CM Guidelines 101 (1rst Cohort)

The global Case Management Task Force (CMTF) under the Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action welcomes you to the CP Case Management Supervision and Coaching training initiative! 

Learning Outcomes for you as a participant include:

The training is in three mandatory phases:

  1. Pre-training coursework (16 October - 12 November 2017)
  2. In-person five-day regional training (13-17 November 2017)
  3. Three months of technical support following the training (December 2017 – February 2018)

In terms of phase one, the pre-training coursework is composed of:

  1. A pre-learning assessment for the three phases of the training:
  2. CM 101: Introduction to the InterAgency Guidelines on Case Management and Child Protection
  3. CM Supervision: Brief Introduction to Child Protection Case Management Supervision



The purpose of this short course is to provide you with an introduction to the InterAgency Guidelines on Case Management and Child Protection (2014), referred henceforth as the Guidelines. This includes a presentation of the general framework of agreed-upon principles, considerations, steps and procedures for effective child protection case management in line with the Minimum Standards for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action (2012).

Course details:


Credit: This pre-training coursework was developed by Sara Lim Bertrand and Kristen Castrataro. Colleen Fitzgerald, Lauren Steil, Claire Whiting, Leilani Elliott and Iune Baravalle provided invaluable feedback in the development of this coursework.

Introduction to the e-Course

Q&As: Learning platform

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  • How do I submit my work once I am finished? Click on the Submit Results button to finish the course. After that, the course will commence again from the start.
  • Who should I contact if I have other questions related to the pre-training coursework? Ask Sara at


Course Outline

This course is structured in the same way as the Guidelines. There are three main modules:

Module 1: Principles & Practices

This section explores what case management is, in general terms, and the principles that should inform and underpin case management practice. 

Module 2: Implementing Case Management Services

This section considers the main dynamics and factors that should be taken into account when either introducing case management services or seeking to strengthen them. It is primarily aimed at policy makers and programme managers – including child protection advisors and coordinators. 

Module 3: Case Management Steps

This section examines in greater detail the different steps that form the case management process and and covers the key elements to be considered. It is aimed primarily at caseworkers and their supervisors, i.e. those who actually have the day-to-day contact with children and families. It will also be of use to managers and advisors who have responsibility for either establishing or implementing case management responses and supervising caseworkers.

Course Summary

Case management is a way of organising and carrying out work to address an individual child’s (and their family’s) needs in an appropriate, systematic, and timely manner through direct support and/or referrals and in accordance with a project or programme’s objectives. A set of guiding principles informs every aspect of case management to protect the physical and emotional well-being of children and families. In practice, case management is essentially child-focused: the child’s active participation  is essential at every stage of the process according to sound expertise on child development, child rights, and child protection.

Case management services (CMS) can be introduced into a variety of humanitarian and development contexts, but they are not always an appropriate strategy.  Regardless of the context - emergency or development - the priority is on strengthening existing formal and informal systems.  The decision whether or not to introduce CMS is based upon an analysis of external and internal capacities and constraints.  Where CMS is impractical, alternative activities enable agencies to support CMS without embarking upon it themselves. When CMS is applicable, there are four essential elements to consider: vulnerability criteria, human resources, information management, and child safeguarding procedures.

Case management generally follows a cycle of steps to identify and respond to the needs of vulnerable children:  identification/registration, assessment, case planning, implementation, follow-up and review, and case closure.  The child is the focus of this non-linear process and the child has a right to participate in every phase to the fullest extent possible.  A keyworker (generally the caseworker) ideally oversees the entire case management process from registration to closure.  Development of the plan should be based on a needs-led assessment and use whatever combination of direct services and referrals necessary to meet identified needs.  The caseworker’s responsibilities end when the case is either closed or transferred to another agency/department better-positioned to serve the child’s needs. 

Module 1: Principles & Practices

Module 1 Learning Objectives

Learning Objectives

Upon completion, you will be able to:

  • Identify and understand the core steps of the case management process
  • Identify and understand the guiding principles for case management
  • Understand practices essential to case management and recognize their potential impact on children's physical and emotional well-being in context of case management

Module 1 Summary

Case management is a way of organising and carrying out work to address an individual child’s (and their family’s) needs in an appropriate, systematic, and timely manner through direct support and/or referrals and in accordance with a project or programme’s objectives.  The process consists of six Core Steps:  identification and registration of children, assessment, case planning, implementing the case plan, follow-up and review, and case closure.  

A set of guiding principles informs every aspect of case management.  These principles exist to protect the physical and emotional well-being of children and families.  Caseworkers are charged to develop plans that seek to do no harm to children and families and to prioritise the best interests of the child, acknowledging that “perfect” solutions do not always exist in real-world application.  Professional standards of ethics should be adhered to, including the observance of confidentiality and the avoidance of all forms of discrimination.  All children should be asked for informed consent and/or informed assent to an age-appropriate degree.  A system of accountability should be in place both for caseworkers and the agencies providing/coordinating services. 

In practice, case management is essentially child-focused.  Information is communicated in age-appropriate methods with respect to the individual child’s strengths, resilience, and culture.  The child’s active participation is garnered at every stage of the process according to sound teaching on child development, child rights, and child protection.  Coordination and collaboration with relevant agencies and/or service providers is encouraged within professional boundaries (i.e. confidentiality) and with respect to mandatory reporting policies.  

1.1 What is case management?

Learning Objectives

Upon completion, you will be able to:

  • Define case management
  • Summarize when case management is and is not appropriate
  • Identify the key points of case management








  • a way of organising and carrying out work 
  • to address an individual child’s (and their family’s) needs
  • in an appropriate, systematic and timely manner 
  • through direct support and/or referrals
  • in accordance with a project or programme’s objectives

Case management can be provided in humanitarian and development settings to address a range of issues, including child protection concerns. Case management services can be provided as part of programmes that address the needs of children with particular vulnerabilities or risks (such as separation or commercial sexual exploitation) or may be provided as part of programmes or services that address a broader range of child welfare and social protection concerns. Having case management procedures in place can support the quality, consistency, and coordination of services.







  • Appropriate for all circumstances
  • A quick, “easy-fix” solution – it needs well-trained staff supported by appropriate supervision and is often a medium- to long-term work-in-progress

Key Points about Case Management:

  1. Should focus on the needs of an individual child and his/her family, ensuring that concerns are addressed systematically in consideration of the best interests of the child and building upon the child and family’s natural resilience
  2. Should be provided in accordance with the established case management process, with each case ensuring children’s meaningful participation and family empowerment throughout each step
  3. Involves the coordination of services and support within an interlinked or referral system
  4. Requires systems for ensuring the accountability of case management agencies (within a formal or statutory system where this exists)
  5. Is provided by one key worker (referred to as a caseworker or case manager) who ensures that decisions are taken in the best interests of the child, the case is managed in accordance with the established process, and the actions of all actors are coordinated.








It is sometimes thought that case management cannot be provided where there are limited services for referrals. However, case management services can still be effective when only one agency is working with the child and their family. With appropriate training and supervision, case management staff can address many protection issues themselves and work collaboratively with the community and non-protection services to address potential gaps.

Check your understanding: Identify the key messages regarding case management

  • a. Focuses on the needs of an individual child and his/her family, ensuring that concerns are addressed systematically in consideration of the best interests of the child and building upon the child and family’s natural resilience
  • b. Should be provided in accordance with the established case management process, with each case engaging children’s meaningful participation and family empowerment throughout each step
  • c. Involves the coordination of services and supports within an interlinked or referral system
  • d. Requires systems for ensuring the accountability of case management agencies
  • e. Relies upon one caseworker who ensures that decisions are taken in best interests of the child, the case is managed in accordance with the established process, and the actions of all actors are coordinated.
  • f. a and b
  • g. All of the above

Reflection question: In what setting is case management appropriate?

1.2 Core Steps in the Case Management Process

There are a number of core steps in the case management process as shown in the diagram below:


Identification and registration

A child who is in need of case management services can be identified through a variety of pathways:

  • Child protection and other sectors' staff members might identify a child in the course of their regular activities.
  • An agency or community member might refer the child to receive case management services. 
  • The child or their family might present themselves directly. 
  • The child may be referred by an agency, a service provider or a community member.

Case management services should outline specific vulnerability criteria to help guide this identification process and raise awareness within a community.

Registration occurs when the child meets the vulnerability or risk criteria and both the child and their family give informed consent/assent to accept services. Registration includes the initial collection of data on the child (intake).



The assessment step involves an evaluation of the situation of the child.  This should: 

  • Consider vulnerabilities, risks, and harm factors 
  • Identify the protective influences, strengths, and resilience of a child and their family. 

In emergencies, this may be a relatively quick and straightforward process, concentrating on basic needs. When harm is imminent, immediate intervention will be prioritised.  In a second phase, a subsequent comprehensive assessment is conducted to gain a holistic understanding of the child’s situation. The holistic needs of a child are always considered even if an agency is not able to address every concern directly. In such a case, the case would be referred to another agency/service provider able to address the specific concern.

Case planning

A case plan lists the needs identified in the assessment and sets a strategy for addressing them through direct service provision, referrals, and/or community-based programmes. In complex cases, a multi-disciplinary, inter-agency case conference may be called to develop a case plan. Specific, measurable, realistic, time-bound case objectives are set at this time, in collaboration with the child and, if appropriate, the child's family; drawing on the strengths of the child and family. 

Case plans are fluid documents that can be revised at any time if a child’s situation or needs change.

Implementing the case plan

The actions taken in order to realise the plan include direct support/services and referral to other agencies/service providers, as appropriate. A caseworker or manager is responsible for coordinating all of these services, documenting progress, and ensuring case objectives are being met.


Follow-up and review

  • Follow-up involves verifying that a child and his/her family are receiving appropriate services and support.
  • Follow-up also involves observing the child’s situation and identifying any changes in a child or family’s circumstances. Follow-up takes place throughout the case management process.
  • Review assesses how implementation of the plan is progressing, whether the objectives outlined in the case plan are being met, whether the plan remains relevant, and how to make adjustments to the plan if necessary.

