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Use a child protection care agreement

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This page was updated on 08 September 2020. To view changes, please see page updates

There may be times when a child requires a short-term care arrangement during the course of an intervention with parental agreement.

A child protection care agreement is a signed agreement between the chief executive and a child’s parents, as defined in the Child Protection Act 1999 , section 51ZD (1) and (3).

Place a child using a child protection care agreement when:

  • a short-term care arrangement with an approved carer is required to ensure the child’s safety, belonging and wellbeing needs are met
    or
  • regular, short-term care arrangements (for example, one weekend per month) are identified as a need during case planning. Consult with a senior practitioner if this is required.

A child protection care agreement:

  • can be used for an initial period of up to 30 days
  • can be extended more than once, if the child has a current case plan
  • can only be extended for a maximum of 30 days at a time, with the approval of the CSSC manager
  • can only be used to place a child for a total period of 6 months in any 12-month period
  • grants custody of the child to the chief executive while the agreement is in force
  • enables the parent to retain all rights and responsibilities associated with the guardianship of the child
  • gives parents the opportunity to be involved in decisions about the child’s care
  • gives Child Safety the authority to make decisions about the child’s contact with others
  • can be ended when either parent (whether a signatory to the agreement or not) or Child Safety gives two days notice.

Note

A child protection care agreement is not an appropriate intervention if there are safety concerns about the parent retaining guardianship, or if there are any concerns about the parents knowing where and with whom the child is placed. (Refer to Procedure 6 Assess the care arrangement information to be given to the parents.)

Considerations when placing a child using a child protection care agreement

Attention

Ensure a senior team leader has approved the decision to use a child protection care agreement.

When deciding whether to place a child using a child protection care agreement, ensure that:

  • if the child is able to express their views, they have been considered
  • it is in the child’s best interest to be temporarily placed in the care of someone other than the child’s parents
  • there are no significant risk factors associated with the parents’ ability to provide consent, or to adhere to the terms of the care arrangement (including the ability and willingness to retain all legal rights and responsibilities associated with guardianship)
  • the parents are able and willing to work with Child Safety to meet the child’s safety, belonging and wellbeing needs
  • where the child is Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, cultural advice is sought from the child and family to help inform the case plan and care arrangement
  • there is an appropriate care arrangement to meet the child’s needs.

Note

A child protection care agreement cannot be used by Child Safety to make a care arrangement with another parent (Child Protection Act 1999section 11) including a non-resident parent.

Child Safety has authority to place a child with another parent only when the child is subject to a child protection order granting custody or guardianship to the chief executive (Child Protection Act 1999, Section 82(2)).

During intervention with parental agreement, a parent may place a child temporarily with a family member or friend. Only enter into a child protection care agreement with the parents when it is assessed that a child should remain out of the home to ensure their ongoing safety. In this circumstance either:

  • Place the child with a person who is willing to apply to become an approved kinship carer and is provisionally approved (so the child can remain in their care).
    or
  • Place the child with an approved carer. (Refer to Procedure 6 Place a child in care.)

Attention

For an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child, ensure that:

  • the five elements of the child placement principle have been applied
  • the child and family have been given the opportunity to have an independent person support their participation in the decision about the use of a child protection care agreement, and about where and with whom the child will be placed
  • the family has had the opportunity to participate in a family-led decision making process to determine the most suitable placement for the child, if required.

Refer to Procedure 5 Decision making for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and Procedure 5 Refer the family for family-led decision making

Seek the child’s views

Entering into a child protection care agreement is a significant decision. A child or young person has the right to have their voice heard and provide their views and wishes about the use of a child protection care agreement and the provisions included in the agreement.

If the child is Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, work with the child and the child’s family to arrange for an independent person to assist the child to participate in decision making.

Note

Depending on the circumstances, a child’s views on using a child protection care agreement may be sought before the parents’ views have been sought. Regardless of when you seek a child’s views, it is important that it is done in a way that promotes the child’s safety and that active efforts are made to obtain the child’s views.

