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Decision making for a child

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This page was updated on 03 September 2020. To view changes, please see page updates

The responsibility of caring for a child in care involves a partnership between Child Safety, parents and carers. Decisions may be made by a child’s parents, the carer or Child Safety staff, depending on the legal arrangements in place for the child. 

Decisions for a child in care may be about:

  • the child's daily care (custody matters)
  • issues likely to have a significant or long-term impact on the child's wellbeing and development (guardianship matters).

The person with legal authority to make a decision (or provide consent) for a child in care will vary, depending on:

  • the nature of the Child Safety intervention
  • the type of decision or consent required—whether it’s a custody or guardianship matter
  • who has custody of the child
  • who has guardianship of the child
  • if the chief executive has custody or guardianship of a child, who has the delegation to make the particular decision.

Decision making will take into account:

  • the importance or urgency of the decision
  • any risk associated with the decision, for example, the potential impact of an activity on the child's safety, belonging and wellbeing
  • any costs associated with the decision
  • the child’s views and wishes
  • whether the decision is considered a significant decision for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child. (Refer to Decision making for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.)

Decisions for a child in care are to be made in a timely manner, to: 

  • ensure the child has timely access to medical, dental and therapeutic services
  • minimise circumstances where the child feels or is seen as different because they are prevented from participating in a developmentally or age-appropriate activity due to a drawn-out approval process.  

Note

Decisions about custody and guardianship matters occur within the broader process and principles of ongoing intervention and inclusive decision making.

Every day decisions

A child’s carer is responsible for making daily care decisions for the child and is expected to respond as a reasonable parent would. Daily care decisions may include decisions about:

  • household routines, for example, meals, nutrition, homework and bed and bath times
  • household expectations, for example, keeping a tidy bedroom, and the amount of time using the television and computer  
  • the child’s appearance, including: 
    • clothing, grooming and hygiene
    • routine haircuts to trim the child’s current hairstyle, excluding a child’s first haircut, which is significant for many parents
  • the child’s absence from child care, school, training or employment
  • routine issues about school or child care
  • daily travel arrangements, for example, travel to and from school
  • occasional babysitting arrangements
  • pocket money, consistent with practices in the carer’s family
  • accompanying the carer on outings and social events (if there is no conflict with pre-planned family contact)
  • arrangements for the child and their friends to visit each other.

Determine who may decide a custody or guardianship matter

If a decision or consent is required for a child in care, determine who has custody or guardianship of the child, based on the nature of statutory intervention by Child Safety or the type of order. Refer to the following table.

Nature of statutory intervention/order Effect on custody and guardianship
Assessment care agreement

The parents retain custody and guardianship.

The types of day-to-day care decisions the parents must be consulted about are included in the care agreement.
Child protection care agreement

The chief executive has custody; the parents retain guardianship.

The types of day-to-day care decisions the parents must be consulted about are included in the care agreement.
Child protection order—Directive  The parents retain custody and guardianship.
Child protection order—Supervision The parents retain custody and guardianship.
Use of section 18 of the Child Protection Act 1999 The chief executive has custody; the parents retain guardianship.
Temporary assessment order The chief executive or parents have custody; the parents retain guardianship.
Court assessment order The chief executive or parents have custody; the parents retain guardianship.
Interim order (made on adjournment of CAO) The chief executive has temporary custody or the parents retain custody; the parents retain guardianship.
Temporary custody order The chief executive or parents have custody; the parents retain guardianship.
Interim order (made on adjournment of child protection order) A family member or the chief executive has temporary custody; the parents retain guardianship.
Child protection order—Custody  A family member or the chief executive has custody; the parents retain guardianship.
Child protection order—Short-term guardianship The chief executive has custody and guardianship.
Child protection order—Long-term guardianship The chief executive or another suitable person has custody and guardianship.
Permanent care order The permanent guardian has custody and guardianship
Child protection order—Transition order The chief executive or suitable person retains custody or guardianship as per the existing child protection order for the duration of the transition order.

Determine who is responsible for making the particular decision or providing the required consent, based on who has custody or guardianship of the child and the requirements of the decision to be made. Further information is provided under specific topic heading in this procedure.

Facilitate decision makingcustody matters

If the particular decision or consent is a custody matter, advise the carer that they may legally make all custody decisions for a child who is in their care under the authority of:

  • a child protection care agreementin line with the provisions documented in the agreement
  • an assessment order or temporary custody orderin line with the provisions documented in the order
  • a child protection order.

Attention

If the child is subject to an assessment care agreement, the carer can only decide matters agreed to by the parent and documented in the care agreement.

There may be circumstances when it is agreed that, rather than the carer making all custody decisions, the parents or the chief executive will decide or have input into specific decisions. This may occur particularly if the custody decision is considered contentious. Examples of these types of decisions are:

  • medical decisions
  • education decisions
  • decisions about sport and recreational activities
  • decisions about the child's personal appearance.

In addition, if it is considered that the custody decision may have a significant impact on the life of an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child, provide an opportunity for the child and their family to participate in the decision-making process, supported by an independent person. The delegated officer will consider the child’s and family’s views when making the decision. (Refer to Decision making for Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander children.)

Custody decisions that are to be made by a parent or a delegated officer will be discussed with the carer and documented in the placement agreement. (Refer to  Procedure 6 Negotiate the placement agreement.)

Consult a senior officer about complex or sensitive decisions

If the decision or request for consent is complex or sensitive, always consult the senior team leader, senior practitioner or CSSC manager, regardless of who can decide the matter or provide consent. This will ensure any potential complexities associated with the decision are evaluated.

Facilitate decision making—guardianship matters

If the parents have guardianship of a child, seek a decision or consent about a guardianship matter from both parents, unless all reasonable attempts to locate and consult with a parent have been unsuccessful.

If the chief executive has guardianship of a child, seek a decision or consent about a guardianship matter from the delegated officer. (Refer to Obtain the delegated officer's decision or consent.) The level of officer delegated to make a decision or to provide consent varies, depending on:

  • the delegations assigned to their position, as outlined in the instrument of delegation
  • the requirements of the specific decision detailed in this procedure.

Attention

If long-term guardianship of a child has been granted to a suitable person, that person is responsible for all guardianship decisions for the child, except about the publication of information leading to, or likely to lead to, the identification of the child. Refer to Publication of information by the media.

If a decision is likely to have a significant impact on the life of an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child, provide the child and their family with an opportunity to be supported by an independent person in participating in the decision-making process.

The delegated officer will consider the child’s and family’s views when making the decision. (Refer to Decision making for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.)

Obtain the delegated officer's decision or consent

If the child is subject to an order granting guardianship to the chief executive, and a guardianship decision or consent is required:

  • Explain to the child, the parents and the carer the decision-making process and obtain their views about the matter to be decided.
  • Determine who the delegated officer is to make the decision or provide the consent.
  • Inform the delegated officer of the decision or consent required and the views of relevant parties.
  • Obtain and record the delegated officer’s decision or consent, and if applicable, attach written consent to the relevant event in ICMS.

If the delegated officer is not available and the decision is urgent, obtain the decision or consent from an officer of the same or higher level who has the delegation to make the decision. For example, if the CSSC manager is unavailable, contact another CSSC manager in the region or the regional director.

If a guardianship decision is likely to be particularly sensitive or contentious, the delegated officer may request that the decision be made by a more senior delegated officer.

In some circumstances, only a senior executive officer, as the delegated officer, may decide a specific guardianship matter. An example would be a decision about end of life medical treatment. (Refer to Decisions about paediatric palliative care and end of life medical treatment.)

Communicate and record the decision

Communicate the decision or consent

Once the delegated officer or other decision maker makes the decision or provides consent, inform all parties of the decision and, if relevant, the rationale for the decision.

Provide advice about review mechanisms

Make sure all parties, particularly the child, are told how to access applicable review processes, should they wish to have a Child Safety decision reviewed.

Decisions and consents about custody and guardianship matters may be reviewed:

  • by a senior officer of Child Safety
    or
  • through external review mechanisms, at the request of the child or a person acting on their behalf (for example, a parent or carer).

Review processes include, but are not limited to:

Decisions and consents about custody and guardianship matters may be:

  • reviewed by a senior officer of Child Safety
  • responded to through the Child Safety complaints process (Refer to Compliments and complaints.)

 or

  • the subject of external review mechanisms, at the request of the child or a person acting on their behalf (for example, a parent or carer), such as, through the Office of the Public Guardian.

Make sure the child receives support and assistance in accessing review processes, as required.

Record decisions about custody and guardianship matters

Practice prompt

In many circumstances, a decision will be recorded by the decision maker providing written consent on an official letter or form. Attach a copy of the letter or form in ICMS or place it on the child’s file.

In addition, record the following in a case note in ICMS:

  • a decision or consent about which a carer has sought advice from Child Safety
  • the views of the child, parents and carer
  • guardianship decisions made by parents, including verbal and written consents or refusals and their stated reasons
  • guardianship decisions made by delegated officers, including the rationale
  • a decision about an application for child-related costs. (Attach relevant documents in ICMS.)

Publication of information by the media

Regardless of who has guardianship of a child, the Child Protection Act 1999, section 189 requires that a person must not, without the written approval of the chief executive, publish information that identifies, or is likely to lead to the identification of, a child as:

  • a child who is, or has been, the subject of an investigation under the Child Protection Act 1999, section 14
  • a child in the custody or guardianship of the chief executive
  • a child for whom an order is in force.

Note

The person who wishes to publish the information—usually a media representative—is responsible for contacting Child Safety to seek approval.

Medical and dental decisions

Custody decisions

Many custody (daily care) decisions relating to medical matters are routine and can be made by the child’s carer. These include:

  • seeking the continuation of health or dental treatments and administering prescribed medication for established conditions, with the exception of:
    • psychotropic (drugs which affect a person’s mental state) or other medications prescribed to manage behaviour or mental health conditions. (Refer to Management of psychotropic medication.)
    • medications prescribed as part of a new treatment regime
  • administering non-prescription medication and seeking routine medical care related to common illnesses or dental care
  • facilitating immunisations and routine blood tests—except for a child subject to a custody order, as this requires the parents’ consent. (Refer to Maintain the child’s immunisation schedule.)
  • seeking routine dental treatment not requiring a general anaesthetic
  • seeking urgent medical or dental treatment not requiring a general anaesthetic, blood transfusion or surgery
  • resuming care of a child after they are discharged from a hospital
  • seeking treatment requiring a local anaesthetic
  • seeking a second medical opinion (but only a guardian can decide to act on a second opinion)
  • arranging appointments, approved by Child Safety, with an allied health professional, such as an optometrist, speech therapist, audiologist or physiotherapist
  • seeking medical or other health treatment for non-routine, newly presenting conditions. These include diagnostic tests relevant to the presenting condition (for example, x-rays).