Case closure

This is the point at which work with the child ends. Case closure can occur for a variety of reasons including: the objectives have been met and the child is safe, the child/family elects to end services, the case is transferred to another agency, the child turns 18 years old, or the child dies.  

Remember, case management is not a linear process. The six steps shown in the diagram above are inter-connected and may, at some time, trigger a return to an earlier stage or process. Managers and caseworkers should constantly be analysing the situation of children and their family and use the case management steps as flexible tools to organise their work.

Watch this fictional example of the case managements steps in Omar's life:

Check your understanding: What are the six core steps of case management according to the Guidelines?

  • a. Intake - Case Planning - Assessment - Placement in Alternative Care - Follow-up and Review - Case Closure
  • b. Identification and registration - Assessment - Case Planning - Implementing the Case Plan - Follow-up and Review - Case Closure
  • c. Identification - Registration - Assessment - Case Planning - Implementing the Case Plan - Case Evaluation

Reflection question: How can the steps for case management services protect children?

1.3 Guiding Principles for Case Management

Learning Objectives

Upon completion, you will be able to:

  • Identify the seven guiding principles for case management
  • Appreciate the complexity of applying the principles to real-life situations

Agencies and staff engaged in child protection case management should align their behaviour and interactions with children and their families with a core set of principles. These principles mirror those that underpin all good practice with children. They also reflect the Protection Principles in the SPHERE Handbook and the key principles and approaches developed in the CPMS.








At each step of the case management process, this principle guides decision-making so that interventions intended to benefit children and families do not expose them to further harm through:

  • caseworker conduct 
  • decisions made
  • actions taken on behalf of the child or family
  • collecting, storing or sharing their information. 

For example, care should be taken to avoid creating conflict between individuals, families, or communities or collecting unnecessary information that, if in the wrong hands, could put the child or family at risk of revenge acts or violence.  








The “best interests of the child” encompass a child’s physical/emotional safety and well-being as well as their right to positive development. In line with Article 3 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), the best interests of the child should provide the basis for all decisions and actions taken and for the way in which service providers interact with children and their families

Caseworkers and their supervisors must constantly evaluate the risks and resources of the child and his environment as well as the positive and negative consequences of actions and discuss these with the child and their caregivers to pursue the least harmful course of action.  The child’s rights to safety and on-going development should never be compromised.

The Best Interests Principle must guide all decisions made during the case management process. Often in child protection there is no one "ideal’’ solution possible, but rather a series of more or less acceptable choices that must be balanced with a child’s best interests.








Adhering to the non-discrimination principle means ensuring that children are not discriminated against (treated poorly or denied services) because of their individual characteristics or a group to which they belong (e.g. gender, age, socio-economic background, race, religion, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity).

Children in need of protective services should receive assistance from agencies and caseworkers that are trained and skilled in forming respectful, non-discriminatory relationships and that treat them with compassion, empathy and care. Case management staff must actively work to be non-judgemental and to avoid negative/judgemental language in their work. Whether engaged in awareness-raising, prevention, or response activities, agencies and caseworkers should challenge discrimination in all forms, including policies and practices that reinforce discrimination.








For agencies and staff working with children, professional ethical standards and practices should be developed and applied.  These may be professional codes of conduct and/or child protection policies. In addition to international norms and standards, national laws and policies to protect children may exist and must be respected.








Informed consent is the voluntary agreement of an individual who has the capacity to give consent and who exercises free and informed choice. In most circumstances, consent should be sought from children and their caregivers prior to providing services. 

To ensure informed consent, caseworkers must verify that children and their families fully understand: 

  • the services and options available (i.e. the case management process) 
  • potential risks and benefits to receiving services 
  • information that will be collected and how it will be used 
  • confidentiality and its limits

Caseworkers are responsible for communicating in a child-friendly manner and should encourage the child and their family to ask questions that will help them make decisions regarding their own situation. See annex 14 in the Guidelines for the sample guidance note on informed consent

Informed assent is the expressed willingness to participate in services. It requires the same child-friendly communication outlined above. However, for younger children who are by nature or law too young to give informed consent but old enough to understand and agree to participate in services, the child’s “informed assent” is sought. Even very young children (those under 5 years old) should have every opportunity to provide informed assent. 

In some situations, informed consent may not be possible or may be refused, and yet intervention may still be necessary to protect the child. For example, if a 12-year-old girl is being sexually abused by her father, she may resist taking any action out of a sense of loyalty. Where consent is not given and where the agencies involved have a legal mandate to take actions to protect a child, the reasons for the intervention should be explained, and the participation of children and non-offending family members should be continually encouraged.








Respecting confidentiality adjures service providers to protect information gathered about clients and to ensure it is accessible only with a client’s explicit permission. For agencies and caseworkers implementing case management, it involves collecting, keeping, sharing and storing case information in a safe way according to agreed-upon data protection policies.  Special care is required in securing case files and documents and avoiding informal conversations with colleagues who may be naturally curious and interested in the work.

Caseworkers should only reveal children’s names, case histories or identifying information on a need-to-know basis. The term “need-to-know” allows the sharing of sensitive information only with those individuals who require the information in order to protect the child.  Such information should be shared with as few individuals as possible.








Accountability refers to being held responsible for one’s actions and the results of those actions. Agencies and staff involved in case management are accountable to the child, the family, and the community. Agencies and individuals providing case management must comply with the national legal and policy framework. They also have to comply with professional codes of conduct where these exist. In the absence of a legal framework, the guiding principles and the good practice standards outlined in the CPMS provide a foundation for practice.

Agencies introducing or supporting case management services must take responsibility for the initial training, on-going capacity-building, and regular supervision of staff to ensure appropriate quality of care. They must also provide children and their families with routine opportunities to give feedback on the support and services they have received.

Check your understanding: Which of the following is not a guiding principle for case management?

  • a. Do No Harm
  • b. Prioritise the Best Interests of the Child
  • c. Non-Discrimination
  • d. Compassionate Intervention
  • e. Adhere to Ethical Standards
  • f. Seek Informed Consent and/or Informed Assent
  • g. Respect Confidentiality
  • h. Ensure Accountability

Reflection question: What are the limits of confidentiality?

1.4 Case Management Practices

Learning Objectives

Upon completion, you will be able to:  

  • Identify ten practices essential to case management
  • Recognize the elements that impact resilience in children
  • Appreciate the diverse influences that contribute to or detract from a child’s physical and emotional well-being in case management situations

Case management services should be:


  • Provide services in ways that are appropriate and accessible for children. For example, present information in formats/language that can be understood by children of different ages.


  • Organize and deliver services and make decisions in a way that considers children’s needs and best interests. For example, consider holding reviews and meetings at times that are convenient for children and their families, rather than those that coincide with staff’s work day. 








All children, and their families, possess resources and skills to help themselves and to contribute to solving their own problems.  Throughout the case management process (including during assessment, case planning, and reviews), case workers should focus on empowering children and their families to recognise, prevent and respond to child protection concerns themselves. By considering the child's and family’s strengths and resources, caseworkers and supervisors will transcend identifying problems and providing services and will encourage children and families to play an active role in the case management process, thereby building their capacity for self-care.

Understanding resilience in children

Resilience is a concept that is often used in the child protection field, and yet it is sometimes misunderstood. Resilience does not mean that a child is unaffected by a crisis situation. Rather it is a measurement of the qualities and environmental factors that enable a child to recover and thrive despite experiencing adversity and trauma. No one thing makes a child resilient, but there are a number of internal and external factors that can contribute to increased resilience, including: 

  • a good relationship with at least one caregiver or supportive adult
  • positive parenting 
  • educational opportunities 
  • social relationships 

Importantly, positive interactions with a caseworker or other service provider can increase a child’s resilience. Children who are more resilient tend to have higher self-esteem and self-worth. They also have a sense of being able to exert some control over their lives and to make a difference (locus of control). Caseworkers can support and strengthen these qualities in children by facilitating children’s participation, focusing on children and family’s strengths and resources, and acting with respect, care and empathy. For more information see








Assessments and interventions must be made on the basis of knowledge about child development, child rights, and child protection (such as understanding vulnerabilities, risk factors, and family dynamics). Child development knowledge helps caseworkers determine how to communicate with and involve children depending on their age and evolving capacities. As standards for the treatment of children vary across cultures and regions, child rights knowledge is essential to ensure international norms and standards are respected and incorporated into case decisions. However, staff working with children who have been affected by humanitarian crises, sexual exploitation, or abandonment/ separation should receive additional specialized training in handling such sensitive cases. Without such knowledge, case plans may not adequately address children’s needs or uphold their rights and could even be harmful to the child.








Children have a right to express opinions about their experiences and to participate in decisions that affect their lives. Involving children, and their families, in planning and decision-making regarding their own care is critical to ensure the services provided are appropriate and effective.

A child’s ability to make decisions is related to their age, maturity, and evolving capacities. Even very young children are able to participate in decisions and voice their views, although the process may demand more time and skill from the caseworker. Agencies and caseworkers are responsible for informing children of their right to participate – including the right not to answer questions that make them uncomfortable – and for supporting them to exercise this right in an age-appropriate format throughout the case management process.

Children’s participation should particularly inform a caseworker when coming to a decision that is in the child’s best interests but against their wishes (e.g. recommending family reunification against the wishes of the child). Such decisions should be explained to the child with sensitivity and implemented with care and empathy. In contexts where children’s status is weak (e.g. due to gender, ethnicity, or disability) or where it is not culturally or socially acceptable for them to participate, children may be less at ease or feel less confident participating and making decisions. Caseworkers must deliberately encourage children to voice their concerns, reassure them about their ability to make decisions, and create a safe and confidential space for children to do so. 








Cultural sensitivity improves caseworkers’ capacity to work effectively with children, families and communities to identify solutions that leverage local methods of care and protection and align with the children and families’ values and beliefs. Overlooking the cultural context can lead to case plans that are difficult to implement because they do not fit the realities of people’s lives and belief systems.

Caseworkers and agencies must recognise and respect diversity in the communities where they work and be aware of individual, family, group, and community differences in order to make an informed and holistic assessment of a child’s situation.

At times, the best interests of the child may conflict with cultural values or practices.  In such cases, managers, supervisors, and caseworkers must continue to prioritise the child’s best interests and make decisions that do not place them at additional risk (do no harm). It may be difficult to identify culturally acceptable solutions that uphold the rights of children, but managers and caseworkers must make every effort to work with children and families to do so. With difficult issues like female genital mutilation, non-education of girls or child labour, caseworkers should develop harm reduction strategies and seek to address the underlying causes of social conditions. For example, families who send girls to school might be given priority access to cash transfer programmes or livelihood projects.

In some contexts, confronting these protection issues and cultural practices can lead to conflict and may create additional risks for children, families and communities as well as caseworkers. Decisions related to these issues must include a careful assessment of risk and always respect the principles of do no harm and the best interests of the child.








Child protection programmes are more effective when agencies work together and involve communities, families, and children in their efforts. Case management can provide a process for improving coordination and collaboration among all actors with a mandate to protect children including community leaders, government departments, service providers, CBOs, local NGOs and international agencies.

Accepted protocols on information-sharing and referrals contribute to quality case management and ensure that confidentiality and the best interests of the child are upheld. International organisations, in particular, have a responsibility to coordinate their activities and efforts with national governments and non-government agencies to ensure that existing systems are strengthened and not duplicated.








Caseworkers and agencies should act with integrity by not abusing the power or the trust of the child or their family. Caseworkers must neither ask for nor accept favours, payments, or gifts in exchange for services or support.

Personal and professional limitations and boundaries must be recognised and respected. Conflicts of interest must be addressed when they arise.  An example of a conflict of interest might be a caseworker and child who are in some way related or from the same social network, or a caseworker acting for both the child and the perpetrator of the child’s abuse.

Caseworkers and agencies should seek to resolve these issues in a way that is positive for the child and neither negatively affects nor gives an unfair benefit to that child. 








Many countries have mandatory reporting requirements which oblige certain actors (e.g. child protection agencies and staff, teachers, nurses, and doctors) to report cases of child abuse to relevant government authorities. However, these requirements can be challenging for caseworkers when the information is of such a sensitive nature that it cannot be shared without placing the child at risk of further harm.

This is of particular concern when data protection protocols are not in place or are not strictly followed. In humanitarian settings where there is concern about the safety and security of those involved, it is good practice to deal with reporting decisions on a case-by-case basis, informed by the standards and practices applicable in the country of operation and always guided by the best interests of the child.

Agencies working with children should also have their own internal child protection/safeguarding policies that should be followed at all times (See Reference Section for further information). These often set higher standards regarding the responsibilities and behaviour of staff than that sanctioned in law.

Check your understanding: True or False

  • Where a child is in imminent harm, it is acceptable to forgo the participation of the child and disregard cultural mores?

Check your understanding: Resilience is influenced by which of the following:

  • a. a good relationship with a least one caregiver
  • b. positive parenting
  • c. educational opportunities
  • d. social relationships
  • e. all of the above

Reflection question: How can a caseworker identify and empower a child and/or family’s strengths?

Module 2: Implementing Case Management Services

Module 2 Learning Objectives

Learning Objectives

Upon completion, you will be able to: 

  • Distinguish between contexts where case management services are and are not appropriate
  • Understand factors involved in analyzing external and internal capacities and constraints
  • Recognize alternatives to case management services
  • Understand the elements considered when designing and implementing case management services

Module 2 Summary

Case management services (CMS) can be introduced into a variety of humanitarian and development contexts, but they are not always an appropriate strategy.  CMS can function in emergency situations where local services are overwhelmed or do not exist, either as temporary resources or the basis for permanent systems.  In development contexts, CMS can extend existing services to under-served populations or create systems where none exist.  The priority is always on strengthening existing formal and informal systems.  

The decision whether or not to introduce CMS is based upon an analysis of external and internal capacities and constraints.  External concerns include governmental policies, community mores, existing services, and the like.  Internal capacities and constraints focus on the human, financial, and informational resources - or lack thereof - of the agency in question.  Also included is an assessment of risk to the community, the target population, the staff, and the agency itself.  Where CMS is impractical, alternative activities enable agencies to support CMS without embarking upon it themselves.  

When designing and implementing CMS, there are four essential elements to consider.  

  • Vulnerability criteria assesses the physical, social, economic and environmental factors that increase a child’s susceptibility to protection concerns.  
  • Human resources investigates the number of staff, their competencies, and their limitations. 
  • Information management includes the types of information collected; protocols for collecting, storing, and sharing it; and the functions of databases.  
  • Child safeguarding procedures outlines the steps the organization will take to protect children from harm and respond to protection concerns.  

2.1 Contexts for Establishing/Strengthening Case Management Services

Learning Objectives

Upon completion, you will be able to:

  • Identify five contexts in which case management services may be introduced
  • Identify the three priorities when introducing case management services to emergency situations
  • Understand and describe the differences between implementing case management services in emergencies and in developing contexts

There are five main contexts in which you might be considering introducing case management services: 

  1. In emergencies, with the intent that they phase out once the emergency passes. This is appropriate where the case management services do not serve the general population and cannot transition after the emergency, where no system exists, or where the existing system cannot respond to the rapid needs of the caseload.
  2. In emergencies, with the expectation that the new processes will form the basis of the national child welfare system as the country moves into recovery or development.
  3. In emergencies or development contexts, where existing case management services require significant additional capacity-building to meet the needs of affected populations.
  4. In development contexts, where no system exists. In this context, the government must be involved from the start in determining how to introduce case management services, what they will look like, and how they will interact with existing government structures.
  5. In middle-income or developed countries where the child protection system and case management services are in place (with trained staff and resources) but do not reach a particular group of the population such as asylum seekers.

In each of these circumstances, numerous competing interests and influences need to be carefully considered during initial planning stages. Managers and advisors should always seek to build on existing formal and informal mechanisms, recognizing that governments have the ultimate responsibility for the children in their country. This should not, however, prevent non-governmental agencies from responding to children’s needs when government structures are either unable or unwilling to provide services. In such cases, capacity-building efforts and policy-change efforts can be paired with small-scale case management services to meet urgent needs.

Introducing Case Management in Emergencies

Emergencies are humanitarian crises that can overwhelm the resources and capacity of affected communities and require urgent action. Emergencies tend to fall into one of two categories:

  • sudden- or rapid-onset emergencies
  • chronic emergencies that develop gradually but may continue for years

During an emergency, existing child protection systems and structures, as well as case management processes, are weakened by the impact of the emergency.  Pre-existing child protection concerns increase, and new concerns arise.  

New procedures and mechanisms for protecting children, including case management, may need to be established.  However, child protection agencies should also build the general capacity of child protection staff and supplement the existing resources and procedures with technical support.

Different types of emergencies present different challenges and opportunities for integrating case management into existing formal and informal child protection systems. While informal systems should be included in case management interventions, the actual management of cases should be carried out by a formal system that can maintain accountability and consistency.  This is particularly true in emergency situations where the necessary capacity or resources to implement a case management system may be lacking.

Case management services introduced in emergencies should be developed with the goal of strengthening the child protection system for the future. Balancing immediate and longer-term needs can lay the foundation for a more robust child protection system when the country moves into a recovery or development phase. 

This can be difficult to accomplish.  When a rapid response is needed, there may be little time to extensively evaluate the context or to achieve consensus with all stakeholders.  The government may also abdicate its role, looking to international organisations to take the lead.  While it may be ideal to engage in a lengthy exercise of consultation and analysis, children need to be protected, and efforts to respond to their needs should not be delayed.

In emergencies, agencies can balance these competing priorities by considering the following:

  1. Concentrate on building core child protection skills and capacities. Invest in capacities (e.g. child development and assessment) that easily transfer when mechanisms and processes develop and strengthen throughout the child protection system.
  2. Concentrate on the basics, and keep it simple. Focus on the main elements of case management procedures so that efforts are not wasted and services can be maintained by governments with limited resources when international organisations reduce their assistance.
  3. Ensure timeliness of the response. Limit the time it takes for the government and cooperating organizations to agree on administrative issues such as forms, protocols and SOPs.  Fast-track basic agreements to facilitate an urgent response; they can be revised at a later date.  The key is to ensure that children are supported as soon as possible following the onset of the emergency.

Introducing/Strengthening Case Management in a Development Context

Introducing or strengthening case management in a development context is a different, much longer, process. It requires extensive consultation and collaboration with governments and other relevant agencies and organisations. Even while receiving appropriate technical support, participants must take ownership of the processes to ensure the sustainability of case management services within a wider child protection system.

As mentioned in Section 1, case management is not suitable for all child protection programmes. Case management takes a considerable amount of time and effort, and resources can be wasted apart from a clear understanding of what is feasible given the existing context and capacities.

Check your understanding: Which of the following is not a priority for implementing case management in emergency situations?

  • a. Concentrate on developing long-term, inter-agency cooperation
  • b. Concentrate on building core child protection skills and capacities
  • c. Concentrate on the basics, and keep it simple
  • d. Ensure timeliness of the response.

Reflection question: What are some key ways in which case management differs in humanitarian and development contexts?

2.2 Analysing External and Internal Capacities and Constraints

Learning Objectives

Upon completion, you will be able to:

  • Identify some of the external capacities and constraints to be included in a context assessment
  • Identify some of the internal capacities and constraints to be included in an internal agency analysis
  • Identify key roles the government plays in child protection
  • Distinguish between community-based interventions and community practices
  • Appreciate the varied roles the community plays in child protection

If your organisation is thinking about developing or engaging in case management services within your child protection programme, you will need to analyse the operating environment outside of your agency, along with the capacity and constraints within your agency, to inform your planning and decision making.

The diagram below captures the key elements in this process of external context analysis and internal agency analysis.

Here is a breakdown of the diagram above:

Assessing the wider context in which you are working will require you to gather information on a range of issues including: 

  • the nature and scale of child protection needs to be addressed
  • the culture of the target communities
  • the existing capacity of social welfare and child protection systems, including physical resources (both human and financial), and international/national legislation and policy frameworks
  • established positive community practices for child care and protection and critical gaps in service provision
  • existing referral mechanisms for identification of children at risk and the extent to which marginalised children are able to access services
  • coordination mechanisms between different government and non-government agencies already providing case management services and community entitites – including delineating responsibility for different functions and determining your agency’s roles
  • access and security
  • the existence of appropriate accountability mechanisms

This information can be gained from country reports, humanitarian situation reports, multi- sectorial needs assessments, and pre-existing general or rapid child protection needs assessments. Consultation should also take place with key stakeholders, including children, families and communities. Capacity mapping should be carried out to identify existing services and gaps in service provision.

Determining how your agency can best contribute to a case management response in a particular context requires intimate knowledge of internal guiding principles and the CPMS.  The capacities and constraints of the agency’s physical, financial, and staffing  resources must also be enumerated.  

The decision whether or not to implement case management in a given situation will be determined by the confluence of the external context (i.e. existing governmental, non-governmental and community-based child protection mechanisms), the needs of the population in question, and the capacity and mission of your agency.  

More on assessing the external context:

The Role of Government

Humanitarian and development actors are mandated to support governments in fulfilling their obligations, not to replace them. Agencies should respect the government’s lead responsibility in child protection and explore ways to strengthen existing systems, even where the available services may not be ideal. In large-scale emergencies, this may involve ensuring government representation in coordination functions even if a major part of the implementation of case management services has been outsourced.

Where possible and appropriate, governments should be supported to deliver direct case management services for vulnerable children and to access additional services. External actors should not lead case management implementation in contexts that have qualified social workers within national agencies, but should support existing personnel and case management processes and temporarily fill gaps where capacity and resources are low.

The role of the government becomes most critical in decisions with a statutory / legal component, such as removal of children from care-giving arrangements where they are at risk of harm, placement of children in alternative care arrangements, or in complex family reunification situations. In some settings the government provides such services directly, while in other contexts the government may mandate a partner agency to engage in service provision. In situations where government capacity and presence is extremely limited, you will still need to seek local authorisation and participation in decisions regarding the change of care situations for children.

Even in the apparent absence of government services during some emergencies, agencies engaging in case management decisions are still accountable and liable under domestic legal frameworks. It is imperative to verify the authority under which you are making decisions concerning children and your agency. You should seek advice from your agency on the adequacy of legal cover provided through agency/government agreements. In situations where the government itself is a party to conflict or has lost control over territories, there may be tensions between building national capacity and protecting children. The timely protection of children is always the primary consideration in accordance with humanitarian principles of providing impartial assistance based on need and ensuring safety and dignity for the most vulnerable. In such contexts, it is essential to be aware of the risks associated with sharing information on individual cases and the importance of confidentiality and informed consent to ensure protection of the child.

The Role of Community and Traditional Leadership

A community may not always be a homogenous group, and understanding of what constitutes a community can vary from place to place. In these guidelines, community” is defined geographically, as in the CPMS, as a group of people living in or near a particular location, such as a village or an urban neighbourhood’’ .

Communities can play a significant role in preventing and responding to child protection risks in formal and informal ways.  It is necessary to understand the existing services, support, and child protection actors within the community, to include these in referral mechanisms, and to engage them in the identification process. In some contexts, it may also be important to work with community members, such as traditional leaders, to develop or implement the child’s case plan.

Community-based child protection programming aims to reduce vulnerabilities and risks by building a protective environment at family and community levels. Effective prevention programming requires active, on-going education and community engagement on child protection concerns.   It is important to distinguish between the two types of community-based endeavors:  

  • Community-Based Interventions  are introduced by external agencies.  Effective government or non-governmental child protection response programmes rely on cooperation from and linkage with community-based mechanisms (e.g. Child Protection Committees, parent groups, traditional justice systems).
  • Community Practices  are accepted ways of responding to given situations and are likely to be more sustainable. Whenever possible, child protection programming should seek to capitalise on positive community practice and to encourage social and behavioural change to redress negative or harmful practices.

Simply setting up a community-based child protection mechanism (e.g. a child protection committee) does not guarantee all children are protected. Such mechanisms need regular capacity-building and monitoring to ensure that they continue to protect children. However, well-run community-based child protection mechanisms can play a role in a number of important activities including:

  • Identifying vulnerable children and children at-risk of harm or being harmed
  • Supporting parents and families
  • Identifying and supporting foster families
  • Providing emergency items and services like clothes, food, or school fees for the most vulnerable 
  • Enforcing codes of conduct in schools and health centres
  • Raising community awareness of CP issues
  • Integrating minorities and children with disabilities
  • Including and engaging children and families in community events (e.g. religious or traditional ceremonies to empower children and enhance their sense of belonging)
  • Holding political and religious leaders accountable
  • Supporting social reintegration of individual cases 
  • Mediating conflicts

Community-based child protection mechanisms may or may not have a formal mandate and accountability as part of the recognised formal child protection system. This will affect their role in the case management process. Criteria or thresholds may prescribe the kinds of cases the community can handle and those that must be referred to the formal child protection system.

Community members who are formal or informal focal points for children (e.g. teachers and health workers) should be trained to identify and refer child protection cases to the child protection case management services. In some statutory systems, these workers may be mandated to report child abuse. In other contexts, there may be little or no linkage between formal case management services (where they exist) and community mechanisms. Strengthening these linkages is critical to developing systems that will protect children. There are other settings where customary law prevails over formal legal processes. It is important to work with traditional leaders to identify customary legal practices that are protective of children and broadly consistent with international law. Support for such practices and the involvement of professional child protection actors can improve protection for at-risk children.

The Role of Children and Families

Children and their families also play an important role in the case management process  both in terms of their involvement in the development and review of their own case plan (discussed in Section 3) and in terms of helping to design, review and improve case management procedures.

Children and families who have participated in case management services are best able to give feedback on their experiences of the process. This valuable information can be used as part of the monitoring function and in reviewing and refining procedures.

Existing Services

Different services are required to respond to different types of child protection needs. The availability and quality of the required range of services will vary depending on the context.The service and capacity-mapping should identify both available resources and critical gaps in service provision. Strategies for addressing gaps should be defined, including how their absence will be communicated to the child and their family/community.

Knowing what services are available for referral will enable all children to have access to assistance and appropriate support. For example, if you are providing case management only for unaccompanied and especially vulnerable separated children, it may be appropriate to refer all other separated children directly to other organisations for family tracing and other services. You should never ignore child protection issues simply because appropriate services are not readily available. You and your agency should advocate with national and international actors to fill these service gaps. 

Check your understanding: Match the following terms with the correct definition

  • Comunity-based interventions
    programmes introduced by external agencies
  • Community practices
    accepted ways of responding to given situations

Check your understanding: Which of the following is not included in an external context assessment?

  • a. Existing child protection programmes
  • b. The agency’s capacities and constraints
  • c. International and national legal frameworks and policies
  • d. Cultural values and practices

Reflection question: How do the the roles of community and traditional leadership intersect with the government’s roles?

2.3 Analyse Internal Agency Capacity

Learning Objectives

Upon completion, you will be able to:  

  • Identify the areas evaluated during an analysis of internal agency capacity
  • Appreciate the risks to children, families, communities, caseworkers, and agencies associated with case management 

More on analysing internal agency capacity:

In addition to assessing the external context, you will need to critically evaluate your agency’s capacity to adopt and undertake case management services within your child protection programme.  This two-fold analysis will provide the basis for your decisions regarding: 

  • whether case management is appropriate 
  • whether it is possible at the current time given services and support available 
  • who is best placed to do it 
  • what support they need
  • the roles and responsibilities of your programming response

It is important to be realistic in terms of your reach, capacity, and ability to build your response to the required level. In some cases, and wherever possible, agencies should work together to develop case management processes and to agree on standard practices. This will also facilitate the sharing of resources and expertise. On-going review of both your child protection programme and any case management services introduced is required in order to ensure that they are appropriate, relevant and continue to meet needs as the context changes and develops. The strategy for this review needs to be identified and implemented. In thinking about your own agency, you will need to consider the following points in detail. Some of these elements relate to your child protection programme generally, as this will in turn affect whether a case management services can, and should, be adopted:

  • Population coverage
  • Services available
  • Types of intervention
  • Risks to security and safety
  • Number of staff and skills of staff, including access to external support 
  • Budget
  • Transition and/or exit strategy 

Human Resources

The number of staff you have and their levels of competence to both carry out and supervise case management is a critical determinant of the scale and nature of your response. You have to assess your agency’s ability to support your staffing resources and to build capacity. Case management staff need both initial training on core skills (e.g. child protection, case management process, communication with children, etc.) as well as on-going supervision and mentoring to ensure those skills are put into practice. (See appendices for core competencies for case management staff.) If, in the planning phase, you do not have the resources or minimum capacity to provide case management services, then you should not proceed or you should refine your criteria for registering children in line with your capacity. This does not mean that you cannot implement a child protection programme or engage in activities that support effective case management within the wider child protection system. Your agency may be uniquely positioned to offer other services: providing technical support to government and non-government child protection actors engaged in case management; direct provision or capacity-building of associated child protection services (e.g. health workers, police, legal support); advocacy to address critical service gaps or issues within the child protection’s legal, policy and institutional framework; and support to government to establish formal, university-level, social work training programmes.

Financial Resources

Information gathered on the needs and required response will provide an indication of the costs and financial resources required. (A sample budget is included in the resources section.) Depending on the case management procedures you design, funds may be needed for:

  • Office set-up: office space, furniture and infrastructure such as computers, internet, a case file cabinet and stationery 
  • Appropriate space: to ensure confidentiality and privacy during meetings with children and families
  • Salaries: the number and type of caseworkers needed will depend on their planned tasks.   Additional administrative support may also be required.
  • Supervision and training: capacity to deliver on-going training, support and supervision of caseworkers and managers is essential for an effective case management procedure
  • Transportation: vehicle, money for fuel and maintenance (for home visits, for example) 
  • Communication: such as a duty phone for caseworkers to contact families
  • Emergency money: (sometimes referred to as an Emergency Case Fund) to enable immediate response when needed, such as emergency medical care, and to assure your agency is fulfilling its obligation to care for children and families.

