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.
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.
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:
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:
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:
At the home visit (as part of the safety assessment), a number of forms must be completed and discussed with the applicant:
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:
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:
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.
All applicants must be assessed against the competencies set out in the Regulations. The CEO must be satisfied that the individual:
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 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).
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
Form 560a – for the review: