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3.1.4 Family or significant other care

Last Modified: 18-Feb-2019 Review Date: 04-Jan-2021


To inform senior child protection workers (SCPWs) of the practice and procedures associated with assessing, supporting and reviewing a family or significant other carer applicant or approved carer.

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

Practice Requirements

  • The assistant district director/​district director must approve the care arrangement with a family or significant other for a child in the CEO’s care.
  • The family or significant other must be assessed against the competencies identified in the Children and Community Services Regulations 2006 (the Regulations).
  • SCPWs must not proceed with an assessment or care arrangement if they become aware of any information (for example, from the criminal or our record checks) that the person is not suitable to be a carer.
  • The assessor must determine the citizenship and/or residency status of the applicant(s). Consideration can only be given as a last resort and on a case by case basis to temporary visa holders performing the role of a family or significant other carer, or as a provider of short break support if the urgency of the situation warrants it, and there are no more stable options available.
  • The temporary visa holder should advise the Department of Home Affairs of their intention to become a family carer and any resulting impact the care arrangement of the child has on their circumstances, such as change of address, living arrangements or monetary situation.​ They can also contact the Department of Home Affairs Perth office
  • An Aboriginal practice leader (or other senior Aboriginal officer) must be consulted where a care arrangement for an Aboriginal child with a family or significant other is being considered.
  • SCPWs must consider the specific cultural and language needs of a child from a culturally and linguistically diverse (CaLD) background in selecting a care arrangement.
  • All family members and significant others caring for a child in the CEO’s care must have a Working with Children Check (WWC Check), unless an urgent care arrangement is required with a family member or significant other. In this instance, an application for a WWC Check must be lodged within five days of the child being placed in their care. If the carer and/or other relevant adult household members have not applied for a WWC Card within five days of the care arrangement commencing, the child must be removed and the carer subsidy ceased.
  • A person who receives a Negative Notice or an Interim Negative Notice under the Working with Children (Criminal Record Checking) Act 2004 must not provide a care arrangement. Where a child has been placed with a family member or significant other in an urgent placement and a Negative Notice is later returned, the child must be removed from the care arrangement.
  • Carer reviews must occur on an ongoing basis during monthly and quarterly visits. This information must then form a consolidated annual review report and be approved by the assistant district director/​​district director.
  • SCPWs must implement a rolling 11 month planning cycle so that carer reviews are completed within the required timeframe.
  • If staff become aware that a person has been charged with, or convicted of, a Class 1 or Class 2 offence, or any other offence that, in our assessment, makes them inappropriate to carry out child-related work, the Screening Unit must be notified.
  • A reassessment must occur if there is a change in the family member or significant other’s primary relationship, such as a new partner.​​​


Process Maps

Refer to Approval for care arrangement for a child under s.79(2)(b) (urgent placement required) and s.79(2)(a)(i) with family and significant other carer.


  • Introduction
  • Identification and engagement
  • Urgent placements under s.79(2)(b)
  • Assessment and approval
  • Ongoing competency building
  • Annual review
  • Reassessment of a family or significant other carer
  • Assessment of family and significant other carers applying to become foster carers
  • Naming assessment and review forms in Objective
  • Introduction

    Section 3 of the Children and Community Services Act 2004 (the Act) defines ‘Relative’.

    ‘Significant other’ is not defined in the Act but includes adults who:

    • would be included in a child’s ecomap
    • have known, and demonstrated an active interest in, the child and/or their family for a significant period, and
    • belong to the same cultural group.

    Identification and engagement

    Identification of potential family and significant other carers should, wherever possible, occur in conjunction with Signs of Safety meetings that assess and plan for the safety of a child. Potential family and significant other carers will be identified by either the family or staff and should be brought into Signs of Safety meetings as soon as appropriate.

    Assessment starts at the point of identification of the potential carer and the decision that a child could be placed with them. Assessment is an ongoing process which should include building capacity to meet and enhance competencies.  The opportunity to do this will occur at every contact.

    Assessment of the family and significant other applicant is undertaken by a SCPW with input from the care team (case manager, team leader, Aboriginal practice leader, senior practice development officer), and is different to a foster carer assessment in that:

    • it considers the pre-existing relationship between the child, family and the applicant
    • the applicant is being assessed to care for a specific child, and
    • the applicant is usually identified by the child or their family.

    Urgent placements under s.79(2)(b)

    An urgent placement with a family member or significant other can be made under s.79(2)(b) of the Act as one ‘the CEO considers appropriate’ and based on an initial safety assessment.