Potential Risks

Agencies have a mandate to do no harm”. Therefore, before starting any child protection programme or adopting case management services, you must carefully evaluate the risks and benefits to the child, family, community, and the agency itself. The staff, children and families involved should understand the potential risks associated with case management.You need to bear in mind that:

  • Collecting information on individual children’s cases can place those children at risk. Depending on the sensitivity of the information and its relevance to the management of the case, you may decide that some information should be collected while other information should not. You will need to create a plan for how to mitigate the risks that children and their families could face if confidentiality is broken or the information collected is seized or stolen. Your agency’s data protection and sharing protocols should prescribe how to handle data in case of evacuation, such as moving or destroying the most sensitive documents.
  • Potential unintended consequences of providing individual case management can arise, particularly where referral services do not exist. Registration, documentation and drawing attention to particular individuals or groups can increase protection risks. Case management services can also create a pull factor’.  If a perception develops that children have access to better care and services under the UASC category of vulnerability serviced by your programme, families may send children away—even across borders—to access that care.  These effects must be considered and mitigated in order to do no harm.” 
  • Risk to caseworkers. Managers of agencies implementing case management, including governments, should train staff in safety and security and implement related policies. These might include ensuring staff do not go on home visits alone or establishing check-in policies.  Caseworker training should also emphasize cultural sensitivity and educate workers regarding any existing tensions, as such knowledge facilitates acceptance within communities and guards the overall safety and neutrality of the staff and agency.

Vulnerable Population

You will need to determine the size of the affected population that is at risk and who is available to respond to their needs. Initial rapid needs assessments in emergencies, child protection system mapping exercises, as well as agency registration data may give an indication of the vulnerabilities and risks for children in a given location.

Intervention Considerations

In determining your agency’s role and the focus of your child protection programme and case management services within the wider child protection system, the interventions you seek to provide should not only match the needs of the population being served, but also be coordinated with and not duplicate other services being provided. For example, a key aspect of establishing a child protection programme where there are high rates of gender-based violence will involve working with the health sector, and any case management procedures will need to take that into account.

Exit Strategy

Equally important as designing your programme is determining how you are going to withdraw/transition and what legacy you hope to leave. Planning your case management response and framing your exit strategy should occur simultaneously with input from key stakeholders and partners. Governments, other agencies, communities and families may have unrealistic expectations of your agency’s involvement in the country.  Given the limited resources normally available for child protection, resources must be used effectively.  Goals that are too ambitious, resource-intensive or which do not fit’ within the current context are unlikely to be sustainable and may divert resources into unproductive channels.  As you withdraw, careful consideration must be given to transitioning / transferring the individual cases which are still participating in your case management services. It is important to ensure that children continue to receive the care and protection they need, and have a right to, and that they are not unintentionally harmed as you close your response.

Check your understanding: Which of the following need not be included in a risk analysis in terms of potential risks associated with SMS prior to initiating services?

  • a. Agency safety procedures
  • b. Existing cultural tensions
  • c. Data handling/storage protocols
  • d. The presence or absence of similar services in neighboring regions
  • e. None of the above need to be included in a risk analysis
  • f. All of the above need to be included in a risk analysis

Reflection question: Describe a situation where the risks of implementing case management services (to children, families, caseworkers, etc.) outweigh the benefits.

2.4 Complementary Activities as Alternatives to Establishing Case Management

Learning Objectives

Upon completion, you will be able to: 

  • Identify activities that can support existing case management without duplicating services
  • Identify alternatives to establishing case management

As mentioned earlier, although case management is often recommended as part of national child protection systems and should be considered as a possible approach in humanitarian crises, it may not always be feasible or appropriate for non-statutory child protection agencies to develop and implement case management procedures and processes. Where this is the case, or where your own agency lacks the resources to implement a case management response, you can still contribute to case management by:

  • Providing specialist capacity-building, support and supervision
  • Supporting the development of procedures and protocols
  • Facilitating interagency cooperation and collaboration through network and coordination meetings. 

In deciding your best course of action, you should be guided by the priority of strengthening existing systems (rather than building new, parallel systems) and the principle of do no harm.

  • Case management can also be used as an approach within prevention or early intervention programmes. This may mean that the children in your caseload are identified on the basis of vulnerability, rather than risk level or actual harm. 
  • In contexts where access to affected communities is limited by security or logistics, case management may not be a feasible intervention. In these contexts, it may be appropriate to map available services and develop referral pathways, raise awareness in communities of available services and how to access them, train community focal points on child protection issues and appropriate responses, and provide financial and / or logistic support to individual children and families to facilitate their access to services. Whilst such interventions lack the oversight of individual cases and accountability necessary to be considered case management, they may create the building blocks upon which a case management service can be developed at a later point when other constraints have been addressed.

The following contextual considerations may also inform your decision making: 

  • Case management applies to individual children. In situations where an entire population’s basic needs are not met, individual cases cannot be opened for each child. Broader social welfare programmes will be required to respond to the scale of need. 
  • In contexts where strong case management processes and capacities already exist, it may be valuable to provide training to existing child protection caseworkers to enable them to further develop their skills and better respond to child protection cases in emergency and non-emergency situations. 
  • In contexts with a weak or non-existent statutory framework for child protection and where child protection capacity is limited, it may be most appropriate to start with community-based child protection programming and capacity-building of authorities, who can later lead the development of a child protection system and case management processes tailored to the context. 
  • The nature and scale of child protection issues in humanitarian contexts may be overwhelming, such that it may not be feasible to implement a case management process that addresses all child protection needs at once. In these contexts, it may be appropriate to develop a case management procedure that initially focuses on specific issues (e.g. urgent, emergency-related issues such as family separation or release from armed forces or armed groups). This can then be used as a building block to develop a more comprehensive case management service over time that addresses the full range of child protection issues. 
  • There may be situations in which it is appropriate to establish a case management system that is separate from the formal (i.e. government) case management services because there are risks to children in having their information shared with State authorities. This is particularly true in conflict-affected humanitarian contexts, when the state is party to the conflict and case management is required to address child protection issues related to the conflict (e.g. killing and maiming, abduction, recruitment, detention or sexual violence). A parallel system is also applicable when the formal or judicial system takes a punitive approach to child protection issues such as sexual violence. In contexts such as these, additional consideration should be given to defining an exit strategy, including handover and storage of information on children, before initiating a case management service.

Check your understanding: Which of the following is not a method of supporting existing case management services?

  • a. Providing specialist capacity building, support and supervision
  • b. Supporting the development of procedures and protocols
  • c. Facilitating interagency cooperation and collaboration through network and coordination meetings
  • d. Building a parallel program where an imperfect one exists

Reflection question: In what situations might systems strengthening and the principle of do no harm be complementary? In what situations might they conflict?

2.5.1 Essential Elements of Designing and Implementing Case Management Services

Learning Objectives

Upon completion, you will be able to:  

  • Identify the four main issues to be considered in designing and implementing case management services
  • Evaluate your agency’s staffing capacity and competency in order to accomplish goals and supplement gaps
  • Identify the minimum standards for case documentation
  • Appreciate the necessity for the development and observance of cohesive information management (data protection) protocols
  • Understand the function of case management databases
  • Understand basic principles of child safeguarding practices
  • Distinguish between vulnerability and risk

Once you have decided that case management is appropriate, you need to design and implement it within your programme.  Four main issues need to be considered:

  • Vulnerability criteria for registering children
  • Human resources and staff capacities and competencies 
  • Information management systems
  • Child safeguarding

Each case management procedure should have a detailed set of operational guidelines’, which are specifically tailored to the context.








Vulnerability refers to physical, social, economic and environmental factors that increase a child’s susceptibility to protection concerns and other hazards and difficulties.  Vulnerability factors might include: displacement, lack of parental care (unaccompanied children), disabilities, or association with armed forces and armed groups.

Depending on the scale of your programme and the extent to which case management services are used, you will need to develop vulnerability criteria in order to identify and target children who might be in need of protection.

Vulnerability is context-specific.  The fact that a child falls into a particular category (e.g. has a disability) does not mean that they are necessarily vulnerable.  Vulnerability criteria should reflect your programme’s context, expertise, capacity, and constraints.  See some sample vulnerability criteria in the resources section in the Guidelines. Building on definitions that already exist, you should consult with children, their families, community leaders and those working with children to create shared criteria that defines who is “vulnerable” in the given context.

If vulnerability criteria are not in place, you will risk:

  • Missing/not reaching children most at risk
  • Creating confusion with the community regarding the purpose of case management
  • Facing high caseloads and possible staff burn out
  • Implementing a programme that is not appropriately tailored to the specific needs of the target population 

Vulnerability criteria help to screen cases in situations where large numbers of children need support and to differentiate and identify cases that may be in urgent need. Before defining the vulnerability criteria, an analysis should be done to look at which children are experiencing, or are at risk of experiencing, harm within your context.  The criteria should include factors that relate to the child, such as age, sex and disability.

Vulnerability criteria should be:

  • Detailed: Clearly list the categories of vulnerability that need intervention. This may include sector-related vulnerabilities and risks (e.g. health, shelter) as well as those of child protection.
  • Transparent: Develop the criteria with the involvement of affected children, their families and communities.
  • Realistic: Base the criteria on your analysis of the child protection needs in the context, which of the needs you aim to address and how, the risks that may be involved in responding, and your available resources to respond.

You should share your vulnerability criteria with other child protection actors to ensure they are aware of your intended activities and caseload management plan. Given the ever-changing dynamics in humanitarian settings, a periodic review of criteria should occur.








Good case management practice is underpinned by well-trained, experienced, and - where possible - certified staff who have the time and resources (including supervision) to carry out their work.

Caseworkers must have a reasonable caseload, reflecting their skills and capacities. The CPMS state that the number of cases allocated to each caseworker not exceed 25.  In some situations, however, that ratio will need to be significantly lower.  Factors to consider include:

  • Number of staff
  • Child-to-staff ratio
  • Referrals: Are your caseworkers responsible for providing in-house services or are they only making and following-up on referrals made?
  • Responsibilities: What is the scope of the caseworker’s responsibilities (e.g. are caseworkers also responsible for other tasks such as community liaison)?
  • Complexity: How complex are the assessments or interventions? (Different cadres of staff may handle different levels of complexity and have different types of caseloads.)
  • Administrative responsibilities: Do your caseworkers have significant administrative responsibilities? Are data entry, administrative support, and technology readily available? 

Supervisors or managers should review the caseload of individual workers at least once every 2 weeks to ensure it is manageable. In the onset of an emergency, there may be extreme pressure to scale-up and increase caseload. If you have an existing policy on caseload quotas, you should carefully evaluate the impact increased caseload will have on the programme, finances, and staff.

Skills and Competencies of Staff

When recruiting staff to provide case management services, you should ensure that applicants have the necessary skills and competencies to conduct case management interventions in a safe and professional manner.  See the skill and competency framework in the Guidelines which can be used to guide recruitment and capacity-building for supervisors and caseworkers.

Caseworkers and supervisors should have prior experience working with children and relevant social work certifications (degree/diploma/certificate) wherever possible. In countries where social work programmes and certifications are not available, advocating for the introduction of such programmes of study is vital part of the programmatic response.  In some contexts, experience may be more valuable than certifications, so a case worker with 15 years of experience and no degree may be better hire than a recent graduate with a certification in social work and little experience. In some countries, a regulatory system - sometimes referred to as statutory services” - determines who can practice certain types of formal social work functions, such as representing cases in court. This may involve training and qualification. Where such systems are in place, you should ensure that your staff are qualified to that level.

Building Capacity

Before initiating capacity-building activities, you must conduct an assessment of the staff’s current attitudes, skills and knowledge to determine where training is requiredCapacity-building is more than just initial training; staff also need to have the opportunity for on-going mentoring and training. Mentoring can occur via direct supervisors, team members, and peers inside and outside the organization.  The only requirement is that it be conducted by someone with substantive child protection and case management experience.

Caseworkers may benefit from training in additional services so they can include them as part of case management, such as psychosocial support and family mediation. They may also need training on specific issues, such as responding to cases of sexual violence. These more thematic issues can be addressed through on-going training programmes designed to develop knowledge and skills. When training staff, you should tailor the training to meet the diverse needs of staff.  For example, managers and supervisors may receive training on leadership and representing their organisation in coordination meetings that caseworkers do not.  


Staff at all levels should be provided with formal and informal supervision, including managers and supervisors.  Before engaging in case management, you should consider the ratio of caseworkers to supervisors to determine the number of supervisors needed (e.g. 1 supervisor for 5-6 caseworkers).  If processes are designed to encourage staff and support reflection on their practice, a culture of openness and transparency is more likely to develop, resulting in better outcomes for children.

Check your understanding: Which of the following is not a necessary characterisation of vulnerability criteria?

  • a. Detailed
  • b. Transparent
  • c. Equitable
  • d. Realistic

Check your understanding: True or False?

  • Supervision is essential for caseworkers but optional for managers.

2.5.2 Essential Elements of Designing and Implementing Case Management Services








Documentation is the process of collecting and storing information specific to individual children and their families, whether gathered directly from the child and family or indirectly.  Proper documentation facilitates effective and accountable case management. Good record-keeping is a professional and ethical responsibility, and in some countries a legal obligation. The development and use of case management forms supports the documentation process. Where possible forms should be standardised within and across agencies and sectors to support uniformity across the entire caseload and to facilitate effective information sharing. Standardised data collection processes enable program staff to aggregate (or disaggregate) data to track trends. This information can then be used in planning and decision-making.

If the government has their own case management forms, other agencies should use the same forms or ensure that their forms are appropriately linked with those of the government. If standard forms need to be developed, or existing forms harmonised, it should be done quickly through a process of consultation so as not to delay the registration process for children at risk.

Various examples of standard case management forms and tools that can be adapted to your context are provided as annexes to these Guidelines. There is a great temptation to develop complex forms that gather voluminous data but do little to protect children. A complicated set of valueless forms with extensive checklists is no substitute for simpler forms that are well-understood by workers and yield beneficial professional judgements. At a minimum, each case should have the following:  

  • A separate, well-organised case file for each child with key information presented in a standard, structured way
  • A code (that does not identify the child) allocated to each case file and marked on the front of the case file.  Names should not be recorded on the front of case files. This supports confidentiality and tracking of individual cases. A list which links the case file codes with the children’s names should be stored in a different location from where the files are stored. This code should also be used when saving and sending digital information related to the case.
  • An updated record placed on file for each activity that occurs. This can either be a direct contact, such as when a family is visited, or indirect, such as when a teacher calls to discuss how things are going in school.
  • A separate section of each file marked strictly confidential’ to store information that is particularly sensitive and cannot be shared with certain actors. 

Caseworkers should be encouraged to write case notes and complete other documentation (such as forms) with care and accuracy. Case notes should be based on fact and professional judgment rather than on personal bias. Language that is dismissive, judgmental, or offensive should be avoided. Records should be kept in a way that is confidential and in line with ethics, law and confidentiality principles. Files should be kept in a secure location with restricted access, such as a locked filing cabinet.  There should be a separate filing system for highly sensitive files and instructions to destroy files in the event of evacuation. Case file audits can be used to check for breaches of data protection and information sharing protocols.








In setting up a case management service, a safe and confidential system for collecting, storing and sharing information is imperative.  While caseworkers, agencies and government departments collect and store documentation, the information belongs to the children and families concerned.  Each person in the information chain is responsible for protecting it - and them - so you must ensure that all staff understand and comply with information management (data protection) protocols.  Data protection protocols are based on the principles of confidentiality and “need to know” in order to safeguard the best interests of the child. They serve as a guide for what information to collect, how to use it, and how to store it. Legal provisions within the country and case-specific protection concerns help determine how long information is stored. In cases that involve adoption or alternative care arrangements, information may need to be stored long after case closure.

When multiple agencies or government departments use multiple services and referral pathways to cooperatively address children’s needs, mutually-accepted information sharing protocols are essential.  They determine what information about the children should be shared, when and with whom, as well as acceptable methods (i.e. verbal, electronic, or written).  See the appendix section of the Guidelines for examples of data protection and information sharing protocols. Individuals are entitled to see their case files as part of their meaningful participation.  When sharing, do so with sensitivity, as it may be a difficult experience for the child and family.  Remember to screen files before sharing to maintain the confidentiality of others mentioned in the files.


As part of your assessment of the case management context, you should identify the case management databases already operating (both within your agency and in other agencies in the country) and explore options for sharing and/or linking databases. It is important to distinguish between registration databases (for record-keeping only) and case management databases (for documenting and managing case flow). Where databases are used for case management they should:

  • Be adapted to the case management process
  • Enable time frames for individual cases to be set and tracked
  • Be harmonised through the use of standard forms to enable common statistics to be generated and facilitate inter-agency referrals.
  • Support caseload management through caseload review and allocation of cases to individual caseworkers.
  • Be supported by appropriately-skilled data entry and data management staff. The number of data entry staff will depend on the staff’s capacity to use computers and technology. Staff responsible for data entry and management should be fully integrated into the child protection team and included in child protection training and capacity-building activities to ensure they understand child protection concerns and response processes, most especially data protection/confidentiality issues. 

Inter-Agency Child Protection Information Management System (IA CP IMS) 

The IA CP IMS was developed in 2005, through the collaboration of IRC, Save the Children UK, and UNICEF. Since then it has undergone several enhancements and is used by a wide number of agencies and governments to support their case management services. It can be used across a variety of child protection programmes in emergency, early recovery or development settings. The IA CP IMS has four main components:

  1. A set of standard paper forms that can be adapted or used as they are
  2. An electronic database in which children’s information is recorded
  3. Information sharing protocols
  4. Data protection protocols

Training can be provided on customising and using the IA CP IMS, and a manual is available to all agencies: A case management database is recommended where a high volume of cases is anticipated. However, databases alone do not beget effective case management. Good paper records and a simple spread sheet can provide an equally effective system for recording information, tracking cases and monitoring tasks. Always remember that the database is a tool to support case management and not case management itself.








Each agency should have its own child protection policy that outlines what steps the organization will take to protect children from harm and respond to protection concerns.  At a minimum, your agency should have codes of conduct in place for staff, including expectations about reporting concerns and data protection protocols. You must ensure that caseworkers subscribe to these policies and understand the implications of their work.

You must also train your agency and staff on national mandatory reporting laws and policies, and how they are practiced or followed. This information will directly impact how the caseworker explains these rules and regulations to the child and family.

In some settings, particularly humanitarian ones, there are situations where a mandatory reporting law technically exists, but the security situation is so unstable and/or dangerous that following the legal reporting requirements could actually further endanger a child. In such situations, the best interests of the child must be the primary consideration. You will need to determine to whom staff members should report cases that fall within mandatory requirements and the chain of supervision for reporting. 

Reflection question: How do the principles of “need to know” and “confidentiality” influence data protection protocols?

Module 3: Case Management Steps

Module 3 Learning Objectives

Learning Objectives

Upon completion, you will be able to: 

  • Identify and explain the six phases of the case management process
  • Appreciate the necessity and complexity of involving the child in every phase of the process

Module 3 Summary

Case management generally follows a cycle of steps to identify and respond to the needs of vulnerable children:  identification/registration, assessment, case planning, implementation, follow-up and reviewand case closure.  

The child is the focus of the process and should have the opportunity and encouragement to participate in every phase to the fullest extent possible.  The second key individual is the keyworker (generally the caseworker), who ideally oversees the entire case management process from registration to closure.  

Development of the plan should be based on a needs-led assessment and use whatever combination of direct services and referrals necessary to meet identified needs.  Intentional follow-up and review ensures that the goals and objectives are being met and continue to be relevant.  The caseworker’s responsibilities end when the case is either closed or transferred to another agency/department better-positioned to serve the child’s needs.  

3.1 Step 1 - Identification and Registration

Learning Objectives

Upon completion, you will be able to:  

  • Identify the six phases of the case management process.  
  • Appreciate the variety of actors who can provide identification of at-risk children
  • Identify the basic information collected during registration

Case management generally follows a cycle of steps to identify and respond to the needs of vulnerable children. While not always the same for every child’s situation, the case management process generally moves through the phases described below:

  1. Identification/Registration
  2. Assessment (initial & comprehensive levels of assessment)
  3. Case Planning 
  4. Implementation of the Case Plan
  5. Follow-Up and Review
  6. Case Closure

The diagram below summarises the steps in case management. The steps outlined here are only intended to provide guidance and examples. You should consult your own case management protocols for specific guidance on issues such as time frames, risk levels and responsibilities.








To ensure that vulnerable children are appropriately identified, the affected communities must be educated about the services your agency provides and how to identify children who are in need of those services. 

Once the children have been identified, they should be referred to the child protection agency or focal point in the community. This person will verify that these cases meet your child protection programme’s vulnerability criteria. In the event that you receive cases that do not meet your agency’s eligibility criteria, you must know about other services (e.g health services) to which you can refer the child or about which you can provide information.

If children who do not meet your eligibility criteria are consistently being referred to your organization, you will need to clarify the services your agency provides with other organizations and community focal points. Consulting with programme managers will help determine whether the criteria should be revised.

Once a child has been identified and referred to the correct child protection agency, they should be registered with that agency. Registration includes collecting basic information using the format specified in the agency’s standard operating procedures. Information collected is likely to include: 

  • child’s name, age and sex
  • with whom the child is living/staying (if anyone)
  • where the child lives and contact details 
  • date and location where they registered
  • initial protection concerns/ needs 

At this time the child should be assigned an individual case number in accordance with the agency’s documentation and information management protocols.

Case Study: Identification | What are the different ways K’s case could have been identified/referred?

K was 13 years old and was living with his mother and three sisters. K’s father had been working in a neighbouring country for five years. When returning home, he used to frequently abuse K’s mother in front of the children, following his wife’s movements and spending all the money earned overseas on alcohol. K’s mother was very attentive to the children’s needs but felt that the violence that she suffered had damaged her both physically and mentally. She once tried to escape from her husband with her children but returned home, as she was not able to survive alone without support. She finally decided to divorce him and moved with her children to seek a new future in another city. Unfortunately K’s father did not accept the decision to divorce and continued harassing his wife and children, to the extent that the police were called. The family was extremely poor and they were expelled from their rented apartment. Despite all of this, K continued his education.

3.2 Step 2 - Assessment

Learning Objectives

Upon completion, you will be able to:  

  • Identify the four stages of assessment
  • Distinguish between initial and comprehensive assessments
  • Appreciate the necessity for and complexity of involving children in the assessment process
  • Distinguish between needs-led and services-led assessments








Assessment is the gathering and analysing of information in order to form a professional judgement about the child’s situation, upon which subsequent decisions will be made. During an assessment, a case worker considers not only the immediate risks that the child faces, but also the child and family’s strengths, resources and protective influences.  This is the first opportunity for a caseworker to develop a positive relationship with the child and family and should be conducted accordingly.

Regardless of the type or nature of the assessment, all assessments will include the same basic stages:

  • Stage One Planning: deciding how to carry out the assessment, from where information will be sought and who will be involved
  • Stage Two Gathering Information: contacting the resources identified in Stage One and documenting responses
  • Stage Three Verifying Information: cross-checking to account for incomplete or contradictory information. Both children and adults can provide conflicting testimony, either accidentally or intentionally. As their caseworker, you must evaluate the information, identify the contradictions and try to resolve the differences.
  • Stage Four Analysis: determining how the information relates to the child’s situation, needs and risk.

There are two types of assessment:

Initial Assessment

This should ideally occur in the 24 hours following identification and registration - sooner if the child is in urgent need (e.g. in a life-threatening situation). Initial assessments are often conducted during the registration process. If this is not possible, the initial assessment should be completed within 48 hours, lest a child be left at risk.

Wherever possible, the caseworker who will work with the child should perform the initial assessment using age-appropriate, child-friendly interview techniques.  

The initial assessment considers:

  • Immediate physical protection, health and safety
  • Basic needs such as food, shelter, and medical care 

A priority level should be assigned to each case at initial assessment to ensure cases are handled in a timely way. Time limits and prioritisation categories are context-specific and should be developed in consultation with agencies assisting in the response.  

Regardless of the risk level, caseworkers should conclude the assessment by discussing next steps with the child and their family. Regular monitoring via home visits or phone calls should begin at this point to ensure the situation remains stable. Frequency of monitoring will depend on the risk level (e.g. twice a week for high risk, one a week for medium risk, once every two weeks for low risk).

It is also possible to close a case after an initial assessment if it is apparent there are no concerns or if the case is transferred to an agency better able to provide support.


Comprehensive Assessment

A comprehensive assessment follows the initial assessment and provides an in-depth and holistic view of the child’s situation beyond a child’s basic, immediate needs.  The specific factors considered will reflect your agency’s scope of services but should include both risk and harm factors and positive, protective influences and strengths.  

Involving Children in the Assessment Process

The comprehensive assessment is the basis on which all other casework is done and should be revised and updated as the child’s situations changes.  The CPMS indicate that an assessment should be initiated within one week of registration and completed within a month.  In emergency contexts, the process should be completed sooner.  When your initial assessment indicates a basic unmet need or safety concern, you should create an interim case plan to address those issues while continuing the comprehensive assessment.

Needs-led assessments seek to identify needs rather than services required and are preferred to the converse, service-led assessments.  Your assessment, for example, might be that a child needs an education rather than he needs to go to school. An education might come from tutors, education clubs, literacy groups … or school.  Expressing true needs encourages creative  solutions, rather than emphasizing a lack of services. The other danger in service-led assessments is the temptation to merely allocate existing services at the expense of real needs.

Information for the assessment can come from a variety of sources including available reports/information on the child, observations and interviews with the child and their family, discussion with other agencies and those who know the child, and home visits. You can gather this information using a variety of tools, including discussions /interviews, checklists, activities, questionnaires and scales.  When interviewing children, select a setting where they feel safe.  Use a child-friendly approach with simple language and age-appropriate concepts.  Non-traditional techniques (e.g. drawing, storytelling, etc.) can be effective toolsHowever, avoid techniques in which you have no experience or training, and do not attempt to provide therapy.

Caseworkers must help children understand the idea of confidentiality (and its limits) as well as the reasons they are being questioned and the intended purposes for the information.  Explain that you will not share children’s information without their permission, but that you may need to reach out to someone if you have safety concerns or mandatory reporting duties.

Children should be encouraged to participate and speak out, but they should never be pressured to do so, or threatened or punished for refusing.  The wishes and opinions of the child must be sought and considered when making decisions, but ultimately it is the adult’s responsibility to protect and promote the best interest of the child.  When you must make a choice the child opposes, they should be helped to understand what you have decided and how you came to that decision.

Making Decisions in the Child’s Best Interests  The Situation for Refugees

In refugee operations, a specific best interests procedure has been established for situations where equivalent national procedures are not available or accessible to refugee children. The best interests procedure is the standard for assessment, case planning and general case management for refugee children. This process is detailed in the UNHCR BID Guidelines and UNHCR/IRC Field Handbook. In refugee operations, case management of children is also linked to the broader refugee case management starting with refugee registration and ending with implementation of durable solutions.

The best interests procedure includes two complementary steps.  The first is conducting a Best Interests Assessment (BIA), a shorter assessment and case plan addressing the child’s individual needs. The second is the Best Interests Determination (BID).  The BID applies to five distinct situations.  It is a formal process with strict procedural safeguards designed to determine the child’s best interests for particularly important decisions.  BID decisions must be approved by a panel which should be composed, whenever possible, by government officials, partner agencies with diverse backgrounds and expertise in child protection and other related areas, and UNHCR staff. The BID process should support national child protection structures and be integrated into a comprehensive child protection system.

Case Study: Assessment | You are the girl’s caseworker. What do you do next? And why?

A case was identified of a 13-year-old girl being cared for by a woman who said she was her aunt, but the person referring the case did not believe this. The woman was a sex worker, and the person referring the case was concerned for the girl’s safety.The caseworker made many visits to the home, including with the government caseworker. Interviews showed that information the aunt gave about the child’s early history was inconsistent, and home visits showed that the girl did all housework for the aunt’.However, the girl refused to speak when interviewed in front of her aunt’ and the aunt’ refused for her to be interviewed separately. The person who referred the case was scared to report to the police as the woman was protected by a criminal gang. Therefore, there was no evidence on which to remove the child from the aunt’s care under the law.

3.3 Step 3 - Case Planning

Learning Objectives

Upon completion, you will be able to:

  • Understand twin track and permanency planning in case planning








Within two weeks of the assessment being completed, a case plan should be developed that describes what should be done to meet the stated needs, who should do it, and when it should occur.  Routine monitoring of the child’s situation should be included.  When developing plans, seek solutions that are durable and long term, an approach known as permanency planning.  Case plans should address short- and medium-term needs without neglecting long-term goals.  It is useful to include contingencies in case the plan fails or an action cannot be completed. This might be as simple as reconvening another case-planning meeting to develop a new plan.

To that end, it is often helpful to employ twin track planning, in which two or more alternative courses of action are pursued simultaneously to prevent delay.  For example, if a child needs education you might consider enrolling the child in school and looking for a tutor or pursuing family reunification while seeking alternative care that could lead to a permanency.In some cases, a case worker may convene a formal case-planning meeting with additional significant people in the child’s life, service providers, and relevant authorities.  At all times, consider how the child and family can participate fully and meaningfully in case plan development.  Whenever possible, the child should receive a simple, understandable, written copy of the plan. This is especially important if some of the action points require their participation.


Importance of Keyworker Consistency 

One staff member, or keyworker, should be the main point of contact for the child and family throughout their case. In most situations, the caseworker or case manager is the keyworker.Even though they may not be responsible for performing all case management functions and services, the caseworker is responsible for coordinating and checking the actions of all agencies and individuals involved in the case. The caseworker must ensure progress towards case plan objectives and safeguard the best interests of the child.Ideally, the same case worker carries out the assessment, case planning, and follow up.  However, there may be circumstances where it is necessary to change case workers, such as when the child/family has a poor relationship with the worker.  Alternatively, the assessment could indicate that the child would benefit from a  different type of worker.