The Child Protection Act 1999, section 97, provides the authority for a health professional to medically examine or treat a child subject to an order granting custody to the chief executive, including a child subject to a child protection care agreement. 

When seeking the medical examination or treatment of a child by a health professional under the Child Protection Act 1999, section 97, provide the health professional with the Request to medically examine or treat a child - section 97 letter. The letter confirms the authority of the health practitioner to proceed with medical examination or treatment without the parents’ written consent.

Practice prompt

Give careful consideration before seeking the medical examination or treatment of a child subject to a child protection care agreement without the full consent of the parents, given the voluntary nature of the placement.

Attention

If the child is subject to a temporary custody order or a child protection order that grants custody to the chief executive, seek the parents’ consent to commence or maintain the child’s immunisation.

A delegated officer may also provide consent for the immunisation to proceed, if this is consistent with medical advice. (Refer to Maintain the child’s immunisation schedule.)

Guardianship decisions

The Child Protection Act 1999, section 13, allows a delegated officer to authorise the medical examination or treatment of a child subject to an order granting guardianship to the chief executive.

Guardianship decisions include decisions about:

To facilitate a child (who is subject to an order granting guardianship to the chief executive) being provided with the recommended schedule of immunisations, the carer is authorised to make the necessary immunisation arrangements on behalf of the chief executive. Carers are to give a copy of the Authority to care—guardianship to the chief executive to the immunisation provider as proof of this authority.

Medical decisions are only to be made after sufficient information has been obtained from the appropriate medical practitioner about:

  • the treatment, procedure or surgery
  • any possible side effects or restrictions the child may experience
  • the rehabilitation requirements
  • any follow-up required with a medical practitioner or health professional.

The following table shows the delegated officers able to make decisions or provide consent about medical matters for a child subject to the guardianship of the chief executive.  

Medical decision making—chief executive has guardianship

Decision or consent Who can consent  Delegated officer
Prescribed medications to manage behaviour or mental health conditions Delegated officer  CSAHSC senior team leader or manager, CSSC manager
Immunisation Carer or Delegated officer  CSSC senior team leader, CSAHSC senior team leader or manager, CSSC manager, regional director
Blood tests (excluding DNA testing) Carer or Delegated officer  CSSC senior team leader, CSAHSC senior team leader or manager, CSSC manager, regional director
Invasive medical and surgical procedures or considerations  Delegated officer  CSAHSC senior team leader or manager, CSSC manager, regional director
Acting on a second medical opinion Delegated officer CSAHSC senior team leader or manager, CSSC manager or regional director, depending on the type of illness/condition and proposed treatment
Other decisions relating to medical matters requiring a guardian’s explicit consent Delegated officer  CSAHSC senior team leader or manager, CSSC manager, regional director
Pregnancy termination Delegated officer Regional director

Contraception

  • a child is under 12 years of age
  • a child is not considered Gillick competent
Delegated officer Regional director
Stage 1 treatment for gender identity dysphoria Delegated officer Regional director
DNA testing Delegated officer Regional executive director
End of life decisions Delegated officer Director-General

Note

Carers of a child subject to a child protection order granting guardianship to the chief executive can consent to the child being immunised and having a blood test, where a doctor has requested this to assist in diagnosis or medical intervention (excluding DNA blood testing). This consent is included in the Authority to care—guardianship to the chief executive form. This authority does not extend to children in the custody of the chief executive. (Refer to the policy Immunisation of children in care.)

Attention

Doctors have the legal authority to proceed with treatment in:

  • life-threatening emergencies when treatment must occur before consent can be obtained
    or
  • circumstances where delaying treatment to obtain consent would jeopardise the child's life.

The delegated officer who provides consent for a guardianship decision about medical or dental treatment (for a child subject to a child protection order granting guardianship to the chief executive) must sign the Consent form—operations and treatment. Attach a copy of the form to the relevant event in ICMS and give the original to:

  • the health professional
    or
  • to the carer, to provide to the health professional.

Practice prompt

Obtain approval for child-related costs from the CSSC manager before obtaining treatment for a child, unless expenditure is for emergency medical or dental treatment.

Respond to a child’s smoking behaviour

A carer or Child Safety staff member must not actively support a child’s nicotine addiction, given the potential long-term impacts on the child’s health. This includes:

  • supplying cigarettes
  • setting aside an area specifically for a child to smoke
  • enabling or advising a parent to supply the child with cigarettes for the period of their placement.

A carer or Child Safety practitioner cannot physically stop a child from smoking but is obliged to actively discourage the child from smoking.

If a child presents with a nicotine addiction, seek medical advice before implementing any strategy to manage the child’s nicotine addiction. This includes using nicotine replacement therapy products or similar treatments.

Gillick competency

Gillick competency is a legal term referring to a child's capacity to understand and provide consent. Health practitioners carry out an assessment to establish if a child has sufficient understanding and maturity to appreciate the nature, consequences and risks of proposed health care and the alternatives, including the consequences of not receiving the health care. The more complex the health care or more serious the consequences, the stronger the evidence needs to be of the child’s capacity to consent.

If a child is Gillick competent, doctors are not required to notify a parent or carer; however, the parent or carer may be aware of the situation and be providing support to the child.

If a child is not Gillick competent, the consent of the child’s custodian or guardian is required.

An assessment of a child’s Gillick competence is needed for each new health care decision.

Further reading

Decisions about palliative care and end of life medical treatment 

Decisions about palliative care and end of life medical treatment will be required for a child in care if:

  • the child has a life-limiting illness, either long term or acute, and death is likely or expected
  • the child’s life is threatened due to illness, trauma or injury as a result of an accident or self-harm
  • the child’s life is threatened due to illness, trauma or injury as a result of harm inflicted by another person.

A child’s guardian has the legal authority to provide consent for palliative care and end of life medical treatment. This includes the decision about what treatment will and will not occur in an acute situation. For a child in care, the guardian will be one of the following:

  • the parents, for a child subject to a child protection care agreement or a child protection order granting custody to the chief executive
  • the child’s long-term or permanent guardian, for a child subject to:
    • a child protection order granting long-term guardianship to a suitable person
    • a permanent care order   
  • the chief executive, for a child subject to a child protection order granting guardianship to the chief executive.

Practice prompt

Immediately inform the CSSC manager, who will urgently seek advice from the Legal Services Branch if the child’s parents have guardianship of the child and:

  • they cannot be located or will not consent to the end of life decisions
  • the medical advice is that the proposed treatment, including the withholding of treatment, should proceed.

End of life medical treatment decisions are to be made in a timely way by the person with the legal authority to make the decisions, informed by:

  • appropriate medical expertise
  • the views of the child and other relevant parties (carers, parents and Child Safety practitioners).

This will assist the relevant parties to make care and treatment decisions in the best interests of the child and alleviate the child’s pain and suffering.

Support for the child

Make sure a child who receives a diagnosis about a life-limiting illness is given support appropriate to their age and circumstances. Support is to be provided at the time of diagnosis and throughout the illness, as needed to assist the child in coming to terms with the diagnosis.

Support may include contact with significant people, or access to counselling or other services.

Paediatric palliative care

Paediatric palliative care refers to care given to a child who has a life-limiting illness. This is the sort of disease or condition that cannot be cured and requires symptoms to be managed. The purpose of palliative care is to give a child with a life-limiting illness:

  • a tailored approach to care by a team of health professionals who come together to meet the child’s medical, physical, emotional, spiritual, social and practical needs
  • support when it is most needed
  • an improved quality of life.

Each child receiving paediatric palliative care will have a treatment plan developed by medical professionals in conjunction with the child’s guardian. Make sure the treatment plan is included in or attached to the child’s case plan. (Refer to the Palliative Care Australia website.)

When making decisions about palliative care:

  • Discuss what is required to meet the child’s medical, physical, emotional, spiritual, social and practical needs.
  • Identify where palliative care can best be provided, for example, at home (either the parents’ or carers’ home), in a hospital or in a hospice. Many people choose to die at home in a more natural environment. Palliative care can be provided at home, even if the child requires constant care; but encourage the guardian to be guided by the advice of medical professionals. Sometimes the welfare of the child is best served by them remaining in hospital.
  • Identify the child’s needs and the assistance that could be offered by agencies to support the child’s in-home care (such as medication and care needs).
  • Consider whether the completion of a ‘paediatric acute resuscitation plan’ (PARP) by the hospital is required, if this has not already occurred. The PARP replaces any previous ‘not for resuscitation’ order that may have been in place.

End of life decision-making

If the death of a child in care is likely or expected, early planning is essential and will include: 

  • the development of a treatment plan for the child by the doctors, in consultation with the child, parents, carers and Child Safety staff, if appropriate
  • the completion of a PARP that documents what treatment will and will not occur in an acute situation
  • decisions about organ donation, if applicable
  • decisions about the child’s contact with parents, family members, carers and Child Safety staff.

The child may make these decisions, if Gillick competent. (Refer to Gillick competency.) If the child is of an age and has the capacity to express their views and is willing to do so, make sure their views are considered in the decision, along with the views of their parents.

Practice prompt

Have these conversations as early as possible with the relevant parties, to help minimise the stress and potential conflict that can occur at this emotionally distressing time. (Refer to the practice guide Palliative care and end of life decision making.)

Treatment plans

The doctors treating a child who has a serious or life-limiting illness will develop a treatment plan for the child. Make sure the child, parents, family members, carers and other significant people are included in the planning process, as relevant. Early consultation with the important people in the child’s life to develop the treatment plan will reduce the likelihood of conflict at a later time when decisions need to be made and people are distressed.

If it is not possible to reach agreement about the child’s medical treatment plan:

  • Always resolve disputes between parties, including Child Safety, in favour of the best interests of the child, as informed by medical expertise.
  • Advise disputing parties to seek legal advice if they oppose or do not wish to consent to a recommended medical treatment.

Practice prompt

If the child’s guardian insists on medical treatment that is not recommended as being in the child’s best interests, advise any other interested party that they may seek legal advice. If the child is subject to a long-term guardianship order to a suitable person, Child Safety may seek legal advice in relation to the guardian’s decision.

Paediatric acute resuscitation plans

A PARP is completed by medical staff if:

  • it is reasonably expected that a child may suffer an acute deterioration or critical event in the foreseeable future
    and
  • resuscitation options may need to be considered.

The PARP is to be completed as early as possible to avoid the need for decisions to be made in a crisis. The PARP includes a resuscitation management plan that records the treatment that should and should not be provided. This ensures that all parties are clear about what will occur when end of life decisions are needed. The plan is completed by the medical practitioners and has four sections:

  • clinical assessment—which records the clinical assessment of the child’s condition
  • resuscitation management plan—which documents what treatments will and will not be provided in specific circumstances
  • consenting details—which records what the child and the parents (guardians or delegated officer) have consented to
  • clinician authority—which documents a senior medical practitioner’s or paediatrician’s involvement in any decision to withhold or withdraw medical treatment.

The PARP may last up to 12 months; however, if a child’s circumstances change, a paediatrician or senior medical officer will decide whether a new PARP is required.

Provide information about the child to the hospital

If a child in care is admitted to hospital with a life-threatening medical condition, or their medical condition deteriorates to the extent that their life is threatened, provide necessary verbal information to hospital staff. Provide relevant confirming documentation as soon as possible, including:

  • details and a copy of the child protection order, if applicable
  • the effect of the order, including:
    • who has custody and guardianship of the child
    • who can legally provide consent for medical procedures and decisions about end of life medical treatment, if the child is not considered Gillick competent. (Refer to Gillick competency)
  • a copy of either the Letter re: Custody (Medical) or the Letter re: Custody and guardianship (Medical)
  • a copy of the current PARP, if applicable
  • the names and contact details for all people relevant to the child, including the child’s guardian
  • the role and contact details of the CSAHSC, should the hospital require a decision or consent outside business hours.

Practice prompt

Make sure the information is accurate at all times. Regularly review and update the documentation and provide it to the hospital and the carer.

Notify the Queensland Police Service

If the child’s medical condition may be the result of harm that involved the commission of a criminal offence relating to the child (the Child Protection Act 1999, sections 14(2) and (3)), immediately notify the QPS using the Police referral.

Complete other reports

If the life of a child in care is threatened as a result of an illness or trauma:

Contact with the Coroner

Attention

Under the Coroner’s Act 2003, section 9, in all circumstances, the death of a child subject to a child protection order is a reportable death, and therefore an investigative process by the QPS applies.

If the child's medical condition has a natural cause and is not offence-related, and the child is to be cared for at home, advise the person who has guardianship of the child to talk with treating doctors about the involvement of the QPS at the time of death. If the chief executive is the child’s guardian, the CSO will talk to the treating doctors.

Treating doctors can:

  • advise the State Coroner of the circumstances of the child’s medical condition and decisions made in relation to treatment
  • seek permission from the Registrar of the State Coroner to not involve the QPS at the time of the child’s death.

This will allow for the child’s body to be moved directly to a funeral home after death, and for ceremonies and funerals to proceed without the delay of an unnecessary forensic investigation.

Provide information to the child, parents and carers

In circumstances where the child’s death is able to be predicted:

  • Seek guidance from medical staff about the range of end of life decisions that need to be discussed with the relevant parties.
  • Facilitate discussion between the child, their parents if possible, their carers and Child Safety staff about the end of life decisions that are required.
  • Seek advice around cultural protocols for sharing information for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child. (Refer to Sad news sorry business.)
  • Seek the child’s views about proposed funeral arrangements, if the child is of an age, has the capacity and is willing to express their views. This should occur in conjunction with the child’s parents and in line with cultural or religious protocols and practices.

If the child’s medical condition is unexpected or sudden, make sure the child, their parents and carers are given information at the earliest possible time about the recommended care and treatment options.

In addition:

  • Advise the child, parents and carers of their rights and responsibilities regarding decisions about end of life medical treatment and decisions following the death of the child.
  • Determine whether the child or the parents wish to discuss organ or tissue donation, and if so, refer them to the child’s medical practitioner for advice and information.
  • Give information about services that may provide emotional and practical assistance.
  • Advise what assistance Child Safety is able to provide with the child’s funeral arrangements. (Refer to Take action after the death of a child in care.)

Note

A child can register an 'Intent to be an organ and tissue donor' with the Australian Organ Donor Register from the age of 16 years but cannot fully register until 18. In this circumstance, the child can register to be a donor; however, only the parents can consent to this decision.

Respond to end of life matters—guardianship to the chief executive 

If a child is subject to a child protection order granting guardianship to the chief executive and decisions about end of life medical treatment are required—including what treatment will and will not be provided in an acute situation—consent must be sought from the Director-General (as the chief executive).

Carry out the following actions and obtain sufficient information to enable the Director-General to make a decision:

  1. Contact all relevant parties to seek their views about the options for end of life medical treatment—refer to Contact with relevant persons.
  2. Request that a medical case conference be convened so the best options can be discussed—refer to Request that a medical case conference be convened.
  3. Complete a Director-General brief for approval, outlining issues relevant to the option being recommended—refer to Prepare a Director-General brief for approval.
  4. Advise relevant parties of the Director-General’s decision about end of life medical treatment—refer to Advise relevant parties.

1. Contact with relevant persons

Immediately upon the receipt of advice that a child is facing death due to illness or trauma:

  • Inform the CSSC manager of the child’s medical condition.
  • Contact Legal Services and obtain legal advice about the situation.
  • If the child is Aboriginal or a Torres Strait Islander, contact a local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander support agency or a Child Safety practitioner able to provide cultural advice. This is to ensure that cultural protocols are observed in communicating the child’s circumstances to the child’s family.
  • Make sure all relevant parties are aware of the situation.
  • Determine whether the child’s current medical needs are being responded to appropriately.

2. Request that a medical case conference be convened

Ask the treating medical practitioners for a medical case conference to be convened to develop or update the child’s medical treatment plan, and:

  •  Arrange for all relevant persons to attend, including:
    • the Director-General or the delegated officer
    • the child (taking into account their age, ability to understand and their medical condition)
    • the treating medical practitioners
    • the parents and carers, unless this is inappropriate in the circumstances
    • the hospital’s social worker, who may or may not already know the child and family
    • if the conference is for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child:
  • Assist the child and the parents to communicate their wishes, including about cultural and religious protocols and practices. If required, arrange for an interpreter.
  • Fully explore options for the treatment and/or withholding of treatment, so that the child (if Gillick competent) or the delegated officer can provide informed consent to the proposed medical treatment plan.
  • Request a letter of advice from the treating doctor, outlining the proposed treatment and recommended option.
  • Determine whether further advice from Legal Services is required, for example, to explore whether consenting to a recommended option is in the child’s best interest.

It may be difficult for all parties to reach agreement at the medical case conference, given the highly emotive nature of the circumstances.

Practice prompt

Hospital social workers are skilled and experienced in assisting families to make such decisions. Having the hospital social worker facilitate the conference will assist the parties to reach a mutual agreement about the best care plan for the child.

If the child’s parents or other people significant to the child reside in a remote location and are unable to travel, arrange a teleconference or video link so they can participate in the medical case conference.

3. Prepare a Director-General brief for approval

To obtain consent to end of life medical treatment or the withholding of treatment:

  • Complete a briefing note seeking the delegated officer’s decision.
    • Use the End of life decision-making guide to make sure all relevant information is included.
    • Attach the Consent form—operations and treatment.
    • Attach the PARP, if required.
  • Forward the briefing note to the Director-General for approval.

If approved, the Director-General will sign the:

  •  Consent form—operations and treatment
  •  PARP, if required.

4. Advise relevant parties

Once the decision is made the CSO will:

  • inform all relevant parties of the decision, taking into account cultural protocols for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child. (Refer to Sad news sorry business).
  • provide the original, signed Consent form—operations and treatment to the hospital
  • return the signed original PARP to the hospital
  • attach a copy of the signed Consent form—operations and treatment and PARP in ICMS.

Respond to end of life matters after hours - guardianship to the chief executive

If medical treatment decisions are required after hours, medical staff will contact the CSAHSC to facilitate contact with the delegated officer or if they are unavailable, a delegated officer, in order to:

  • discuss the child’s medical care needs  
  • obtain the required consents.

If practicable, this discussion will occur at the hospital and include the child, the parents and the carers, if the child has been in their care for a significant period of time.

If the Director-General or a delegated officer is unable to attend the hospital in person, either the Director-General or the delegated officer will:

  • contact the child’s parents, carers and if possible, the child to discuss the treatment options
  • consider the child’s previously expressed views about their medical treatment, if contact with the child is not possible
  • sign and provide the hospital with the completed:
    • Consent form—operations and treatment
    • PARP, if required
  • forward a copy of the signed forms to the CSSC for attaching to the child’s file.

If the child’s condition dramatically changes or deteriorates, it may be necessary to urgently obtain further consents for additional treatments or to cease or withhold treatment. If this occurs, reconvene or arrange for the hospital social worker to reconvene a medical case conference to:

  • update the medical treatment plan
  • determine whether the end of life medical treatment decisions that have been consented to by either the child (if Gillick competent) or the delegated officer need to be amended.

The reconvened conference may occur in person or by telephone and will include:

  • the Director-General or a delegated officer
  • the child (taking into account their age, ability to understand and their medical condition)
  • the parents
  • the carers
  • the treating medical practitioners. 

Practice prompt

If the parents and carers are unable to participate in the medical case conference, make sure they and all parties are informed of the medical treatment plan for the child and the consents provided by the delegated officer.

Respond to concerns about a guardian’s decision-making

If it is assessed that a parent or long-term or permanent guardian is unable to make decisions in the best interests of the child, due to issues of competence, availability, willingness or a causal relationship to the child’s illness or trauma, the CSSC manager will:

  • contact Legal Services
  • seek urgent advice about the most appropriate action for the child’s circumstances.

Attention

In some of these circumstances, QPS involvement will be required, for example, if a child is critically ill due to a parent causing them serious injuries.

In some circumstances, the QPS will already be involved and a parent may have been charged with offences relating to grievous bodily harm. In the event of the child’s death, the charges may be upgraded to manslaughter or murder. 

Provide support to parents, siblings and carers

In order to provide support to the family and carers, Child Safety will:

  • offer grief counselling and practical support to all persons affected by the imminent death of the child
  • offer support to carers, who may be required to spend lengthy periods of time at the hospital supporting the child through the final stage of their life. This support may include:
    • assistance with travel costs 
    • short break care for other children in the care arrangement
    • assistance with meals and other household tasks and activities 
  • offer assistance for the child’s siblings to visit the child, and provide the siblings with the opportunity to talk through their feelings
  • consult with Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Hospital Liaison Officers, health workers or an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Service, to ensure that cultural customs are understood and respected for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait islander child
  • offer support to parents and other significant family members with travel, meal costs and accommodation, especially if they do not reside near the hospital.

Record case information, including after the child’s death

Record all details, actions, forms and decisions relevant to palliative care and end of life medical treatment in ICMS. Make sure copies of all official forms, consents and letters are attached to the relevant event in ICMS.

There are additional requirements for managing client records following the death of a child. Make sure these requirements are adhered to. (Refer to Take action after the death of a child in care.)

Decisions after the child’s death

While decisions about palliative care and end of life medical treatment are the responsibility of the guardian, the child protection order will lapse once the child dies.

Therefore, decisions about funeral arrangements and other decisions to be made after the child’s death are the responsibility of the parents.

Make sure all relevant people, especially the parents and carers, are aware of this. (Refer to Take action after the death of a child in care).

If the child has a long-term or permanent guardian, encourage the parents and the long-term or permanent guardian to talk about funeral and other arrangements as early as possible before the child’s death. If there is disagreement, support the long-term or permanent guardian in negotiating with the parents for some meaningful participation in the funeral ceremony.

Ensure everyone, including the long-term or permanent guardian, is clear about the arrangements in advance.

Ensure Child Safety responds promptly to provide any assistance as agreed in relation to funeral arrangements.

Practice prompt

If end of life decisions are needed for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child, arrange, with the consent of the child and family, for an independent person to help facilitate their participation in the decision-making process. (Refer to Decision making for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.)

Counselling decisions

A CSO or senior team leader can make custody (daily care) decisions about counselling, where this is consistent with case decisions and the child's case plan.

A decision or consent regarding counselling or therapy that is not part of the agreed case plan must be provided by the guardian. If a child is subject to the guardianship of the chief executive, a CSSC manager is the delegated officer able to make guardianship decisions about counselling.

Education decisions

Custody

A carer can make custody (daily care) decisions about:

  • selecting and enrolling a child in a child care centre that is eligible for the Australian Government Child Care Subsidy payment (This is separate to financial decisions about costs.)
  • variations to school routine, including day excursions of low to moderate risk that are intrastate or interstate. (Refer to Decisions about high or very high risk activities.)
  • sporting and recreational activities of low to moderate risk, undertaken at school
  • attending meetings at the school about the child
  • signing school reports
  • consenting to school or class photos for personal or family use
  • consenting to curriculum-related activities, including but not limited to swimming, Arts Council and religious education consistent with the views/beliefs of the child and their family.

Note

A CSO or senior team leader can also make education-related custody decisions, if required.

Under the Education (General Provisions) Act 2006, both custody and guardianship to the chief executive comes within the meaning of ‘parent’.

A senior team leader can make a decision about enrolment or a change of school if:

  • it is assessed to be in the child's best interests
    and
  • the parent is unwilling or unavailable to give consent.

Guardianship

The following table shows the delegated officer able to make a decision or to provide consent in relation to education matters where the chief executive has guardianship of a child.

Decision or consent Who can consent Delegated officer
Enrolling a child in a school* Delegated officer Senior team leader
Day excursions involving high and very high risk activities Delegated officer Senior team leader
Day excursions in Australia involving high and very high risk activities undertaken by tourism operators Carer or Delegated officer Senior team leader 
Sporting or recreational activities involving high and very high risk activities undertaken as an individual Delegated officer  Senior team leader                   
Sporting and recreational activities involving high and very high risk activities undertaken by schools and clubs (for example, Scouts, Girl Guides and sporting clubs) Carer or Delegated officer Senior team leader 
School camps (except high risk activity or overseas travel) Carer or Delegated officer  CSO
Educational adjustment program for students with disabilities Delegated officer Senior team leader
Work experience, including school-based apprenticeships and traineeships Delegated officer CSO
The decision to seek dispensation from compulsory schooling, that is, for a child to leave school prior to the compulsory school leaving age Delegated officer CSSC manager

* The decision to enrol a child in a school (also referred to as selecting a school or changing school) is the responsibility of the senior team leader. After the decision is made and with appropriate supporting documentation, the carer may attend the school to make enrolment arrangements.

Sporting and recreational activities decisions—daily and overnight

Custody

A carer can make the following custody (daily care) decisions:

  • participation in sporting and recreational activities not involving high or very high risk activities. If the activity is considered to be high or very high risk, refer to Decisions about high or very high risk activities
  • consent for club photos, such as sport, dance or drama, if the photo is for personal or family distribution only and will not be published
  • taking a child on family outings that do not conflict with family contact arrangements or the case plan
  • allowing a child to stay with another person for a period of up to two nights, for example, a sleep-over at a school friend's house.

Note

A CSO or senior team leader can also make custody decisions about daily and overnight sporting and recreational activities, if required.

Guardianship

When the child is subject to the guardianship of the chief executive, the carer can consent to the child’s participation in sporting and recreational activities undertaken by schools and clubs, involving high and very high risk activities.

The child's guardian is responsible for decisions about allowing a child to be in the care of another person for 3 nights or more. If a child is in the guardianship of the chief executive, a CSSC manager is the delegated officer.

Attention

A decision to allow a child to be in another person’s care for 3 nights or more is intended to be used to normalise the child’s activities, for example, to allow a child to spend a weekend with friends. It is not intended to be a substitute for a placement decision or to override regulation of care requirements.

Decisions about culture and religion

Custody

A carer, CSO or senior team leader can make custody (daily care) decisions about the child's observance, maintenance or participation in cultural and religious events and activities. This includes religious education provided at school. The decision must take into account and be consistent with the views or beliefs of the child and their family.

Guardianship

The child’s guardian is responsible for decisions about the child's observance, maintenance or participation in cultural and religious events and activities that are not consistent with the views of the child and their family.

If a child is in the guardianship of the chief executive, a CSSC manager is the delegated officer able to make a guardianship decision about culture or religion.

Make sure a carer for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child is supported in maintaining the child’s family and community cultural connections.

Travel decisions—intrastate or interstate

Consent for decisions regarding travel for a child is dependent on:

  • who has custody and guardianship decision-making responsibilities for the child
  • the proposed type of travel, for example, air travel or non-air travel
  • whether there are any costs associated with the travel
  • the destinationintrastate, interstate or overseas
  • the duration of the travel.

Refer to the Travel and financial cost approval tables.

Note

If the child is in the long-term guardianship of a suitable person or is subject to a permanent care order, there is no requirement for Child Safety to approve the travel.

Unless travel costs are likely to be sought, a carer is not required to seek consent from Child Safety, if a carer and a child in care intend to travel:

  • within the state for up to 3 nights
  • interstate for a day trip
  • by air within Australia for up to 3 nights, if the child is subject to a child protection order granting guardianship order to the chief executive and the travel does not conflict with the case plan or family contact arrangements.

If a carer and a child in care, or a child in care, will be away from their usual residence for an extended period, for example, on holiday, advise the carer they are required to provide their contact details to the CSO with case responsibility.

If interstate travel is to occur for the purpose of family contact or a holiday with kin, refer to the requirements to involve the interstate liaison team outlined in Family contact decisions.

Refer to the Travel and financial cost approval tables, if the chief executive has custody or guardianship of a child.

Travel decisions—overseas

The consent of the guardian is required for a child in care to travel overseas.

If the child is subject to the guardianship of the chief executive, the regional director is the delegated officer for approval of travel (not the associated cost).

Note

If the child is in the long-term guardianship of a suitable person under the Child Protection Act 1999 or is subject to a permanent care order, there is no requirement for Child Safety to approve the overseas travel or to inform the Director-General of the overseas travel. Financial support from Child Safety for the travel is not available.

Refer to the Travel and financial cost approval tables.

If overseas travel is to occur for the purpose of family contact or for a holiday with kin, refer to the requirements to involve the interstate liaison team, outlined in Facilitate, monitor and review family contact.

If there are costs to be met by Child Safety for overseas travel for a child (for example, for overseas airfares, accommodation costs and domestic flights) prior approval must be sought from:

  • the Director-General, if the flight is under 5 hours in duration  
  • the Minister, if the overseas travel time is beyond 5 hours and costs are to be incurred by Child Safety. Refer to the policy Child related costs and the procedure Child related costs – Travel.

Approval for these costs will be considered only:

  • to maintain family contact where it is assessed to be essential for the wellbeing of the child or to support a reunification plan
  • to enable a gifted child to participate at an international level in their field of excellence, for example, sporting or academic competitions
  • in cases where exceptional circumstances demonstrate that overseas travel is essential to maintaining a child’s safety, best interests and wellbeing.

Approval for overseas airfares and accommodation costs will not be given for a child in care to participate in school excursions to an overseas country.

The CSSC manager may approve incidental costs for overseas travel, such as passport fees, visas and travel insurance. Prior approval for eligible child-related costs must be obtained from the CSSC manager.

If Director-General approval is required for overseas travel costs, any applicable letters of advice to the carer will be:

  • prepared by the CSSC
  • signed by the regional director and forwarded to Executive Services with the approval request.

If a child in care has been approved to travel overseas and the carers are covering the costs of the travel, the CSSC will:

  • prepare an accompanying draft letter for the regional director's signature:
    • to either the carers or the child who is travelling (whichever is appropriate in the circumstances)
    • including the carer’s name and address
  • forward the draft letter and the request for the regional director’s approval to the regional office.

Practice prompt

Staff are encouraged to seek travel advice from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) by telephone on 1300 555 135 or to refer to the Smartraveller website for information regarding security and/or health risks relating to the proposed travel destination.

Travel and financial cost approval tables

Travel decisions (not the associated cost) when the chief executive has custody
Non-air travel Intrastate Interstate
Up to 3 nights and not in conflict with the case plan or family contact arrangements Carer

Day trips carer

Other – Parent, CSSC manager
Up to 3 nights and in conflict with the case plan or family contact arrangements

Parent                      CSSC manager

Parent

CSSC manager
More than 3 nights and/or in conflict with the case plan or family contact arrangements

Parent

CSSC manager

Parent

Regional director
Air Travel Intrastate Interstate
Up to 3 nights and not in conflict with the case plan or family contact arrangements

Parent

CSSC manager

Parent

Regional director
More than 3 nights and/or in conflict with the case plan or family contact arrangements

Parent                     CSSC manager

Parent

Regional director
Overseas air travel

Parent

Regional director
Travel decisions (not the associated cost) when the chief executive has guardianship
Non-air travel Intrastate Interstate
Up to 3 nights and not in conflict with the case plan or family contact arrangements Carer               Carer
More than 3 nights and not in conflict with the case plan or family contact arrangements Senior  team leader                        Senior  team  leader                                    
Any non-air travel in conflict with the case plan or family contact arrangements Senior team  leader CSSC manager 
Air Travel Intrastate Interstate
Up to 3 nights and not in conflict with the case plan or family contact arrangements Carer Carer
More than 3 nights and/or in conflict with the case plan or family contact arrangements CSSC manager  Regional director
Overseas air travel Regional director
Financial delegate approval for travel costs when the chief executive has either custody or guardianship
Type of travel Financial delegate
Intrastate air and non-air travel CSSC manager
Interstate air and non-air travel Regional director
Overseas travel within 5 hours flying time Director-General
Overseas travel beyond 5 hours flying time Minister

Decision to apply for a passport

If a child in care does not have a current passport and requires one, the Australian Passports Act 2005 requires that the passport application be signed by all persons with parental responsibility, that is, both:

  • the guardian
    and
  • the person who has custody of the child.

If a person other than a parent has guardianship, the parents are not required to sign the passport application. Inform the parents of the proposed travel and seek their views, if possible.

In addition to the passport application, the DFAT Form B-10 must be completed and signed by either:

  • the regional director, if the chief executive has guardianship
    or
  • the long-term or permanent guardian.

The next table outlines the forms required, and the people responsible for signing them.

Type of child protection order Forms Type of consent required
Guardianship to the chief executive

Australian Passport Child Application Form

DFAT Form B-10

Regional director

Note: parental consent is not required
Guardianship to a suitable person

Australian Passport Child Application Form

DFAT Form B-10

Suitable person

Note: parental consent is not required
Custody to the chief executive, including an interim order Australian Passport Child Application Form Regional director and parents
Custody to a suitable person Australian Passport Child Application Form Suitable person and parents

If parental consent is required and either or both parents decline to sign the passport application, or are unable to sign, discuss the matter with the senior team leader, who may seek advice from Legal Services Branch.

Foster and kinship carers will be reimbursed for the purchase of a passport for a child, including the cost of the application and the child's photograph.

Family contact decisions

The level and nature of family contact is recorded in the child’s case plan and in the placement agreement. Refer to Decide the level and nature of family contact.

The carer or CSO can make custody (daily care) decisions about family contact arrangements consistent with case decisions and the case plan. These decisions must take into account the views of the child, their carer, the family and service providers, if applicable. For information and guidance on the family contact decision-making process, refer to the practice guide Assessing harm and risk of harm.

The senior team leader or the CSSC manager is responsible for decisions about making and varying family contact arrangements for a child in the custody or guardianship of the chief executive, if the proposed arrangements:

  • substantially conflict with the agreed case plan
    or
  • are likely to result in significant issues for the child or their family members.

Inform all participants of any changes to family contact arrangements and record the updated arrangements in a case note in ICMS.

If the level and nature of family contact outlined in the case plan are no longer in the best interest of the child, complete a case plan review—refer to Review and revise the case plan.

Decide the level and nature of family contact

The level and nature of family contact is decided as part of the case planning process. (Refer to Case planning.) Decisions about family contact must:

  • reflect the goals and outcomes of the child’s case plan
  • be in the child’s best interests
  • not place the child at further risk of harm.

To decide the level and nature of family contact consider the following:

  • the child’s emotional and physical safety during contact
  • the child’s views and wishes
  • if family contact is helping to maintain and develop the child’s significant relationships
  • if family contact is providing a positive connection between the child and their cultural community
  • if the child’s parents are demonstrating an increased capacity to meet the child’s safety, belonging and wellbeing needs
  • the type of child protection order  
  • if the child is residing in a kinship care arrangement that has existing family contact arrangements
  • practical arrangements, including:
    • transport
    • pick up and drop off times
    • expectations about the contact 
    • the payment or reimbursement of any costs associated with the contact.

Practice prompt

If a family contact decision is different to the child’s views and wishes, explain the reasons for the decision to the child.

For an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child, in addition to family members, consider other people of significance with whom the child can have contact.

To decide on a location for safe and meaningful family contact, work with the child and parents to identify a location:

  • the family can easily access
  • that will be safe for the child
  • that will enable the child and parents to enjoy and participate in the visit.

If there are concerns about the child’s safety with a person who it is proposed will be present during contact, consider requesting the criminal or domestic violence history of that person from the QPS to inform decision making. This may be a parent, adult member of the parent’s household or an adult alleged responsible for harm to the child.

Note

Family contact visits will only occur at a CSSC if there is a significant risk to the child or a staff member, for example, threats of violence or risk of child abduction.

A CSO must comply with contact arrangements directed by the Childrens Court and the Family Court of Australia; however, orders made under the Child Protection Act 1999 take precedence over Family Court of Australia directives (Family Law Act 1975, section 69ZK(2)).

Further reading

Consider domestic and family violence

If domestic and family violence is identified as a worry in the parents’ relationship consider the following as part of the decision-making process:

  • Will family contact be used by the perpetrator to further harm the child or as a means to continue the abuse or control of the non-violent partner or extended family members?
  • Is family contact between the child and the perpetrator or extended family members in the child’s best interests?
  • Does the child’s behaviour significantly change before, during or after family contact?

If a child is placed with a kinship carer who is a member of the offending parent’s family, assess:

  • if the carer is able to meet the child's safety, belonging and wellbeing needs during contact with the perpetrator
  • the level of fear family members have towards the perpetrator and the level of control the perpetrator has over family members.

If a child is placed with a kinship carer who is related to the non-violent parent, assess if there are safety concerns for the child or any members of the household when deciding the level and nature of family contact between the child and the perpetrator.

If there are worries about a child's safety during contact, make sure:

  • Safety planning has occurred with the child, family and network.
  • Action steps to keep the child safe are clear and have been agreed by all relevant people.
  • Only agreed family contact is occurring and that kinship carers and the child’s parent are not making their own arrangements.

Further reading

Refuse, restrict or impose conditions on family contact 

The Child Protection Act 1999, section 87, authorises the chief executive to refuse to allow, restrict or impose conditions on contact between the child and the child’s parents or member of the child’s family if:

  • family contact is not in the child's best interests
  • it is not practical for the parents or family member to have contact.

A senior team leader and CSSC manager are delegated to make the decision. If a decision is made to refuse, restrict or impose conditions on family contact:

  • Inform all affected persons of the decision, the reason for the decision and how to have the decision reviewed.
  • Inform the child about the review process and support options.
  • Provide written notice of the decision to the person affected using the Letter re: refusal or restriction of family contact.
  • Provide the child with a letter, written specifically for them, suitable for their age, maturity and capacity to understand.
  • Attach a copy of the letter to the child’s ongoing intervention event in ICMS.

A senior team leader and the CSSC manger are also delegated to refuse, restrict or impose conditions on family contact under the Child Protection Act 1999, section 87(2), when a child is subject to an interim child protection order, granting custody or guardianship to the chief executive. In circumstances when child protection proceedings are before the court, a decision is made under s87(2), and the person affected by that decision is party to the proceedings in the Children's Court, provide written notice of the decision to the person affected, using the Letter re: refusal or restiction of family contact s99MA.

Attention

If it is assessed that a child is at risk of harm during contact that has been directed by the Family Court of Australia, and the parent with whom the child is having contact refuses to suspend contact arrangements, take action to ensure the child's safety. (Refer to Procedure 7 Respond to alleged harm during contact ordered by a family court.)

Practice prompt

If a child is no longer in the care of a long-term or permanent guardian and is subject to a CAO, TAO, temporary custody order or interim child protection order, the long-term or permanent guardian must be provided with written notice of a decision to refuse, restrict or impose conditions on family contact. 

The senior team leader or CSSC manager is responsible for making sure the legislative requirement to provide written notice of a decision to refuse, restrict or impose conditions on family contact is complied with.

Note

Under the Public Guardian Act 2014, section 133, the Public Guardian is able to apply to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) for a review of a family contact decision by a senior team leader or CSSC manager to not refuse, restrict or impose conditions on a child's contact (Child Protection Act 1999, section 87(2)).

The Public Guardian must attempt to resolve the concern with Child Safety before requesting a review by QCAT.

Decide the nature of overnight contact with kin

If it is proposed that a child stays overnight with kin in Queensland or in another state or in New Zealand, the CSSC manager is delegated to decide if the stay will be considered:

  • a care arrangement subject to regulation of care requirements (Refer to Procedure 6 Provide and review care)
    or
  • family contact or a holiday not requiring the child’s kin to be approved as a kinship carer.

Provide the CSSC manager with the following information to make the decision:

  • the goal and outcomes of the case plan, including how contact aligns with the 5 elements of the child placement principle for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child
  • the child's views about the contact
  • the child's age and vulnerability
  • any risk to the child posed by the contact
  • the history of previous contact between the child and the child's kin
  • the length of stay, location and circumstances of contact
  • if a request for approval for the kin to receive the fortnightly caring allowance is required.

For an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child, family contact arrangements will also include people of significance to the child under Aboriginal tradition or Islander custom who can help the child’s identity development and connection with the child’s family and community.

The CSSC manager may decide to approve expenditure to meet costs associated with overnight family contact visits with kin. (Refer to the policy Child related costs and the procedure Child related costs−Child and young person support. )

Note

Fortnightly caring allowance will only be paid if the kin is approved as a kinship carer or a provisionally approved carer.

If the CSSC manager decides the arrangement will be considered a care arrangement subject to regulation of care requirements―approach the child’s kin about submitting an application to become an approved kinship carer. (Refer to Procedure 6 Help the prospective kinship carer to complete a carer application.)

If the CSSC manager decides the arrangement is family contact or a holiday, an assessment for this purpose is still necessary. (Refer to Complete an assessment for family contact or holiday with kin in Queensland or Request an assessment for family contact or holiday with kin interstate or New Zealand.

Further reading

For further information about the assessment and approval of a carer applicant, refer to Procedure 6 Assess and approve carers.

Complete an assessment for family contact or holiday with kin in Queensland

To complete an assessment about overnight contact when the child’s kin resides in Queensland:

  • Confirm the kin is willing to care for the child.
  • Arrange a time to visit and conduct the assessment of the kin.
  • Speak to the kin about the contact plans and any worries. 
  • Complete a child protection history check on the child’s kin and other household members. Their consent is not required, but tell them that the checks will be completed.
  • Complete an assessment interview with the child’s kin.
  • Complete the Assessment for the purpose of family contact/holiday form.
  • Seek approval of the decision from the delegated officer for intrastate travel. (Refer to Travel decisions−intrastate or interstate.)

Attention

No history checks other than child protection history may be undertaken. If it is assessed that further checks are necessary, consider formally assessing the person as a kinship carer.

Practice prompt

If the child’s kin lives a significant distance outside the geographical area of the CSSC, request that the CSSC local to that area complete the Assessment for the purpose of family contact/holiday. The CSSC manager responsible for the child will make the contact decision.

Request an assessment for family contact or holiday with kin interstate or in New Zealand

If the child’s kin resides interstate or in New Zealand, request an assessment for family contact or holiday to be undertaken by the other jurisdiction.  The CSSC manager will decide if the family contact or holiday will proceed interstate or in New Zealand, taking into consideration the assessment of the other jurisdiction. If the family contact or holiday is approved, arrange for the family contact or holiday interstate or in New Zealand. Refer to Procedure 7 Request an assessment of kin for family contact or holiday in another state.

Attention

Additional approvals will be required for interstate or international travel, or if a passport application is required.

Decisions about high or very high risk activities

Decisions about a child participating in a high or very high risk activity are the responsibility of the child’s guardian. Examples of high or very high risk activities include—but are not limited to—white water rafting, rock climbing, abseiling and high ropes courses.

If a child is subject to the custody of the chief executive, the parent is responsible for making the decision.

If a child is subject to the guardianship of the chief executive:

  • the child’s carer is able to provide consent for high or very high risk activities that are being undertaken by a school or club or an Australian tourism operator
  • the senior team leader must provide prior consent for high or very high risk activities  undertaken as an individual. To seek consent, complete the Request for a child or young person to participate in a high risk activity form (identifying the carer was a suitable individual to undertake and supervise the activity). 

When a request is received for a child to participate in a high or very high risk activity, tell the child:

  • about the approval process, including who is responsible for the decision
  • that a decision will be made or obtained in a timely way, to ensure that if consent is given, any delay in communicating the decision will not prevent the child from undertaking the activity
  • the decision, once it is made.

Gather information about the activity

Gather the following information:

  • the nature, qualifications and credentials of the organisation or individuals providing the activity
  • what protective strategies can be taken to minimise the level of risk including:
    • the level of adult supervision to be provided during the activity
    • the supply and enforced use of compulsory safety equipment, for example, whether a Type 1 personal flotation device is available when participating in boating activities
    • the child's access to necessary safety equipment, for example, if the carer will assist the child to have a mouthguard fitted
  • the potential hazards and risk level of the activity. (Refer to Determine the level of risk.)
  • the insurance provisions provided in the event of an accident.

Determine the level of risk

The risks associated with high and very high risk activities may be mitigated by the use of protective equipment, or participation under specific guidelines (age restriction, adult supervision, and codes and regulations).

High risk and very high risk activities may be defined as activities where:

  • there is a high risk of injury to the child or other people if the equipment or procedures associated with the activity are not used in the prescribed manner
  • there is a risk of severe injury to the child or other people
  • there is a high likelihood, high probability or frequency of an injury or event occurring, or a significant consequence or impact if it does occur
  • a high level of adult supervision of all aspects of the activity is required.

Attention

The Queensland Injury Surveillance Unit (part of Mater Health Services):

  • publishes injury bulletins on a range of topics on their website. The bulletins discuss risk factors that contribute to injuries, based on Queensland Hospital emergency department injury surveillance data; and relevant preventative strategies
  • cannot calculate the relative risk of injury
  • can provide advice about protective strategies for children who intend to participate in activities. They require a minimum of 7 days to respond to a request.

Review the injury bulletins before making a request for information.

Discuss with a 16- or 17-year old their participation in the activity, with a view to the young person increasing their decision-making skills. Check the activity’s indemnity form, as some activities may allow consent by a 16- or 17-year old.

Note

Carers may provide consent for activities that are not assessed as being high or very high risk.

Gather information about the suitability of the activity for the child

Gather sufficient information to determine the suitability of the activity for the child, including the views of the child, parents and carer about:

  • the activity
  • the suitability of the activity for the child’s age, developmental level and experience.

Seek consent from the child's guardian

Guardianship with the parents

If the CSO receives a request for a child to participate in a high or very high risk activity and the parents have guardianship of the child:

  • Contact both parents to advise of the request and seek their consent.
  • Explain to both parents the nature of the activity and the hazards and risks for the child.
  • Provide the parents with a copy of any written information obtained from the organisation offering the activity.

Note

Seek consent from both parents about the decision unless consent has been sought from one parent and all reasonable attempts to locate and consult with the other parent have been unsuccessful.

If the parents do consent for the child to participate in the activity:

  • Make sure the parents sign the consent form provided by the organisation offering the activity. If a form has not been provided, give each parent the Guardian consent form for high risk and very high risk activities to sign.
  • Place a copy of the signed consent form on the child's file and attach a copy to the ongoing intervention event in ICMS.
  • Tell the child and the carer that the parents have given consent.
  • Give the original signed consent form to the organisation offering the activity.

If the parents do not consent:

  • Record each parent's decision on the consent form, place the form on the child's file and attach a copy to the ongoing intervention event in ICMS.
  • Inform the child and the carer that the parents have not provided consent, and the child cannot participate in the activity.
  • Inform the organisation offering the activity that the child is not permitted to participate in the activity.

Guardianship with the chief executive

If consent is needed from the senior team leader (because the activity is not being undertaken by a school or club or an Australian tourism operator) for the child to participate in the activity:

Inform the senior team leader if a parent opposes the child's participation in the activity, so their views can be considered in the decision. The senior team leader may seek the guidance of the CSSC manager about the decision. If the senior team leader or CSSC manager approves the activity, record the parent’s views and the rationale for the decision in a case note.

If the senior team leader approves the child’s participation:

  • Place the approved form on the child's file.
  • Inform the child, the carer and the child's parents of the approval.
  • Give the organisation providing the activity the signed letter advising of Child Safety’s consent.

If the senior team leader does not approve the child’s participation:

  • Place a copy of the form on the child's file.
  • Inform the child, the carer and the parents of the decision not to provide consent.
  • Provide the organisation with the signed letter advising of Child Safety’s decision, stating that the child does not have permission to participate in the activity.

Decision to apply to change a child's surname 

If a child asks to be referred to by a different surname, the child's views must be given consideration and supported, if appropriate.

If a child is subject to the guardianship of the chief executive, the chief executive, as the child’s legal guardian (appointed under a law of a state or the Commonwealth) may apply to change the child’s surname if they have the following two required documents:

  1. evidence of legal guardianship issued by a court
    and
  2. a Queensland magistrates court order specifically ordering for the child’s name to be changed from one specified name to another.

The regional director is the delegated officer responsible for a decision to apply to change the surname of a child subject to the guardianship of the chief executive.

Tip

An application to change a child’s surname is made to:

  • Births, deaths and marriages, if the child was born or adopted in Queensland
  • the registering authority interstate if the child was born or adopted in another Australian state or territory.

For an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child, consider the long-term impact of the decision on the child’s identity and connection to culture. If a legal change of name is considered to be a significant decision for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child, taking into account their individual circumstances, arrange, with the consent of the child and family, for an independent person to help facilitate their participation in the decision. (Refer to Decision making for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.)

Decisions about a child's personal appearance

A child has the right to have their views considered in relation to their personal appearance, including haircuts, clothing, jewellery and ear piercing. If the decision may become contentious, the carer should consult the CSO with case responsibility.

For example, the decision to have a child's hair trimmed is a custody decision that the carer may make. If the child has always had long hair, and the carer wants their hair cut short, the CSO or senior team leader may decide to:

  • ask the child's parents to make the decision
  • make the decision, after considering the views of the child, their parents and the carer.

Attention

The tattooing or intimate body piercing of a child under 18 years is unlawful.

Decisions about DNA testing

A DNA paternity test can be used if:

  • there is uncertainty about a child’s parentage
    and
  • it is considered to be in the best interests of the child.

A DNA paternity test should only be undertaken in exceptional circumstances. These may include where significant conflict about the child’s parentage may result in a change in the child’s care arrangement or their usual family situation.

Child Safety does not have the authority to compel any child or adult to undertake a DNA test. In most cases, a DNA paternity test will not be undertaken by Child Safety when a father has been recorded on the child’s registered birth certificate.

In part, this is because there is a presumption contained in the Status of Children Act 1978 that a person listed on the birth certificate is the child’s parent. A mother or father is required to apply to register a birth under the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 2003. A parent’s name cannot appear on the birth certificate unless the parent signed a birth registration application.

The recording of a father on a birth certificate is therefore considered the primary evidence of parentage of a child. If another person is identified as possibly being the child’s father, consideration of a DNA test to prove paternity will only occur in exceptional circumstances and when it is assessed as being in the child’s best interests.

Child Safety may make 2 types of approval decisions relating to a DNA paternity test:

  1. approval for a DNA test for a child subject to a child protection order granting guardianship to the chief executive
  2. approval for the financial cost of the DNA test.

Before seeking approval for a DNA paternity test, consult:

  • the senior team leader
  • the senior practitioner
  • the OCFOS lawyer, if relevant.

If the decision about DNA testing for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child is considered to be a significant decision, arrange, with the consent of the child and family, for an independent person to help facilitate their participation in the decision. (Refer to Decision making for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.)

The approval of the child’s guardian is required for a DNA paternity test for a child subject to a child protection order granting custody to the chief executive.

The approval of the regional executive director is required for a DNA paternity test for a child subject to a child protection order granting guardianship to the chief executive.

If approval is to be sought from the regional executive director, prepare a brief outlining the following information:

  • who requested the DNA paternity test
  • the views of the parent (and the child, if age and developmentally appropriate) about the test
  • why the DNA paternity test is being considered
  • what understanding the family has of a DNA paternity test and the impact of the test outcome
  • what emotional support will be offered to the child and family
  • who will inform the family of the DNA paternity results
  • the potential long-term effect of the DNA paternity results on an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child’s connection to family and culture.

Once a decision is made, attach the brief and corresponding information to the relevant event in ICMS.

If costs for the DNA paternity test cannot be met by the child’s legal guardian, seek approval for the cost from the CSSC manager. The CSSC manager can use their financial delegation to approve the cost of a DNA paternity test if it is consistent with the case plan and the appropriate approval has been obtained.

Further reading

Practice guide Paternity testing

Practice kit Care arrangements.

Decisions about a young person marrying or joining the defence forces

The consent of the guardian is required for a young person aged under 18 years to:

  • marry
    or
  • join the Australian Defence Forces.

If a child is subject to the guardianship of the chief executive, a regional director is the delegated officer able to make these decisions.

Decision about a child being employed in the entertainment industry

Attention

In Queensland, the employment of children is governed by the Child Employment Act 2006 and the Child Employment Regulation 2006. Legislative regulations covering the employment of children in the entertainment industry:

  • limit the amount of work children can perform to 40 hours per week
  • outline education requirements for children working in the entertainment industry
  • clarify the role of parents and supervisors.

Before employing a child in the entertainment industry, employers are required to:

  • inform parents about the Child Employment Guide 
  • provide them with a copy of the guide, if requested
  • have a signed ‘parenting consent form’ from the child's guardian.

If a child is subject to the guardianship of the chief executive, the CSSC manager is the delegated officer responsible for the decision.  If they agree to the child’s employment, the CSSC manager will sign the parenting consent form and make sure it is returned to the employer.

Decision making for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children

Enable meaningful participation in decision making

Child Safety is responsible for and committed to making all decisions about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in collaboration with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and their community.

The Child Protection Act 1999, sections 5C and 6AA, reflect the importance of providing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with the opportunity to meaningfully participate in child protection decision making to ensure that:

  • they can exercise their right to self-determination and agency over their lives
  • child protection services provided to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are culturally appropriate and support their safe care and connection with family, community, culture and country
  • active efforts are made to address the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the child protection system.

The Child Protection Act 1999 requires that, when making a decision about an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child, Child Safety considers the long-term effect of the decision on the child’s identity and connection with their family and community.

The decision must also be made:

  • in a way that allows the full participation of the child and the child’s family group
  • in a place that is appropriate to Aboriginal tradition or Island custom
  • in a way that upholds the following 5 elements of the child placement principle:
    • preventionAboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have a right to be brought up within their own family and community
    • partnershipAboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons have the right to participate in significant decisions about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children
    • placementAboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children subject to a child protection care agreement or child protection order granting custody or guardianship to the chief executive have a right to be placed with a member of their family group
    • participationAboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their parents and family members have a right to participate, and be enabled to participate in administrative and judicial decision-making processes.
    • connectionAboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have a right to be supported in developing and maintaining a connection with the child’s family, community, culture, traditions and language, particularly where a child is in the care of a person who is not an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person.

Arrange for an independent person to facilitate the child’s and family’s participation

The Child Protection Act 1999, requires Child Safety, in consultation and with the consent of the child and their family, to arrange an independent Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander entity for the child (known as an independent person) to facilitate the child’s and family’s participation in decision-making processes:

  • when making a significant decision for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child, refer to Decide if a matter is a significant decision
  • when deciding where and with whom an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child will livewhen the child is subject to a child protection care agreement, or an order granting custody or guardianship to the chief executive.

Practice prompt

If a significant decision is made and consultation with the family was not possible, the relevant CSSC or CSAHSC is responsible for advising the family of the decision as soon as practicable.

If cultural advice is required to inform decision making, planning or case work, consult with one or more of the following:

  • the child, child’s family or a person they nominate (unless advice is required for investigation and assessment planning, in which case, refer to Procedure 2 Plan the investigation and assessment)
  • a Child Safety practitioner able to provide cultural advice
  • a local Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander community representative. If consulting about investigation and assessment planning, share only non-identifying information about the child and family.

Further reading

Practice kit Safe care and connection

Practice guide Culturally capable behaviours (This provides information about Child Safety staff working in a culturally capable way.)

Talk with a child and family about having an independent person attend court

The Child Protection Act 1999 states that the Childrens Court must have regard to Aboriginal tradition and Island custom relating to the child when:

  • exercising a power under the Child Protection Act 1999 , section 6AB, in relation to an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child
  • deciding whether to make a permanent care order for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child (section 59(7A)).

The court, to inform itself about Aboriginal tradition and Island custom relating to the child, may have regard to the views of an independent person, as well as the views of the child or a member of the child’s family.

The Child Protection Act 1999  does not obligate:

  • an independent person to attend court
  • Child Safety to arrange, with the child and family’s consent, for an independent person to attend court with the family. 

Before a court date, talk with the child and family about whether they wish to have an independent person attend court with them, if the person is available. Advise them that it is not a requirement, but having an independent person at court will:

  • ensure an independent person is available should the court wish to have regard to their views about Aboriginal tradition and Island custom
  • enable the child and family to have an independent person help facilitate their participation in a significant decision, should such a decision need to be made on the day at court.

If the child or family do intend to have an independent person attend court, record in the Affidavit (form 25) for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander family:

  • the child’s and family’s intention
  • relevant details of the independent person. (Refer to Procedure 3 Prepare an affidavit.)

Note

Information about the person’s suitability to be an independent person is not required in the affidavit, as this is not a matter on which the court can make a decision and is not relevant to the matters to be considered by the court.

If a family wishes to have an independent person provide information to the Childrens Court about Aboriginal tradition or Island custom in relation to the child, and Child Safety has not previously determined the person’s suitability to be an independent person, the Director of Child Protection Litigation (DCPL) will request advice from Child Safety about whether the person is suitable. (Refer to Advise the Director of Child Protection Litigation about a person’s suitability to be an independent person.)

Decide if a matter is a significant decision

Significant decisions

The Child Protection Act 1999 , schedule 3, defines a significant decision about an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child as one that is likely to have a significant impact on the child's life.

The following are considered to be significant decisions for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child:

  • a decision about how to keep a child safe (immediate safety planning during an investigation and assessment and ongoing intervention)
  • a decision about whether a child is in need of protection
  • case planning decisions including the type of ongoing intervention that will be undertaken with a family and how the child’s safety, belonging and wellbeing needs will be met
  • a decision to refer a matter about an application for a child protection order for the child to the DCPL
  • a decision about where or with whom a child will liveif the child is subject to a child protection care agreement or an order granting custody or guardianship to the chief executive (Child Protection Act 1999, section 83(2))
  • support service planning before the birth of an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child.

Refer to Complete the Independent person form.

Attention

There may be additional matters that are significant for an individual child, taking into account issues specific to them, their family and community. Use professional judgement and knowledge of the child’s circumstances to determine what decisions are significant for a child.

Other decisions

If the child or family wishes to have an independent person facilitate their participation in a decision that is not defined as a significant decision, arrange for this. (Refer to Make arrangements for an independent person.)

Make arrangements for an independent person

Who may be an independent person?

To be an independent Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander entity (independent person) for a child, the entity must be:

  • an individual who is an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person
    or
  • a group whose members includes Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander persons.

In addition, Child Safety must be satisfied that the following criteria are met:

  • the independent person must:
    • provide services to Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander persons (this could include an entity funded by Child Safety)
      or
    • be a representative of the child’s community or language group
      or
    • be a person who:
      • is of significance to the child or child’s family
      • is a suitable person for associating on a daily basis with the child
      • has appropriate authority to speak about Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander culture in relation to the child or the child’s family
      • is not an officer or employee of Child Safety
  • the person is suitable person to be an independent person.

Refer to Information for staff: Who can be an independent person for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child and/or family? 

Note

Children and families are the best source of information regarding their own kin, culture and community. When a child and family nominates an individual to be an independent person, the child, family and the individual will inform Child Safety about whether the individual is an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person.

In certain circumstances, a non-Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person may meet the criteria for being an independent person. (Refer to Respond to a request for an individual who is not Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander to be an independent person.)

In addition, as long as the child, family and the person nominated advise that they are satisfied that the person is:

  • a representative of the child’s community or language group
  • a person of significance to the child or child’s family
  • a person with appropriate authority to speak about Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander culture in relation to the child or the child’s family,

Child Safety will be satisfied that the criteria have been met.

Respond to a request for an individual who is not Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander to be an independent person

Attention

The Child Protection Act 1999, section 6 outlines who may be an independent Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander entity for a child (independent person) and specifically states that an entity is:

  • an individual who is an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person
    or
  • another entity whose members include individuals who are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander persons.

The Child Protection Act 1999 also provides the following examples of who may be an independent person:

  • an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander elder
  • an entity funded by a state or the Commonwealth to provide cultural services, including cultural advice and support, to Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander persons.

Therefore, when a child or family chooses an individual who they wish to be an independent person, it is a requirement for that person to be an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person. 

If a child or family chooses someone to be an independent person who is from an entity whose members include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members (for example, an employee of a Family Wellbeing Service or Family Participation Program) then the legislation does not require the person to be an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person.

If the individual the child or family wants to support them in decision making is an individual within their family or community who is not an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person, advise the child and family that:

  • if they decide to have the person involved, that person will not be undertaking the role of independent person as described in the legislation
  • they can still request that the person helps them to participate in decision making and:
    • Child Safety will accommodate the request wherever possible. The circumstances will be decided on a case-by-case basis
    • it may not always be possible for the person to be involved in the decision-making process.

Consult the child and family

Each time a significant decision is to be made, carry out the following steps. This will assist in meeting the obligation to arrange for an independent person, in consultation and with the consent of the child and their family.

  1. Advise the child and their parents: 
  2. If the child and family agree to have an independent person, arrange for the independent person, by:
    • advising the person of the role requirements
    • determining the person’s suitability
    • arranging their involvement in the decision with the child and family unless it is: 
      • not practicable because an independent person is not available or because the decision must be made urgently
      • likely to have a significant adverse effect on the safety or emotional wellbeing of the child or another person
      • not in the child’s best interests.

Note

To ensure the child and family can have an independent person to support their participation in decision making throughout the duration of Child Safety’s involvement, a child and family may choose to nominate multiple people who they wish to be an independent person.  

If the family identifies people in advance, it will enable the CSSC to contact the people nominated and determine their suitability before the child and family require their assistance. This aims to:

  • maximise flexibility for the child and family
  • maximise the instances where the child and family are supported by an independent person
  • prevent the need to delay decisions for the purpose of arranging an independent person.

Provide information to the person nominated to be the independent person

If the child and family nominate someone to be their independent person, confirm whether the child and family wish to approach the person about the role in the first instance or prefer Child Safety to do so.

After the initial contact with the nominated person has been made, provide them with the following information to help them decide whether to take on the role. Let them know: 

  • that the purpose of the independent person’s role is to help the child and family: 
    • have their say in decisions
    • feel stronger and supported in saying everything they wish to say to Child Safety during a decision-making process
    • provide contextual cultural information about things impacting on the child and family, to help Child Safety understand the child’s and family’s views, motivations or actions 
    • explain cultural factors that may be impacting on the child or family and their capacity to fully participate in discussions and decisions
  • the role of an independent person is not to: 
    • make decisions
    • provide their own views on the decision being made
    • speak on behalf of the child or family, unless with the child’s and family’s agreement  
  • that they do not need experience or knowledge in child protection. Relevant processes will be explained to them, the child and family members
  • the requirement to maintain confidentiality, as outlined in the Child Protection Act 1999, chapter 6, part 6
  • that where they have been nominated by the child and family to be the independent person for multiple decisions, they may agree or decline, or agree to take on the role for some decisions and not others 
  • the chief executive’s obligation to consider their suitability for the role. (Refer to Determine suitability.)
  • that where required, practical assistance may be available to assist them to participate in decision making (for example, the use of an interpreter or video-conferencing)
  • the possibility of reasonable out-of-pocket expenses associated with travel or accommodation being available from:
  • that, if the matter results in a proceeding in a Childrens Court, they may be asked to present their views to the court about Aboriginal tradition or Island custom in relation to the child, although the court cannot compel them to do so
  • there are resources available about the role of an independent person. (Refer to:

Determine suitability

When a child and family nominate someone who they believe meets the definition of an independent person, who is suitable to be an independent person, and who has the capacity to fulfil the role, a senior team leader will determine the person’s suitability, taking into account:

  • whether the person: 
  • whether a conflict of interest exists that adversely impacts on the independent person’s ability to facilitate the child’s or family’s participation in decision making. For example, a conflict would exist if a person who is a party to proceedings relating to the child in the Childrens Court or family law court is to be the child’s and family’s independent person
  • whether factors specific to the circumstances of the decision mean the person nominated is not suitable. For example, the person nominated may have strong views about the decision that differ to the views of the child and family, and is unable to put those aside to help the child and family participate in the decision.

To decide a person’s suitability, a senior team leader will consider information from the following sources:

  • information about the nominated person provided by the child and family and the person themselves
  • existing information recorded in ICMS relating to the child protection history of the nominated person. Note—The relevance of the history on someone’s ability to undertake the role of independent person will: 
    • be determined on a case-by-case basis
    • depend on whether the history relates to a serious matter likely to pose a risk of harm to a child in the current circumstances.

Attention

Do not request a criminal or domestic and family violence history check on the person nominated. The Child Protection Act 1999 does not provide authority to seek this information for the purpose of determining the suitability of an independent person.

If information is identified in the person’s child protection history that may indicate the person is not suitable to take on the role, discuss the concerns with the person. If, based on information provided by the person, the level of concern is not sufficiently reduced:

  • advise them and the child and family that the person is not considered suitable
  • record the decision and rationale in the Independent person form in ICMS.

If a decision is made that a person is not suitable and the child and family or person nominated wishes to discuss the matter with a senior officer, provide them with contact details for the CSSC manager.

Give the independent person details of the meeting 

When an independent person is to help the child and family participate in a future decision, and time allows, formally invite the independent person to a meeting using the Letter to the Independent person template. Confirm details of the meeting, as agreed with the family and independent person, including:

  • the purpose of the meeting
  • a reminder of the role of an independent person and confidentiality requirements.  

If time does not allow for the letter to be sent, inform the independent person (before the meeting) of information outlined in the letter template regarding their role, confidentiality requirements and the decision in which the child and family are participating.

Respond to a request for financial assistance for an independent person to attend a meeting 

If financial assistance is required to enable an independent person to attend a meeting to discuss a decision about an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child, the CSSC manager may consider approval of funds through the policy Child related costs and the procedure Child related costs-Child and young person support, to cover reasonable out-of-pocket expenses for travel, accommodation or meals.

Before considering financial assistance, the CSSC manager must be satisfied that the following has occurred:

  • the use of electronic meeting arrangements such as Skype or tele-conferencing has been considered, but is not available or appropriate in the circumstances
  • the CSO has discussed options with the independent person for seeking financial or other practical assistance from a local Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander community organisation or other support service. Where requested, the CSO has assisted in contacting those agencies, but assistance was not possible or appropriate in the circumstances. 

Contact the independent person after the meeting

After an independent person has helped the child or family to participate in a decision, contact the independent person to:

  • acknowledge their contribution to the process
  • remind them of their ongoing confidentiality requirements in relation to information provided to them verbally and in writing
  • seek feedback about the decision-making process and, if relevant, future opportunities for enhancing the child’s and family’s meaningful participation in decision making.

Practice prompt

Seek feedback from the child and family about the decision-making process, the contribution of the independent person and future opportunities for enhancing their participation in decision making.

Complete the independent person form  

Complete an Independent person form in ICMS for:

  • each significant decision about an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child
  • each decision about an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child that was not considered significant, where the child or family requested that an independent person help facilitate their participation in the decision.

Record the following information in the form:

  • details of participants in the decision-making process
  • whether the child and family agreed or declined the involvement of the independent person
  • whether each person nominated by the child and family to be the independent person was determined suitable and if not, the rationale for why they were not considered suitable
  • if each person determined suitable to be the independent person participated in the decision-making process
  • if applicable, the rationale for why involvement of the independent person in the decision was not practicable
  • the contact details for each independent person and their relationship to the child.

Attention

Do not create a client profile in ICMS for an independent person. If the person has an existing client profile related to another role, this will not be added to the relationship table in the event, unless doing so is relevant to the person’s other role and not their role as the independent person.

Refer the family for family-led decision making  

Attention

Child Safety will support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families to meaningfully participate and exercise self-determination in regard to significant decisions about children in care.

Seek the family’s agreement for the Family Participation Program to contact them to discuss how it can support the family by facilitating an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family-led decision making process  for the purpose of developing a case plan, when it is practicable and in the child’s best interests. If the family does not want the Family Participation Program to facilitate family-led decision making or the Family Participation Program is not able to accept the referral, make a referral to the family group meeting convenor. Record details of all engagement with the family participation program in a case discussion/decision case note with the description ‘FPP engagement’ in the ongoing intervention event in ICMS.

Note

Before making contact with the family, some Family Participation Program services may require Child Safety to first:

  • speak to the family and gain consent for a referral

and

Check local arrangements for referral to the Family Participation Program before talking to the family about a referral.

A family-led decision making process to facilitate family-based responses to children’s protection and care needs meets the criteria for a family group meeting under the Child Protection Act 1999, and may be convened by:

  • a private convenor (such as a facilitator from the Family Participation Program) 
    or
  • a delegated officer—usually the family group meeting convenor.  

Family group meetings for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child will be family-led processes as far as possible, facilitated by a Family Participation Program or the family group meeting convenor.

Practice prompt

If the child and family choose to have an independent person help facilitate their participation in decisions to be discussed at a family-led decision making process, arrange for this to occur. (Refer to Arrange for an independent person to facilitate the child’s and family’s participation.)

Facilitation by a Family Participation Program 

Note

The Family Participation Program is made up of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisations:

  • funded to independently facilitate family-led decision making processes with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families
  • that have Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander facilitators trained and accredited to deliver Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family-led decision-making with the aim of ensuring the safety of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children within their family, community and culture. 

Staff from the Family Participation Program facilitate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family-led decision making processes, where authority is given to children, parents and their family to identify solutions to problems and lead decision making about their family, in a culturally safe space. The process seeks to give effect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s right to self-determination.

The purpose is for the child’s family to fully participate in a significant decision, with the aim of:

  • enabling the collective resources and protective capabilities of the extended family to be taken into account—to ensure the best decisions are made for the child
  • identifying and exploring the extent of possibilities that the family can offer.

If an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family-led decision making process is facilitated by the Family Participation Program for the purpose of developing a case plan, the facilitator from the Family Participation Program will:

  • fulfil the functions of a private convenor
  • explain to the family before the family-led decision making process, that it is the responsibility of the senior team leader to approve the case plan
  • together with Child Safety staff, ensure the meeting complies with the requirements of a family group meeting in the Child Protection Act 1999, section 51.

During an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family-led decision making process for a child subject to ongoing intervention (for example, to develop an initial case plan or to review and develop a revised case plan) the family will propose a plan about how they think the child’s protection and care needs can be addressed, whether at home or in care. If the child cannot remain safely at home, the aim is for the family to identify family-based options, including potential kinship carers for the child.  Refer to practice guide Family Participation Program Referrals for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family-led decision making.

Note

The family’s plan will be incorporated into the goals and actions of the child’s case plan. As the delegated officer, the senior team leader is responsible for approving the case plan, ensuring the safety of the child is paramount.

Both the senior team leader and CSO are to be present for the family-led decision making meeting. If the senior team leader is not able to be present, tell the family in advance and explain that the final endorsed case plan may not be able to be confirmed on the day of the meeting. If this is the case, either:

  • participants will be contacted later to discuss the final plan
    or
  • participants may need to continue the family-led decision making process at another time.

Note

The Family Participation Program prioritises referrals for family-led decision making:

Facilitation by a family group meeting convenor 

At times, a child and family may choose to participate in a family-led decision making process facilitated by a family group meeting convenor.

As it is not facilitated independently of Child Safety, it differs to the model of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family-led decision making, which is undertaken exclusively by the Family Participation Program or other Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander services.  

Make a referral

A referral for either an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family-led decision making process or a family-led decision making process may be made for a child in care in order to develop or review a case plan for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child. If the family has spoken to the Family Participation Program and agrees to the referral, either:

  • make a referral to the Family Participation Program 
    or
  • support the family’s self-referral to the Family Participation Program.

Otherwise, discuss with the parents and child, depending on the child’s age and ability to understand, that:

  • a referral will be made to the Child Safety family group meeting convenor 
  • the family group meeting convenor will facilitate a similar process of family-led decision making.

To refer complete either a Family Participation Program referral using the Family and Child Connect portal  (refer to the tool Complete an online referral to the Family Participation Program) or a referral to the Child Safety family group meeting convenor and outline:

  • the child protection concerns (including the harm and risk of harm, worries,  complicating factors, acts of protection and belonging, strengths and resources)
  • the purpose of the meeting
  • the child’s and parents’ details
  • contact details of relevant family members, if known 
  • any relevant timeframes.

Further reading

Advise the Director of Child Protection Litigation about a person’s suitability to be an independent person

Attention

The Child Protection Act 1999 requires the Director of Child Protection Litigation (DCPL), when making a significant decision about an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child, to (in consultation with the child and the child’s family) arrange for an independent person to facilitate the participation of the child and the child’s family in the decision-making process.

The DCPL is not required to arrange for an independent person if it is not practicable because:

  • an independent person is not available
  • urgent action is required to protect the child
  • it is likely to have a significant adverse effect on the safety or psychological or emotional wellbeing of the child or any other person
  • it is otherwise not in the child’s best interests
  • the child or the child’s family does not consent to the independent person’s ongoing involvement in the decision-making process 
  • the DCPL is satisfied the chief executive or an authorised officer has already complied with the requirement in relation to the significant decision.

As the Child Protection Act 1999 requires that Child Safety must be satisfied of a person’s suitability before they can be an independent person, when the DCPL is arranging for an independent person to help facilitate a child and family’s participation in a decision, the DCPL will seek advice from the senior team leader, about the person’s suitability. 

When determining a nominated person’s suitability at the request of the DCPL, the senior team leader will gather information about the person nominated and the specific decision from:

  • the DCPL
  • the person nominated to be an independent person
  • the child and family.

Once suitability has been determined, in line with the process in Determine suitability, the senior team leader will:

  • tell the DCPL the outcome
  • make sure details of the request and suitability of the person are recorded in the Independent person form in ICMS.

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