    The initial safety assessment must focus on the child’s needs and safety. The Urgent placement and family and significant other care assessment checklist and flowchart (in related resources) outline the urgent placement mandatory requirements, which include:

    • Consultation with the team leader, and if the child is Aboriginal, with the Aboriginal practice leader (or other relevant Aboriginal officer) in the district office.  All consultations must be recorded and saved on the case file. Record the:
      • date of the consultation
      • name of staff member(s) including the Aboriginal practice leader or Aboriginal staff member involved in the consultation
      • issues discussed and outcomes, and 
      • if there is another document relating to this consultation, for example, Form 456 Request for Aboriginal Practice Leader Consultation (in related resources), include the Objective reference number.
    • A search of Assist and the FDV Triage Application for information about the family member, significant other and any other adult household members. If the search reveals adverse information that suggests the applicant may be unsuitable to care for the child, further assessment should not proceed unless the assistant district director/​district director has considered the information and approves the continuation of the assessment.
    • A home visit to undertake a home and environment assessment (preferably before the care arrangement occurs) and completion of Form 715 - Practical Checklist (in related resources).  If the Crisis Care Unit has arranged the care arrangement, district staff must undertake the home visit the next working day. 
    • Completion of the relevant sections of Form 560 Assessing and Reviewing Family Members and Significant Others as Carers (in related resources). This form includes prompt questions to assess safety and to begin to assess the carer against the competencies outlined in the Regulations. This forms the basis of a full carer assessment if the care arrangement continues past the first five days.

    At the home visit (as part of the safety assessment), a number of forms must be completed and discussed with the applicant:

    • Form 562 Statutory Declaration (Urgent Placement) and Form 395 Record Check Consent Form (in related resources) must be signed by the applicant and all adults in the household.  Children ten years of age and above who live in the household must be listed in the applicant’s Form 395. The signed forms must be sent to the Screening Unit the next working day. If not all adults in the household are present at the initial visit and a child is being placed, SCPWs must return the following working day to obtain the completed statutory declaration and record check consent forms.
    • An application for a WWC Check must be provided if the applicant does not have a current WWC Card. This includes a separate WWC application for their spouse or de-facto partner (if applicable) and any other adult household members.  SCPWs must complete part 6 and 7 of the application and assist the applicant to complete the other sections.  The applicant must be advised to submit this form within five days of the child being placed with them, and to advise the SCPW when it is submitted so the receipt number can be listed on Form 560.  If the applicant has a current WWC Card, the SCPW must record the care number and expiry date on Form 560.  For further information refer to Chapter 3.1: Working with Children Card - application and renewal requirements for carers.

    An Urgent Placement Plan must be developed (in Form 560) to clearly identify any known areas of concern and how they can be managed or minimised to promote safety for the child, as well as any supports required by the applicant (which may include financial or specialist support). This is an opportunity for SCPWs to assist the applicant to begin thinking through what it means to have a child in care live with them, prioritising the child’s safety, managing contact and working with the Department. 

    When assessing the child's safety in the proposed urgent placement, SCPWs should take into account:

    • the child's age, development, functioning and behaviour
    • the applicant’s attitudes, relationship, functioning and parenting capacity
    • safe living environments, including sleeping arrangements and pools/bodies of water
    • potential for harm, including access to a person responsible for harm
    • natural support networks such as extended family, professional networks, alternative carers and significant others, and
    • the applicant's cultural awareness (openness and willingness to keep a child connected to culture, community and country, and to maintain their cultural connections).

    A copy of the Urgent Placement Plan and the resource Urgent Placement Handbook (in related resources) must be given to the applicant before or at the time of placing the child. The Urgent Placement Handbook provides necessary information to family carers for the first five days of an urgent placement.  The Urgent Placement Plan is to be implemented and reviewed throughout the assessment process and care arrangement. 

    When the relevant sections of the Form 560 are completed the assistant district director/​district director approves or does not approve the urgent placement. If the placement is not approved, the child must not be placed with the applicant and an alternative care arrangement must be sought.

    Where the assistant district director/​​district director has approved the care arrangement and the child is placed with the applicant, SCPWs must:

    • record the applicant's status in the 'Approve and Manage Carer' screen in Assist as 'Approval – s.79(2)(b)'
    • record the details in the ‘Living Arrangement’ in Assist
    • provide the applicant with information and assistance to meet the immediate needs of the child, including the Carer Toolkit 1 and Care Arrangement Referral (CAR), and 
    • obtain the applicant’s bank account details and record these in Form 560 and Assist in order for a subsidy to be paid.