Case Study: Planning | You are the caseworker. Brainstorm what activities could be included in a case plan, using twin track planning and permanency planning.

A 15-month old baby boy was experiencing severe neglect and physical abuse. His mother had a mental disorder and broke his arm in an aggressive outburst. He was malnourished and developmentally delayed. The house was in poor condition, with human faeces left around the home. The father was under significant stress from looking after his wife and children without paid employment. The two older children had left school to care for the mother and the baby. Neighbours rarely helped as they were afraid of the mother. The mental health worker said the mother’s condition and behaviour had consistently and significantly improved over the past year as a result of medication.

3.4 Step 4: Implementing the Case Plan

Learning Objectives

Upon completion, you will be able to:  

  • Recognize the variety of services that can be included in a case plan
  • Distinguish between direct services and referral services








Once the case plan is developed, you can begin working with the child, family, community and external service providers to implement the plan and ensure the child receives the appropriate services. 

The visual below shows examples of the various types of services that may be required to respond to the child protection needs identified in the assessment stage.

In some instances, you will meet needs through direct services.  Advocacy and parenting advice are examples.  Another direct service is the psychosocial support the caseworker provides during regular monitoring and routine interactions with the child and family that contributes to the family’s general well-being.

In other instances, you will use a process called ‘referral’ to connect the case to another provider for necessary services. Ordinarily this occurs with the permission of the child and family when the agency is unable to meet expressed needs without outside assistance. Where possible, caseworkers should accompany the child/family to the service provider at least once to perform introductions and ensure the referral is understood by the receiving agency.

Referrals often work best when the caseworker is familiar with the providers and the services offered. You should therefore continually educate yourself about the services and providers in the referral network. While the referred service (or agency) is responsible for providing a specific service, the caseworker maintains the overall responsibility for following up on the case plan and verifying that the needs of the child are fully met.

A referral mechanism between agencies and/or government departments should be supported by written documentation (a referral pathway). This can be facilitated by establishing focal points for referrals within each agency or service.

Expectations about handling case information must be discussed, and procedures (often called Standard Operating Procedures or SOPs) for sharing information must be embraced by all partners in a referral network to maintain standards of confidentiality and safety. 

Once clear procedures and protocols exist, you can ask children and caregivers which information they would like to share - and how - with which referral agencies. You should clarify with the child and caregiver how long this consent is valid. In some cases, consent may only be given for a one-off referral on the understanding that case information will not be shared thereafter.

Case Study: Implementation of a case plan | You are Amina’s caseworker. What services might be needed in this case? Which would require direct services and which would require referral services?

Amina, a 16-year-old girl, came to Save the Children’s Office one day after running away from school. She was due to be married the next day to a forty-year-old man against her wishes. Amina was very upset and did not know what to do. 

3.5 Step 5 - Follow-up and Review

Learning Objectives

Upon completion, you will be able to:  

  • Distinguish between follow-up and review in the case management process
  • Appreciate the variety of techniques for conducting follow-up
  • Distinguish between case management meetings, case planning meetings, and case conferences








Follow-up involves verifying that a child and their family are receiving appropriate services and support to meet their needs, as outlined in the case plan, and checking that their situation is stable and progressing positively in line with the case plan. Follow-up is conducted throughout the case management process with participation from the child, his/her family and other actors.  

Monitoring is often used in lieu of follow-up.’  For consistency, these guidelines use monitoring’ to describe a function of Supervision; only the term follow-up’ is used in this section.

Examples of follow-up actions in line with the child’s specific case are:

  • Verifying the child received needed medical support
  • Verifying the child has registered for school
  • Inquiring how mediation with parents has influenced their behaviour towards the child 
  • Inquiring if the child’s relationship with the parents is improving
  • Verifying that the child continues to attend school
  • Inquiring if the breathing techniques you taught the child to help them relax have helped 

Follow-up is essential to help caseworkers determine if the case plan is working and to identify any changes in a child or family’s circumstances that might necessitate a review/change of the case plan. If any risk factors have increased, other urgent actions may be required.

Follow-up can occur at any point between registration and case closure. Once a case plan is developed, the schedule of follow-ups can be included. The frequency of follow-ups will depend on the situation of the child, their specific needs and the risk level of the case. For example, if children are placed in safe houses for a limited time, daily phone calls may be essential to check on their safety and well-being. The pattern and frequency can be adapted as the case progresses and the child’s situation improves.  


Follow-up can take place in a variety of ways. Some options you can consider include:

  • Meetings with the child and/or family.
  • Scheduled home visit.  If home visits constitute part of the case plan for direct service delivery and follow-up, be sure to consider their purpose and possible repercussions to ensure that the child/family is not exposed to harm (e.g. by drawing the attention of neighbours/community) and will benefit from the visit.
  • Ad hoc home visits.  These can be particularly useful when the home environment is volatile or levels of care are low.  Ad-hoc home visits may provide a better opportunity to observe the child or to find the child alone if parents/caregivers have previously refused an individual interview.
  • Phone calls.  These may be necessary for care placements that need follow-up in the initial stages and/or children living in remote areas.
  • Confirmation from relevant service providers that the referred child actually received services.
  • Informal community-based follow-up, e.g. contacting the child’s teacher or community groups if they are supporting the child as part of the case plan.  

Review of the case plan usually occurs at strategic intervals to allow the caseworker, often together with their manager and the child/family, to see if the child’s case is progressing towards the stated goals and objectives and whether the child requires additional or different services.  A review should take place at least every three months, more frequently in rapidly-changing, high-risk, or emergency contexts.  It may be helpful for others involved in the case to participate and for a supervisor or someone not directly involved in the case to chair the review.

You should also know about three other types of meetings that relate to planning and review. Often the terms ‘case management meetings’, ‘case planning meetings’, and ‘case conferences’ are used interchangeably, but they have different purposes.

Case planning meetings are internal agency meetings used to develop a case plan for an individual child. They include the child, parents/caregivers (where appropriate), and caseworker. In complex cases, the caseworker’s supervisor may also be present. Case planning meetings are essential for facilitating the child (and their parents’) meaningful participation in the case management process.

Case management meetings are internal agency meetings held at regular intervals and involving managers/coordinators/supervisors (as appropriate) and caseworkers to review caseloads. They provide an opportunity to review all open cases, to compare how different cases are progressing, to discuss various types of response, to share lessons learned, to prioritize certain cases for immediate response, and to make joint decisions for complex cases. These meetings should be held in confidential locations, and information shared on cases should include no identifying information. Children and their families do not take part in these meetings. In emergency contexts, these meetings should be held approximately once a week.

Case Conferences are more formal multi-sector/inter-agency case planning/review meetings for complex cases involving many actors or managed over an extended period of time.  The purpose of a case conference is to explore collaborative service options and to make formal decisions in the best interest of the child. Case conferences should be documented with a report/minutes (see Appendix 10). The child and family participate in some (but not all) case conferences. Any participation would require careful planning and facilitation. The opinions and input of the child and family should always be sought in order to feed into decisions made.

Check your understanding: Activities conducted on a regular, sometimes daily, basis to verify that a child and their family are receiving appropriate services and support to meet their needs as outlined in the case plan is called:

  • a. Follow-up
  • b. Case management
  • c. Review
  • d. Case planning

Check your understanding: A formal meeting, with written minutes, including participants from multiple sectors and agencies to explore collaborative service options on behalf of the child is called a:

  • a. Case Management Meeting
  • b. Case Planning Meeting
  • c. Case Conference

3.6 Step 6 - Case Closure

Learning Objectives

Upon completion, you will be able to:  

  • Distinguish between case closure and case transfer








The final step in the case management process is case closure. The specific criteria for when a case can be closed should be identified as part of the SOPs.  Most often cases are closed when the goals of the child and family, as outlined in the case plan, have been met, the child is safe from harm, their care and well-being is being supported, and there are no additional concerns. 

Other reasons cases can be closed are:

  • The family/child no longer want support and there are no grounds for going against their wishes (i.e. provided this is safe for the child)
  • The child turns 18 years old
  • The child dies

In the event of death, an investigation should be conducted into the circumstances to ensure that no other children are at risk. Any incident of child death should be reported to the government department responsible for child protection.

Cases do not close immediately after the plan has been concluded but after a set period of time during which several follow-up visits substantiate the child’s sustained well-being. After closure, a visit should take place within three months (often less in an emergency setting) to ensure that the situation remains stable and to seek feedback from the child and their family on the service provided.  

Case management procedures require that the closure of the case be authorised by a manager to ensure cases are not closed prematurely.  Cases can be reopened at any time should new information emerge or the child’s situation change, so closed cases should be stored in a safe place for a specific period of time in accordance with your agency’s data protection protocol or national legislation.


Case Transfer

Case transfer occurs when you and your organisation close the case and the receiving agency or department assumes full responsibility for it.  Often this happens when a child moves but still needs a case plan to ensure their protection. Transfers also take place where the original caseworker and/or agency is no longer best-positioned to direct the child’s case.

When transferring a case, you will need to put in place a clear plan for hand-over to the receiving agency and clearly communicate this to the child and family.  The child’s case file must not be handed over until the child/family has consented.  Whenever possible, the caseworker should accompany the child to meet the new caseworker who will take over the support.

The child/family may choose to forego further support and not hand over their file. There may also be instances when you decide to transfer a case against the child/family’s wishes to ensure the child’s best interest and protection.  These decisions should be clearly discussed with the child and the family.  

Transfer of a child’s case should be avoided unless absolutely necessary. There must be good cause and a clear indication that the child will receive a better degree of service than they are currently receiving. Transferring children simply because their care needs are challenging is often not in the best interest of the child and can result in greater harm. Before transferring a case, you should consider that the more times a child is transferred, the greater the likelihood that the child will drop out of the care system and miss out on receiving needed services.

When transferring whole caseloads to another agency and/or the government, the process should include a review of all case files to confirm consent on sharing information where this is needed.

In what ways are case closure and case transfer similar and different?

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