Partnering with carers is essential to achieving better outcomes for children in care. Ensure we include carers in all decision-making processes about care arrangements. The significant relationships we build with carers will always be strengths-based, collaborative, informed and genuine.
The following concepts explore vital components for partnering with carers and for carers partnering with parents and Child Safety to achieve a successful care arrangement for a child in family-based care.
Family contact expectations
Child Safety has a legislative requirement to facilitate family contact between children and their family members. To help achieve this outcome, we partner with carers and parents to make family contact as safe and beneficial as it can be—in terms of maintaining and growing relationships between the child and their parents, the child and their siblings, the child and their carers and the carers and the parents.
A carer is expected to actively participate in arrangements for safe family contact between the child and their family members, whether that is their parents, siblings, grandparents or others. Both foster and kinship carers have a role in facilitating positive contact and expressing supportive attitudes towards the child’s family, community and culture.
The type and extent of family contact may depend on the type of child protection order the child or young person is on. If safety concerns have been identified, the CSO, carer and family members will work together to develop the most suitable options for contact. Further reviews of safety may occur over time, with everyone involved in safety planning where needed. The child’s need for safety, belonging and wellbeing is kept at the centre of each discussion and decision point.
Some important roles the carers may have in family contact include:
- speaking positively of the child’s family to the child at all times
- encouraging safe family contact, including sibling contact
- supporting family connection by helping transport the child to and from family contact (reimbursement of travel and accommodation is available—refer to the procedure Child-related costs (CRC)—Child and young person support (645.4)
- nurturing the child after family contact to help with feelings of grief and loss
- attending family contact to hand over the child and collect the child directly to/from the parents
- meeting the parents and extended family members
- placing phone calls to parents to celebrate momentous occasions (for example, the child scoring a goal at football)
- taking photos for parents of special occasions
- inviting parents to attend the child’s activities, such as sporting games
- advising parents of upcoming events for them to attend, such as school sports day
- having parents attend doctors’ visits
- providing parents with the child’s school art, craft, paintings and drawings
For more information on sibling contact, the carer’s role and factors to consider, see the resource from the CREATE and watch this short video on sibling contact.
Two agents are critical in providing support for children and young people in care to maintain contact with family members. First the case worker responsible for the care arrangement is in the best position to organise and implement contact visits and to oversee their outcomes. However, carers have a role in facilitating the whole process, and supporting the child through any ongoing social and emotional issues such contact may generate. (McDowall, 2015).
Partnering with parents
The single most identified factor contributing to positive outcomes for children involves meaningful connections and lifelong relationships with family (Campbell, as cited in the Intensive Practice Module series). Enduring relationships with biological family members and carer family members are vital in achieving better outcomes for children in care. Read more about this in the Working with children and Working with young people sections of this kit.
To see how partnering between parents and carers can lead to positive outcomes, watch this short video.
There are many ways carers can partner with parents to co-parent children while they are in care. Some co-parenting strategies have been mentioned in the family contact section (such as meeting the parents at family contact visits and inviting the parents to their children’s doctors’ visits).
Goodman (cited DCCSDS 2015) suggests some other ways carers can partner with parents to support and promote lifelong relationships between children and their family members:
- Request cultural information from the family and ask how they can support their child’s cultural needs.
- Refer to the child as ‘your child’ when speaking with the parents.
- Talk with the parents directly about daily decisions such as haircuts, style of clothes and so on.
- Involve family in school events.
- Welcome parents into their home for visits.
- Provide respite care for children during reunification processes.
Carers who support reunification are carers who will partner with parents. When considering care arrangement options, review how many reunifications the carers have participated in and what their role was. Discuss your expectations of any carer regarding their role in reunification before placing children with them.
Concurrent planning is the practice of simultaneously pursuing more than one option for permanency for children and young people in care when the primary permanency goal is reunification. An alternative permanency goal (that is, a long-term care option) is explored with the child, young person and family, and pursued at the same time as reunification actions and tasks are being undertaken. The aim of concurrent planning is to provide permanency for the child in a shorter timeframe, addressing the multiple care arrangements some children and young people experience.
During the assessment phase, explore the applicant’s understanding of concurrent planning and help them consider how this concept will inform their decision making about undertaking the role of carer. Some carers struggle to support reunification if their preference is to provide long term care. It is important to know applicants' preferences right from the start, to ensure our assessment explores options with them and makes the appropriate recommendation for approval.
To read more on concurrent planning, refer to the practice kit Permanency.
Statement of standards
Child Safety have an obligation to ensure carers provide a level of care consistent with the Statement of standards in section 122 of the Act. The statement of standards provides a way to measure quality of care and forms the basis for assessing whether a care environment is acceptable and responsive to the child’s needs. All assessments must include details on the applicants understanding of, and ability to, meet the Statement of standards.
Important factors in the recruitment, support and retention of carersNext
Care arrangement matching
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terminology update =- placement to care arrangement