    A case planning decision about whether to proceed with a carer assessment for ongoing care must be made within five days of the child’s urgent placement. This decision is based on the applicant’s willingness to provide ongoing care and a preliminary assessment that this is a viable care arrangement. The carer must be told that they are not yet an 'approved carer' until they have undergone a full carer assessment.

    If a decision is made to not continue, an alternative care arrangement must be identified and the child moved. The details must be updated in Assist and the Screening Unit advised.

    If the decision is for the carer assessment to proceed, SCPWs must confirm the WWC Check was applied for within five working days, record the details on Form 560, and update Assist with the application number and date lodged.  If a WWC Check has not been applied for, the applicant must apply as soon as possible or an alternative care arrangement must be sought.


    Assessment and approval

    ​All applicants must be assessed against the competencies set out in the Regulations.  The CEO must be satisfied that the individual:

    • 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
    • is able to provide a safe living environment for a child
    • is able to work cooperatively with us, a child's family and other people when providing care for a child
    • is able to take responsibility for the development of their skills and competency as a carer, and
    • is a person of good character and repute.

    Assessment of applicants must be an ongoing process and should continue with every conversation the SCPW has with them. Assessment and capacity building with applicants should occur concurrently.  Each conversation should assist applicants to be aware of the things they need to do as carers, develop the necessary behaviours, and provide the SCPWs with a more complete picture about the extent to which the applicant meets the competencies.

    The values of respect, compassion, empathy and validation should be integral to these conversations.  The Family and Significant Other Care Handbook can help guide conversations with carers and help answer important questions they might have about the assessment process (in related resources).

    Assessment informs support strategies which should be tailored for the child and applicant. The applicant may have assumed the role of carer unexpectedly, in response to an unforeseen crisis, and may require additional support and learning/training opportunities while they adjust to their new role. A Carer Support Plan (previously known as an Individual Learning and Development Plan) must be developed for every applicant to support them in acquiring additional skills and to assist them to build capacity to meet the competencies. The Carer Support Plan can be found in the Form 560 (in related resources).  

    The Urgent placement and family and significant other care assessment checklist, flowchart and Form 560 (in related resources) guide assessment requirements regarding:

    • the next steps following an urgent placement, and 
    • the beginning steps for an assessment if a child has not yet been placed with the applicant as it is a planned care arrangement (for example the completion of Form 395 and the Application for a WWC Check).

    The number and type of contacts SCPWs have with applicants during assessments will vary to suit individual needs. The competencies must be discussed with the applicant.

    Using the prompt questions and other forms of interviews, discussions and resources (e.g. ecomaps and genograms) with the carer, SCPWs must gather evidence to support the applicant's abilities against each of the competencies. An analysis of this evidence is what forms the assessment to be written into the Form 560. Resources have been developed to assist the assessment process including Practice Guidance for Swimming Pools, Spas and Other Bodies of Water, Safe Storage of Alcohol and Other Poisons and Considerations for Pet Assessments (in related resources).

    As part of the assessment process, SCPWs must contact the referees identified in the Form 560 and complete Form 707 Referee Report for Foster, Family and Significant Other Carer Applicants. This must be done before the applicant is approved by the assistant district director/ district director. 

    When an applicant has indicated they have health issues, Form 718 Health Questionnaire and 711 Authority to Release Medical Information must be completed.  SCPWs can then request a medical report and discuss any concerns with the medical practitioner, including mental health and other specialists.

    If criminal record checking reveals any adverse information, the Screening Unit will request the Authorised Officer named on the applicant's Record Check Consent Form (Form 395) to discuss this with the applicant and complete a report for the assistant district director/ district director. After considering the report, the assistant district director/ district director will decide whether the applicant's assessment should continue.

    As part of the assessment, the SCPW must include a recommendation for the applicant to be approved as a family or significant other carer (for the care arrangement to continue if the child is already in their care) or for the applicant to not be approved as a family or significant other carer (the child to be placed in an alternative care arrangement if the child is already in their care).

    This report must be shared with the applicant to discuss any issues and provide clarification where necessary.

    The assessment report must be submitted to the assistant district director/ district director for approval.  The applicant must be advised of the outcome by the SCPW verbally and then in writing by the assistant district director/district director.

    A final decision regarding the approval of the applicant as a family or significant other carer must be made within a maximum of six months of the commencement of the urgent placement or assessment.  

