4.1 Overview and Principles

The Community Placement and Case Management (CPCM) Programme aims to provide a holistic case management system that specifically looks into the protection concerns of migrant, undocumented, stateless, refugee, and asylum seeking Unaccompanied and Separated Children (UASC) at risk of arrest and detention and those directly affected by immigration detention in Malaysia.

Community placement in this context refers to the community-based accommodation that a refugee, asylum seeking, migrant or undocumented UASC would be placed in. Such community based accommodation is central in preventing immigration detention and ensuring UASC are in safe and stable housing.

Case Management is seen as a process wherein a Case Manager:

forms working relationships with individuals and families to empower, enhance their wellbeing and problem-solving capacities, resolve outstanding issues, provide information on how to obtain services and resources in their communities, and work towards the protection of people who are not in a position to do so themselves…1

Case Management within a child protection framework has been defined as:

The method of assessing the needs of the child and the child’s family and current caregiver, advocating for, arranging, coordinating, monitoring and following up on both direct services and referrals required to meet the child’s complex needs.2

Case Management for UASC within a migratory context encompasses the above through a holistic system that offers a continuum of services that does not end until a durable solution or case resolution is achieved.

CPCM Programme Values

Values provide a basis that guides organizational practices. The CPCM Programme and SUKA Society’s values are guided by the guiding practices provided under the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) – which include:

  1. the principle of non-discrimination (Article 2),

  2. the principle that the best interest of the child is of paramount importance in all decisions affecting children (Article 3),

  3. the right to participation and inclusion in the case management process (Article 12),

  4. the basic right to survival and development (Article 6).

Other values include:

  1. that the individuality and uniqueness of a child is recognized, respected, and taken into consideration in the decision-making process,

  2. that the programmes and services are able to develop a child’s abilities and skills leading to an independent adult life,

  3. that the relevant stakeholders undertake their roles and responsibilities to a standard that actively works towards safeguarding a child’s best interest.

CPCM Programme Principles

Principles provide guidance to an organization when developing its processes or programmes. The outcome of the organizational values above are reflected in the programme principles stated below:

Figure 1 Programme principles guided by organizational values

More specifically, the programme framework focuses on the following guiding principles:3

  • A System that is CLIENT CENTRIC, with the client (the child in this instance) as the focus of the framework and service response to ensure that individual needs are met. The client also takes an active role in developing a care plan and services needed.

  • A System that is PROACTIVE by responding in advance to needs and risks; to be preventive rather than reactive.

  • A System that is STRENGTHS BASED by identifying a client’s assets, resiliency and resources, and building on these systems and coping mechanisms.

  • A System that is based on a respectful and mutually beneficial PARTNERSHIP between the client, family, community, Case Manager, any other service provider, government and non-government agency.

  • A System that is HOLISTIC, taking into account all the needs of the client including physical, psychological, spiritual, cultural and social needs.

  • A System that is OUTCOMES DRIVEN by focusing on client goals, and through continuous monitoring and review of actions.

  • A System that is CULTURALLY RESPONSIVE, respectful, and relevant to the client’s cultural identity, which includes race, ethnicity, gender, age, country of origin, language, disability, spiritual and cultural beliefs, economic status, family and community needs.

  • A System that is DYNAMIC and allows for the revision of goals and strategies based on case progression and the client’s changing circumstances.

CPCM Programme Goals

CPCM goals are typically organization specific and adapted based on the challenges faced within a country context. For this Manual, goals are developed based on the child welfare framework for UASC adopted from the U.S. model. The goals primarily focus on establishing safety, stability and permanency, and meeting the overall well-being needs of a child that is placed in the community or in out-of-home care.4 Principles of the programme above are reflected in specific goals relevant to the client.

  1. Safety Goals

A core function of the programme is to ensure that every child in out-of-home care is safe. Safety goals include interventions that protect a child from actual or threat of harm, and the minimization of risk of harm in the out-of-home care environment. More specifically, the goals should include physical protection, where a child lives in a safe environment without threat or actual presence of abuse, maltreatment or neglect, and that a child has the necessary skills to protect himself/herself. Contingency and safety plans should be developed with the caregiver and the child.

  1. Stability and Permanency Goals

Stability and permanency goals look at helping a child restore the stability that was lost as a result of the migration process or separation from his/her parents or formal caregiver. Interventions should provide a state of stability and a permanent home for the child as well as achieving permanency from a longer term perspective. Achieving stability and permanency in a transit country context is challenging. In such a context, it may include the following:


  1. Establishing family and community links where possible.

  2. Securing alternative placement of care in the community, either via foster care arrangements with community members or independent living for the older minors.


  1. Legal protection in the country of transit.

  2. Working towards a durable solution, which may include resettlement, repatriation where possible, local integration, and/or preparation for ageing out of the programme and continued independent living into adulthood.

  3. Well-being Goals

Child well-being goals are a holistic and broad way of describing how well a child is doing. Andrews et al. (2002) defines well-being as:

…healthy and successful individual functioning (involving physiological, psychological and behavioural levels of organisation), positive social relationships (with family members, peers, adult caregivers, and community and societal institutions, for instance, school and faith and civic organisations), and a social ecology that provides safety (e.g. freedom from interpersonal violence, war and crime), human and civil rights, social justice and participation in civil society.5

Child well-being has been framed in many different ways by different authors over the years. For the purposes of the current country context, well-being is adapted and developed around the basic tenants of children’s rights contained in the UNCRC – the right to Survival, Protection, Development and Participation. Well-being goals are measured across seven main domains:

  1. Material well-being – adequate food, clothing and other basic essential items

  2. Physical health – current health and access to health care

  3. Subjective well-being – emotional and mental health

  4. Education – access to education

  5. Housing – safe and adequate living conditions with basic amenities

  6. Relationships and support systems – developing and strengthening primary and secondary support circles

  7. Risk and Safety – reduction in risk/threat of harm and arrest by authorities for immigration offences.


As there are no refugee camps in Malaysia, most refugees and asylum-seekers live in small, cramped flats or houses in the city. Following a lack of a protection space in the country and the absence of suitable caregivers, UASCs are at significant risk of abuse, violence and trauma. Undocumented UASCs are particularly at risk of arrest and detention, and those that are released from immigration detention struggle to find safe placement and access basic services. Further undocumented and documented refugees, asylum seeking and migrant persons often experience significant challenges in accessing national protection systems.

Apart from interventions by UNHCR to secure release, there is little to no coordinated support for UASC upon their release from detention. Further, support for undocumented UASC within the communities is limited based on capacity and resources of community organizations and limited non-governmental service providers. At present, there are no specific non-governmental or community based organizations working solely to address the needs of UASC and to our knowledge none that use a holistic case management approach.

In light of this, SUKA Society has implemented a community placement and case management programme specifically for undocumented UASC living in the community who are at risk of arrest and detention. The Programme is a work in progress with tools and processed being developed over time. These tools and processes continue to evolve and improve over time.

At time of writing, there have been over 150 UASC referred and screened. Due to the mandate and availability of resources, the scope of the programme is limited to unaccompanied or separated minors below the age of 18, who are at risk of arrest and detention for immigration related purposes and who currently reside in precarious or unsafe housing in the community.

4.2 Scope of the Manual

This Manual is meant to be an instructional and informational guide for organizations looking to set up a community placement and case management programme. It aims to provide a basic framework for organizations with standard operating procedures detailing relevant actions and assessment forms to guide Case Managers, supervisors and other support staff.

The scope of the Manual is limited to the following client profile:

  • unaccompanied or separated minor,

  • below the age of 18,

  • at risk of arrest and detention for immigration related purposes, and

  • currently living in the community.

Although the Manual endeavours to be a comprehensive guide, organizations should adapt relevant processes, procedures and tools to fit the organization’s needs, country context, and the population served. The Manual also does not take into consideration and cannot address the many factors that create a rich diversity in a case management and community placement process including: the unique traits and characteristics of specific children, differences in approaches and responses to case resolution, local political and legal conditions, and individual management styles, to name a few. As Malaysia is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, and does not have any organised State programme for the protection and care of UASC in the country, the scope of this Manual is limited to processes, procedures and tools that are available to civil society organizations, local communities and international agencies.

You are encouraged to approach your work with sensitivity, creativity, and resourcefulness to develop specific strategies that do take into account all of the many variables that influence the specific needs of your clients. In addition, where available, you are also encouraged to tap into opportunities to incorporate government resources, processes and services to create a collaborative “working together” process between government and civil society agencies. It is up to you to take the basic framework outlined in this Manual, and build a programme that effectively addresses the needs of your clients. This Manual is designed simply to serve as the foundation from which to begin.

4.3 How to Use this Guide

The Manual consists of four main parts:

  1. Laying the Programme Foundation – outlines the relevant elements needed to set up a community placement and case management programme for UASC.

  2. The Case Management Process – outlines the processes and procedures to undertake case management services for UASC.

  3. The Community Placement Process – outlines key aspects of a foster care placement including the roles and responsibilities of key stakeholders and the relevant procedures in the selection and matching of foster parents.

  4. Annexes – a range of tools to assist in the implementation of the Programme.

The tools and processes are meant to facilitate the process of planning and implementing a community placement and case management programme for UASC. The Manual should therefore be seen as a starting point to develop and contextualise as appropriate, based on your organizational needs and country context. This Manual also forms a part of a larger toolkit that is being developed for the care and protection of UASC in a displaced context.

  1. Corlett, D., with Mitchell. G., Van Hove, J., Bowring. L., Wright, K., Captured Childhood, Melbourne, International Detention Coalition, 2012. Retrieved from: www.idcoalition.org/ccap.↩︎

  2. Interagency Working Group on Unaccompanied and Separated Children, Alternative Care in Emergencies Toolkit, published by Save the Children on behalf of the Interagency Working Group on Unaccompanied and Separated Children, 2013. Retrieved from: https://www.unicef.org/protection/files/ace_toolkit_.pdf.↩︎

  3. These principles have been adapted from the Case Management Manual of the Department for Communities and Social Inclusion of the Government of South Australia. The Case Management Framework: Specialist Homelessness and Domestic and Aboriginal Family Violence Services (SHS), Homelessness Strategy Division, Housing SA, Department for Communities and Social Inclusion, July 2013. Retrieved from: https://dhs.sa.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/60593/Case_management_framework.pdf.↩︎

  4. Adapted from the national goals under the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997, United States of America.↩︎

  5. Andrews, A., Ben-Arieh, A., Carlson, M., Damon, W., Dweck, C., Earls, F., Garcia-Coll, C., Gold, R., Halfon, N., Hart, R., Lerner, R.M., McEwen, B., Meaney, M., Offord, D., Patrick, D., Peck, M., Trickett, B., Weisner, T. and Zuckerman, B. (Ecology Working Group) Ecology of Child Well-Being: Advancing the Science and the Science-Practice Link. Georgia: Centre for Child Well-Being, 2002, p.103.↩︎