and tasks designed to facilitate positive changes for the child and family. Positive outcomes indicate that safety and risk threats have been reduced due to changes in the behaviors or conditions that contributed to the child’s maltreatment and the effects of the child maltreatment, and should address issues related to four domains.
- Child-level outcomes focus on changes in behavior; development; mental health, including emotional well-being; physical health; peer relationships; and education, including, for example, improved behavior control.
- Parent or caregiver outcomes center on many areas, such as improved mental health functioning, problem-solving ability, impulse control, and parenting skills, including, for example, improved child management skills as evidenced by establishing and consistently following through with developmentally appropriate rules and limits for children.
- Family outcomes concentrate on issues such as roles and boundaries, communication patterns, and social support, including, for example, enhanced family maintenance and safety as evidenced by the ability to meet members’ basic needs for food, clothing, shelter, and supervision.
- Environmental outcomes focus on the environmental factors contributing to the maltreatment, such as social isolation, housing issues, or neighborhood safety (addressed, for example, by using the social support offered by family connections to a church).
Success across each of these domains requires a clear understanding of goals that indicate the specific changes needed to accomplish those outcomes. To be effective, goals should be SMART:
Additionally, each goal should clearly indicate the positive behaviors or conditions that will result from the change and not merely highlight the negative behaviors to be changed.
To help families understand what is expected of them and what they can expect from the caseworker and other service providers, each goal should be broken down into small, meaningful, and incremental tasks. These tasks should:
- Include the specific services and interventions needed to help the family achieve the goals and outcomes
- Describe what the children, family, caseworker, and other service providers will do
- Identify timeframes for accomplishing each task
In developing these tasks, caseworkers should also be aware of the availability and accessibility of services, considering issues such as target populations served by a provider, specializations, eligibility criteria, waiting lists, and fees for services. Caseworkers can then determine the most appropriate services available to help the family achieve its tasks.
As an example of how goals and tasks work together to support positive outcomes, consider the example of developing effective child management skills as a positive outcome. A reasonable goal for that outcome might be that the parents will work with the caseworker or a community-based service provider to set specific, age-appropriate expectations for their children. A task supporting that goal might then be to identify those components of the child’s behavior that are most difficult for them to manage and the disciplinary techniques they can use to help him or her control his behavior.