When seeking a child’s views: 

  • Talk to the child about what the child protection care agreement means.
  • Seek their views and wishes about the care arrangement, including the length of the arrangement and with whom they will be placed.
  • Make the child a party to the agreement, if appropriate, to include their views on contact with their parents and other arrangements covered in the agreement.
  • Seek information from the child for the Child information form.

Negotiate the child protection care agreement with the parents

Once there is senior team leader endorsement, explain the process to both parents. As part of negotiating the child protection care agreement:

  • Ensure that information is provided in a way that enables both parents to understand:
    • their rights and responsibilities regarding their child’s guardianship while the child is subject to a child protection care agreement. (Refer to Procedure 5 Decision-making for the child.)
    • the child protection care agreement may be ended during the period of the agreement by providing 2 days notice
    • if the child is at immediate risk due to the parents ending the agreement, then Child Safety may apply for a temporary custody order or recommend a referral to the DCPL for a child protection order. (Refer to Procedure 3 Respond to urgent circumstances-temporary custody order and Procedure 3 Decide the type of child protection order, if required.)
    • they have a right to have the name, address and phone number of the person caring for their child
    • they have a right to have contact with their child
    • they have a right to be consulted about particular daily care decisions negotiated as part of the child protection care agreement.
  • Collaborate with the parents to identify an appropriate care arrangement with a member of their support network or other carer able to meet the child’s needs. (Refer to Procedure 5 Support a child in care.)
  • Complete the Child information form with the parents.
  • Seek the consent of both parents to the child protection care agreement and have both parents sign the completed Care agreement form . This includes details of the particular daily care decisions about which the parents are to be consulted.
  • Provide the family with a copy of the brochure Care agreements—Information for parents.

Practice prompt

When a mother is breastfeeding a child who is to be placed using a child protection care agreement, ensure arrangements for the mother to continue breastfeeding the child are negotiated and documented in the agreement. (Refer to Procedure 5 Support the breastfeeding of a child in care.)

Obtain consent from both parents to place a child

When placing a child using a child protection care agreement, Child Safety will seek the consent of both parents. This is required regardless of the living arrangements for the child.

Note

If one parent does not agree to a child protection care agreement, it cannot be used to place the child.

Where information about one parent is unknown, gather the following information from the primary parent or another relative who knows the other parent:

  • the contact details of the other parent (address and phone number)
  • whether any orders or parenting plans exist under the Family Law Act 1975
  • whether any contact arrangements between the child and parent are in place
  • the nature and extent of the other parent’s involvement with the child.

If both parents cannot be involved in consenting to and negotiating the child protection care agreement, a child protection care agreement can be entered into when:

  • a parent will not disclose details of the other parent and this information cannot be gathered from another source
  • attempts to locate the other parent are not successful
  • the identity of the other parent is not known
  • there is a risk that contacting the other parent may jeopardise the safety of the child, parent or another person due to domestic and family violence.  

Ensure the immediate safety of a child is not compromised by an inability, or a lack of time taken, to contact the other parent. In these circumstances:

  • enter into a child protection care agreement with one parent only
  • document all attempts to contact the other parent in ICMS  
  • continue to seek information about the other parent and make attempts to locate them
  • if the other parent is located, inform them of the child protection care agreement as soon as possible.

Attention

In circumstances where there is a risk that contacting the other parent may jeopardise the safety of the child, parent or another person due to domestic and family violence:

  • Consult with a senior team leader or senior practitioner regarding the decision to not contact the other parent.
  • Document the decision and rationale in ICMS.

Consider placing the child using a court order

If one parent does not agree to the child being placed via a child protection care agreement, consult with a senior team leader and seek legal advice from the OCFOS lawyer to:

  • consider the appropriateness of applying to the Childrens Court for a temporary custody order to secure the child’s immediate safety and to enable Child Safety to place the child if necessary
  • determine whether the child’s current circumstances warrant a recommendation to the DCPL for a child protection order. (Refer to Procedure 3 Decide the type of child protection order.)

