Carers play a critical role in supporting the health, safety, wellbeing and cultural identity of a child in their care. The new laws recognise this more than ever before. This has resulted in a number of progressive changes that empower carers, so that together we can ensure children in care are given a safe, stable, safe and supportive home life that encourages them to thrive and reach their full potential.
As a carer, you not only provide children and young people with safety, stability and an opportunity to heal but build relationships that give you precious insight into the needs of a child. As a vital part of the care team, your input is seen as especially valuable and as such the laws have improved the way in which you contribute to decisions related to the health, safety and wellbeing of a child or young person in your care
Being part of decisions
Carers are entitled to participate and be involved in decision making in a way that best works for you and the child. Regular care team meetings are a good opportunity to share information and contribute to plans related to a child and their care such as schooling, travel and medical appointments.
Determining the way you prefer to communicate is also important, so let your case worker know if you prefer to liaise via email, phone, meetings or home visits.
Children and young people in your care will also be encouraged to share their views and contribute to decisions made about their health, safety and wellbeing. You will play a key role in helping us to determine whether a child is comfortable and ready to be part of the decision making process.
Where language is a perceived barrier, interpreting and translating services are available for both department staff and for children and families to ensure information is understood.
A key change with the new laws is that decisions about contact arrangements are now the responsibility of the Department for Child Protection instead of the court. Decisions regarding contact arrangements will be made in best interests of the child.
You will be given the opportunity to share your views around contact arrangements between a child and their family including advising the department on how a child copes before and on return from family visits.
When determining contact arrangements, it is our responsibility to also consider the views of the parents, family and most importantly the child.
Carers, along with children and young people in their care, will be given the opportunity to attend an Annual Review to discuss a child’s progress. Other individuals and agencies will also be encouraged to participate in the reviews or at the very least share their views to be considered as part of this process.
Delegation of power
Carers play a fundamental role in the lives of children and young people and are responsible for making many decisions about their day-to-day care. The Department for Child Protection guidebook, ‘Who can say OK?’, outlines the range of decisions that carers can make. This includes decisions about daily routines, routine medical or dental treatment and occasional babysitting.
At times, a carer may seek to take on greater decision-making responsibility about the health and welfare of a child or young person in their care. To support this, under the new laws the Department for Child Protection Chief Executive may, in writing, give a carer additional powers that enable them to make decisions about specific issues relating to a child or young person. This can help to:
- reduce delay in decision-making
- increase a child or young person’s sense of belonging and connectedness to their carer family
- normalise a child or young person’s experience in out-of-home care.
What hasn’t changed?
The new laws do not change the range of day-to-day decisions carers are empowered to make as outlined in the ‘Who can say OK?’ guidebook.
Information sharing and decisions will take into account the safety and best interests of a child. Together, carers, the child’s case worker, and placement support workers are responsible for the ongoing exchange of information and observations related to a child’s needs, behaviours, strengths and challenges.
Information about a child or young person entering your care
Carers will now receive information that is available about a child or young person before they come into their care to ensure they are well equipped and prepared to meet their needs. The type of information that may be shared includes:
- age, date of birth, gender and culture (clan/language)
- health needs including medications, treatment plans, medical contacts and disability information
- educational needs such as schooling arrangements, routine, strengths and interests
- behaviour and development
- insight into their story
- family connections and contact arrangements.
As part of a child and young person’s right to be heard, they will be given an opportunity to express whether there is any information they don’t want shared with a carer. The wishes of the child or young person will be respected and any risks to their health and wellbeing or the carer’s ability to provide appropriate and safe care will be considered.
Helping a child or young person get to know you
The new laws also require the child or young person to be provided with information about a carer. This information may include:
- name of the carer
- address where they will live if placed with the carer
- nature of the carer’s employment
- details about any other people residing with the carer
- relevant experience the carer has had caring for other children and young people.
This information will be gathered from carers and provided in ways that are easy for a young person to understand – verbally, in writing or with photos.
In instances where a child is placed into temporary care for a short period of time, usually in an emergency or under urgent circumstances, the department will look for people who have an existing relationship with the child or young person to keep them connected to their families and communities, such as a relative or community member.
In these situations, an assessment of a carer will be undertaken and approved within a timely manner, usually within three months.
In addition, in line with new improved information sharing, temporary carers will be better informed by case workers about a child or young person’s immediate needs for care, such as their medical, cultural, school, dietary and behavioural needs where this information is known to the department, so that appropriate support can be provided.
The new laws recognise the significance of the relationship between carers and the children in their care, and the need for permanence and stability. Carers are able to apply for long-term guardianship of a child who has been in their care, helping to normalise the lives of children and young people in a family environment and provide long term stability.
Should you wish to pursue a child or young person’s long-term guardianship, please discuss the process with your case worker who can provide you with an application form.
Concerned about a decision? There is a new way to raise a concern or request a review.
In alignment with the new laws, the Department for Child Protection has introduced an improved pathway for you to voice concerns, make a complaint and request that certain decisions be reviewed.
Examples of reviewable decisions include:
- a decision about your approval as a carer
- a decision made about a child’s placement
- a decision about your application to be a long-term guardian.
You must request a review within 30 days of receiving notice of a decision from the Department for Child Protection.
Internal review of a decision
Decisions will first be reviewed internally by a staff member from the Department for Child Protection. This staff member will not have been involved in the original decision and may want to talk to you directly.
To request an internal review, you must first complete an application form. Find out more about the application process.
External review of a decision
If you are dissatisfied with the internal review undertaken by the Department for Child Protection, in some cases you may make an application to the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (SACAT) for an external review.
For information about applying for a SACAT review, visit the SACAT website or call 1800 723 767.
The Department for Child Protection has an easy process if you need to make a complaint - visit the complaints page.
If you are not satisfied with the department’s response, you can also refer your complaint to: