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3.1.2 Employees of the Department providing foster care

Last Modified: 28-Jun-2018 Review Date: 01-Oct-2018

Purpose

To guide child protection workers in the role and process of assessing and managing an employee of the Department for Child Protection and Family Support (the Department) who is considering or is currently providing foster care for a child in the Chief Executive Officer’s (CEO’s) care.

Note: CEO refers to the Chief Executive Officer of the Department.

Practice Requirements

  • An employee of the Department who wishes to foster a child in the CEO's care must be approved in accordance with the competencies set out in the Children and Community Services Regulations 2006. The CEO must be satisfied that the employee is:
    • able to provide care for a child in a way that promotes the wellbeing of the child, promotes the child’s family and interpersonal relationships, and protects the child from harm
    • able to provide a safe living environment for a child
    • able to work cooperatively with officers, a child’s family and other people when providing care for a child
    • able to take responsibility for the development of his or her competency and skills as a carer, and
    • a person of good character and repute.
  • An employee of the Department who is a general foster carer or a family member or significant other carer (foster carer) must not access information that is confidential and would not normally be available to a foster carer - as outlined in The West Australian Public Sector Code of Ethics, Section (9) of the Public Sector Management Act 1994 and Section 440A of the Criminal Code Act Compilation Act 1913
  • If an employee of the Department is a foster carer, they must ensure that their current line manager is aware of this and of their current care arrangements.
  • If the Department is aware of any person having been charged with, or convicted of, a Schedule 1 or 2 offence, or any other offence that the Department assesses as inappropriate for them to carry out child-related work, the Screening Unit must be notified. The Screening Unit must then notify the Working with Children Screening Unit. While this is a general provision, it must also be observed in department casework practice with foster carers and department employees, including any charges or convictions relating to abuse in care.

Procedures

  • Overview
  • An employee wishes to become a foster carer
  • Assessment of the employee
  • Approval of the employee as a foster carer
  • Management of an employee who provides foster care for a child in the CEO's care
  • Overview

    The Department will accept an employee becoming a foster carer subject to compliance with the procedures in the Policy - Employees of the Department as foster carers for children in the care of the CEO (2012). The Department will also accept a new employee who is an existing foster carer, subject to compliance with the procedures set out in the policy.

    The policy sets clear expectations for the management of cases in which a:

    • Department employee is a foster carer
    • Department employee applies to become a general foster carer
    • Department employee becomes a family or significant other carer, or  
    • a foster carer applies to become an employee of the Department.

    The policy recognises that the majority of placement arrangements for children in the CEO’s care are with family or significant other foster carers. The policy takes into account the different remote, rural and metropolitan practice environments, and in particular, the nature of staffing in smaller remote and rural communities.

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    An employee wishes to become a foster carer

    An employee who wishes to become a general foster carer is normally expected to apply to be assessed and managed by a non-government fostering agency. An exception to this may be an employee who agrees to be assessed to provide emergency foster care. Judgements will be made taking into account individual circumstances.

    If an employee applies to become a general foster carer, or takes on the care of a child in the CEO's care as a family or significant other carer, they must advise their line manager so they are aware that they will be contacted to act as a referee.

    If an employee wishes to become a family or significant other foster carer for a child in care, they should refer to Chapter 3.1: Care arrangements with a family or significant other carer for details on the process.

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    Assessment of the employee

    An employee who wishes to become a foster carer must be screened, assessed and approved in accordance with the Department’s procedures, standards and competencies. If the employee has a partner, the assessment and screening process will also apply to the partner.

    The assessment should be done by an assessor or contract assessor or, in the case of family or significant other foster carers, an officer from a district other than that in which the employee works. If this is not possible, for example in country areas, the assessment should be conducted, wherever possible, by a senior child protection worker or team leader. This should be completed in consultation with Fostering and Adoption Services.

    The assessment considers the employee’s understanding of the potential conflict of interests, confidentiality, and the possible risks involved in becoming a foster carer.

    The employee must be fully informed by the assessor of the potential risks to their professional reputation and livelihood should an allegation of abuse in care be made against them. The employee should be made aware that when they are both a foster carer and an employee, an allegation against them as a foster carer may affect their employment. Although the allegation may not have arisen directly through their employment, the Department is still required to undertake the formal discipline process in respect of any allegations against an employee.

    All concerns relating to children in the CEO's care or concerns relating to children with whom the employee has contact in the course of their employment must be reported to the Integrity Services Unit.

    Staff should refer to Chapter 2.1: Responding to standard of care concerns and safety and wellbeing concerns against Department employees.

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    Approval of the employee as a foster carer

    The authority to approve an employee as a foster carer resides with the relevant Executive Director; or with the Director General if the employee is an Executive Director or Level 9 officer.

    If the employee is approved as a general foster carer, they must be allocated to a district other than that in which they are employed. It is accepted that this may not be possible in country areas. In such cases, the district director will take responsibility for implementing strategies to enable a clear separation of the two roles and to manage any conflict of interest.

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    Management of an employee who provides foster care for a child in the CEO's care

    A Department employee must not be the case manager or decision maker for children who are placed with them as the foster carer.

    The employee will be reminded of their responsibility not to access confidential information that would not normally be available to a foster carer, including information about the child(ren) in their care and their families or to their assessment and performance as a foster carer.

    The line manager responsible for the employee is in charge of discussing, monitoring and managing any conflict of interest. This occurs in consultation with the employee at regular intervals including at the time of employment, at the time of approval, in annual staff performance appraisals, and at the annual foster carer review.

    An employee who is, or becomes, a general foster carer with a non-government agency must inform their line manager. The appropriate steps must then be taken to ensure the employee understands any potential conflict of interest, confidentiality, and the possible risks.

    The employee’s line manager and other colleagues might also face a potential conflict of interest when the employee is a foster carer - for example, when there are issues relating to subsidies, practice decisions that the foster carer (employee) disagrees with, or when the foster carer (employee) requests changes in work practices to meet the needs of the child in their care. Such decisions should be made in consultation with the district director or senior management separate to the relevant district office.

    Wherever possible, the employee is managed by a district other than that in which they work. If this is not possible, the district director must allocate a senior child protection worker or team leader to manage the case.

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