Advise the child and parent that an application to the Childrens Court for a child protection order is being considered, as it is not possible to enter into a child protection care agreement.

If a matter is referred to the DCPL for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child, ensure the family is given the opportunity to have an independent person to facilitate their participation in the decision-making process.

Family law court orders under the Family Law Act 1975

A child protection care agreement overrides any family law court orders made under the Family Law Act 1975. Under a child protection care agreement, a child is deemed to be in the custody of the chief executive (Child Protection Act 1999, section 51ZG).

Attention

When negotiating a child protection care agreement with both parents, take into consideration the provisions of any family law court order (or private agreement) to help minimise any disruptions to a child’s life.

In addition to a child’s parent, a third party (for example, a relative) can have orders made in their favour in respect of a child. This may include the third party being given parental responsibility, and the right to live with, spend time with, or communicate with the child. Where this arises, the third party would also be regarded as a parent for the purpose of a child protection care agreement (Child Protection Act, 1999, section 11). Make all reasonable attempts to uphold the provisions of the family law court order for the duration of the child protection care agreement, where it remains in the child’s best interests.

Where a family law court order exists, a copy of the order should be sighted to verify its existence, and a copy attached to ICMS. Request the order from the parents (or their legal representative, with the consent of the parents) in the first instance. Should they refuse to provide it, contact Court Services for assistance. (Refer to Procedure 7 Family Courts.)

Placement hierarchy using a child protection care agreement

Even though a child protection care agreement is expected to be a short-term arrangement, it is still a significant decision that will have an impact on the child. All efforts should be made to place a child with their family as a priority.

Arrange the child’s care arrangement in the following order of priority:

  • placement with family members or kin (who will need to be provisionally approved as kinship carers)
  • placement with an approved foster carer
  • placement with a licensed care service 
  • placement with another entity considered to be the most appropriate for meeting the child’s particular protection and care needs (Child Protection Act 1999 , section 82(1)(f)).

Provisions for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child

For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, arrange an independent person to help the child and their family participate in decision making. Give consideration to:

  • the views of the child and their family about where and with whom the child will live
  • ensuring the decision provides for the optimal retention of the child’s relationships with parents, siblings and other people of significance to the child under Aboriginal tradition or Island custom
  • ensuring the child is placed in line with the Child Protection Act 1999, section 83 in the following order of priority:
    • with a member of the child’s family group
    • with a member of the child’s community or language group
    • with another Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person who is compatible with the child’s community or language group
    • with another Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person
    • with a person who lives near the child’s family, community or language group and has a demonstrated capacity for ensuring the child’s continuity of connection to kin, country and culture.

If efforts to place an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child with their family, community group or another Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person have been exhausted and the child is to be placed with a person who is not an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person, give proper consideration to whether the person is committed to:

  • facilitating contact between the child and the child’s parents and other family members
  • helping the child maintain contact with their community or language group
  • helping the child maintain a connection to kin, country and culture
  • preserving and enhancing the child’s Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander identity.

Further reading

For further information regarding working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families, refer to Procedure 5 Decision making for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and the practice kit Safe care and connection.

Place the child using a child protection care agreement

Once a care arrangement for the child has been identified and accepted:

  • Create a placement event for the child in ICMS.
  • Complete an Authority to care form in ICMS.
  • Place the child with the carer, in line with the Child Protection Act 1999, section 82.
  • Give the carer copies of the completed Authority to care, Care agreement formand Child information form (sections A and B only).
  • Complete a Placement agreement with the approved carer or entity, ideally before the child is placed, but always within 72 hours of the child being placed.
  • Complete actions to commence payment of the fortnightly caring allowance to the carer as per local CSSC procedure.
  • Where necessary, complete a Child Safety After Hours Service Centre: After hours referral form detailing case circumstances and possible after hours scenarios.

Practice prompt

When placing an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child, complete the following forms in ICMS:

  • the Independent person form to record whether an independent person helped facilitate the child’s and family’s participation in a placement decision
  • the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement form in the placement event for each placement decision.

When a child is placed using a child protection care agreement, normal case planning and review requirements apply. (Refer to Procedure 5 Case planning.)

Practice prompt

When a child is placed in a care arrangement, arrange for the child to have their own Medicare card for use while they are in care. (Refer to Procedure 5 Obtain Medicare details.)

Immunisation during a child protection care agreement

When a child is subject to a child protection care agreement, the child’s parents remain responsible for their child’s immunisations. In every circumstance, Child Safety will seek the parent’s consent for scheduled immunisations.

Practice prompt

Where possible, obtain the consent of both parents for intervention regarding a child’s medical needs. However, the consent of one parent is sufficient to proceed with a child receiving their vaccinations.

If a parent is unable to be located or is unable to provide consent, Child Safety will seek medical treatment and ask the doctor to consider providing the vaccination using the authority of the Child Protection Act 1999, section 97.

If a parent objects to their child being immunised:

  • discuss the grounds for the objection with a doctor
  • encourage the parent to speak directly to the doctor about their views. 

Financial support during a child protection care agreement

The approved carers for the child are eligible for a fortnightly caring allowance and for financial support (through child-related costs) to meet the requirements of the child’s case plan. Negotiate any costs with the CSSC manager before the case plan is developed and endorsed.

When a child is assessed as having needs that consistently result in costs exceeding the fortnightly caring allowance, the carer may be entitled to receive either high support needs allowance or complex support needs allowance. (Refer to Procedure 6 Determine the appropriate level of support needs.)

Tip

Carers can access information about financial supports available to assist them to care for the child, on the money matters section of the Connecting with Carers website. 

Extend a child protection care agreement

There may be times when a child protection care agreement requires an extension beyond the initial 30 day period.

The extension can only be for a maximum of 30 days and can only be made when the total of the following is not more than 6 months:

  • the period of the current agreement
  • the period of the proposed extension
  • the period for which any other child protection care agreement was in force for the child within the 12 months before the extension.

A child protection care agreement cannot be extended beyond 30 days unless the child has a case plan. This will ensure that the child, parents and safety and support network have the opportunity to make a plan around the worries that are contributing to the child needing to be placed in the care of someone other than the parent. 

Attention

A safety assessment must be completed before the end of the 30 day period to inform the decision to extend a child protection care agreement. Where the outcome of a safety assessment is unsafe, consider whether to extend the care agreement or take other action to ensure the child’s safety.

When extending a child protection care agreement:

  • Ensure that the proposed extension is in line with the legislative timeframes outlined previously.
  • Consult the senior team leader before the end of the current 30-day period to consider:
    • the outcome of the safety assessment
      and
    • whether the case plan remains appropriate for the child’s safety, belonging and wellbeing needs.
  • Where the case plan is no longer relevant, arrange for it to be reviewed with the family and, with their consent, the safety and support network.
  • Discuss the need for the extension with the child’s parents and the child (if age and developmentally appropriate) at least 2 business days before the expiry of the care agreement.
  • Seek approval from the CSSC manager, who must be satisfied that:
    • the extension is in the child’s best interests
    • the child has a current and relevant case plan
    • the parents have agreed to the proposed extension.
  • Complete a new child protection care agreement with the parents (and child, where appropriate).
  • If a child protection care agreement is extended beyond 30 days, initiate the child health passport process. (Refer to Procedure 5 Develop a child health passport.)

Consecutive child protection care agreements

If a child protection care agreement is used to place a child for consecutive months, an intervention with parental agreement may not be an appropriate intervention to meet the child’s safety, belonging and wellbeing needs. Consider reviewing the type of intervention.

Consult a senior team leader and seek legal advice from the OCFOS lawyer to determine if the child’s safety, belonging and wellbeing needs are best met by a recommendation to the DCPL for a child protection order. (Refer to Procedure 3 Decide the type of child protection order.)

If a matter is referred to the DCPL for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child, ensure the child and family are given the opportunity to have an independent person to facilitate their participation in the decision-making process.

End a child protection care agreement

A child protection care agreement may end under the following circumstances:

  • The term of the child protection care agreement ends.
  • Child safety ends the child protection care agreement before the end date of the agreement.
  • One or both parents end the child protection care agreement before the end date of the agreement.
  • The child leaves, or refuses to return to, the care arrangement agreed in the care agreement and is staying somewhere that is not approved.

When Child Safety ends the child protection care agreement

Child Safety may end the agreement if:

  • the worries that led to the agreement are addressed prior to the agreement end date. If the worries are addressed, refer to When the term of the child protection care agreement ends
    or
  • custody of the child is granted to the chief executive, that is:
    • a temporary custody order is made granting custody of the child to the chief executive
      or
    • an interim order is made granting custody of the child to the chief executive
      or
    • a child protection order is made granting custody or guardianship of the child to the chief executive or a suitable person.

When the term of the child protection care agreement ends

Complete a safety assessment if a decision is made for the child to return home.

Where the outcome of the safety assessment is unsafe, the child cannot be returned home, and consideration should be given to extending the child protection care agreement or taking other appropriate action.

If the outcome of the safety assessment is safe or safe with immediate safety plan and a safety plan has been developed, the child may be returned home to the parent from whom they were removed or to the parent with residential responsibility under a family law court order.

When one or both parents end the child protection care agreement

One or both parents may choose to end the child protection care agreement. While it is agreed that either party will provide 2 days notice to end the agreement, a parent may choose to end the agreement without notice.

Attention

Regardless of a parent’s decision regarding the timeframe to end the agreement, focus on the safety of the child.

When a parent ends the agreement, assess the safety of the child and complete a safety assessment. If the child is likely to be harmed or at unacceptable risk of harm, immediately:

If a parent has addressed the worries that led to the child protection care agreement, the outcome of the safety assessment is safe or safe with immediate safety plan and a safety plan has been developed, the child may be returned home to the parent from whom they were removed or to the parent with residential responsibility under a family law court order.

When the actions of a child end the child protection care agreement

Regardless of a child’s circumstances in the home, being placed in a new environment or away from familiar people is likely to be distressing for them. This can prompt a child to refuse to attend or return to the proposed care arrangement. If this occurs:

  • Meet with the child as soon as possible to discuss their worries and seek their views about the continuation of the care agreement.
  • Negotiate with the child to return to the care arrangement where appropriate, taking into consideration the child’s views and wishes regarding the care arrangement and how they can be helped to safely remain there.
  • Consult with the child’s parents about care arrangement options for the child.
  • If the child refuses to return to the care arrangement, complete a safety assessment for the child in their current residence.
    • If the safety assessment has an outcome of unsafe:
      • discuss the safety issues with the child, household members and parents, and work with them to develop a safety plan
        or
      • take other appropriate action to ensure the child’s safety.
    • If the safety assessment has an outcome of safe, consider whether a person in the child’s current residence can be provisionally approved to care for the child. If so, refer to Procedure 6 Assess an applicant requiring provisional approval.
  • Revisit the child’s safety and support network to determine if there is a person who can be provisionally approved to care for the child.
  • Consider whether a temporary custody order or other child protection order is required to ensure the child’s safety and meet their protection and care needs. (Refer to Procedure 3 Respond to urgent circumstances - temporary custody order).
  • Consider whether the current circumstances should be recorded as new child protection concerns. (Refer to Procedure 1 New Child protection concerns).

Attention

If a child is missing from their home or care arrangement and their whereabouts are unknown, make immediate efforts to locate them. (Refer to Procedure 5 Respond when a child is missing.)

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