    If the applicant is approved as a carer, the SCPW must update the applicant's status in the 'Approve and Manage Carer' screen in Assist.

    The carer must be provided with ongoing support, learning and development to continue to build or enhance competencies.

    Once the applicant has been approved, the SCPW must again discuss the Care Team Approach Practice Framework and make sure the carer has a copy (it should be given during the assessment process).


    Ongoing competency building

    Every carer must have a Carer Support Plan. After approval, ongoing contact with approved family or significant other carers should occur on a monthly basis.  Information gathered at this contact must be pulled together to inform the annual review process and the Carer Support Plan.  The focus of the contact should be on the care team approach, relationship building with the child and carer, and the carer's cultural awareness and ability to maintain the child's cultural connections. This process should build carer capacity through individually tailored support and learning and development, so that the care arrangement is a safe and positive experience for the child.

    Conversations with the carer should be recorded as case notes or Signs of Safety meeting notes and will inform assessment of ongoing supports required, learning and development opportunities, who can best provide learning and support and the annual review process.

    The SCPW should be clear in their role in supporting carers and determine what this will involve for each carer.


    Annual review

    The annual review of the family or significant other carer is informed by the continuing conversations that have been occurring monthly and is part of an ongoing process. This involves recording key issues in the Signs of Safety three columns and highlights the areas for further support, capacity building and learning and development (refer to Form 560a Annual Review Family and Significant Other Carer in related resources). A copy is provided to the carer and the original document placed on the carer file.

    Information recorded from ongoing contacts in case notes, quarterly reports, Signs of Safety mappings, care plan meetings and the Carer Support Plan should be brought together to form the basis of the annual review and report.

    All carers must have a carer review once every 12 months (as a minimum requirement). To assist forward planning and for reviews of approved carers to be completed within the required timeframe, districts must implement a rolling 11 month planning cycle. This cycle is designed to support a sustainable and systematic approach to all carers having an annual review.

    Using this model, all planning requirements are scheduled to occur between January and November of each calendar year. This should be documented in a letter to the carer(s) at the beginning of the cycle, detailing the future meeting date for the annual review.

    The carer review provides an opportunity for the carer and their family to give feedback on the experience of providing care, what is working well, what we and the carer might be worried about, and what needs to happen. It also provides the opportunity for the SCPW to check that the carer and all other adult household members have a current WWC Card.

    The annual review formally affirms whether or not the carer is achieving and maintaining their competencies as a carer. This should also be reflected in the Carer Support Plan, for example,  what is working well, what the carer needs further support or assistance with.

    Once the carer review process has been completed, Assist must be updated to reflect the completion of the process.


    Reassessment of a family or significant other carer

    If a family or significant other carer has withdrawn after a child has left their care and we are seeking to return that child or place another child with them, the carer must be reassessed according to the family or significant other carer assessment process.

    Reassessment must also be undertaken when:

    • an allegation concerning the standard of care has been reported and investigated, and the outcome was unsubstantiated but concerns remain
    • an allegation has been substantiated
    • a number of less serious concerns regarding the standard of care arise
    • there is a change in the carer’s primary relationship such as a new partner, separation from a partner or death of a partner. If the review identifies that the carer has a spouse or de-facto partner who has moved into the home, the spouse or de-facto partner must be screened and assessed as a carer, and will require a WWC Card, and/or
    • a carer’s situation has changed significantly and this affects their ability to provide safe and appropriate care. This may include the death of a family member or close friend.

    The extent of assessment required should be determined by the situation that led to the reassessment being required. The reassessment must determine whether the carer meets the competencies, and must be approved by the assistant district director/​​district director.


    Assessment of family and significant other carers applying to become foster carers

    If a family or significant other carer applies to become a foster carer, the process should proceed as for any other applicant – for more information refer to Chapter 3.1: Foster Care and Adoption Application and Assessment.

    The family carer assessment and subsequent reviews will be considered as part of the evidence provided for the foster carer assessment. The assessment process will include additional assessment considerations regarding their suitability to care for children who are not related to them.


    Naming assessment and review forms in Objective

    Forms 560 (for the assessment) and 560a (for the review) must be saved in Objective under the following naming conventions.

    Form 560 – for the assessment:

    • Family or significant other carer assessment – Urgent placement (list child’s surname and child’s first name)
    • Family or significant other carer assessment – Continuation (list child’s surname and child’s first name)
    • Family or significant other carer assessment – Outcome (list child’s surname and child’s first name).

    Form 560a – for the review:

    • Family or significant other carer review (list child’s surname and child’s first name).