Other Person Guardianship (OPG) is an arrangement where children in care are no longer in state care, but in the care of up to two people appointed by the Youth Court.
Through OPG, vulnerable children who cannot live at home with their parents due to abuse, neglect or parental incapacity are provided with permanent, stable and loving homes.
A kinship or foster carer who has a healthy and positive relationship with the child may be considered for OPG. You must have a willingness to support the child and to keep their connection with their birth family, community and culture.
An OP guardian makes a lifelong commitment to care for the child.
Carers interested in becoming an OP guardian will be assessed by the OPG assessment team. For an OPG to be considered an appropriate placement authority for a child, the following 5 conditions must be met.
The carer must:
- have shown they are able to provide a high level of care for the child
- have enough personal and professional support and resources to provide care for the child both now and into the future
- help the child to keep a connection with their extended family, community and culture
- want to have a lifelong bond with the child
- have a strong and positive relationship with the child.
OPG and adoption
Other Person Guardianship is not the same as adoption. Adoption permanently changes the legal status of the child and birth parents are no longer recognised by law as the child's parents.
An OPG arrangement still recognises the child as part of their birth family and will be supported in maintaining and strengthening that connection if it is safe to do so.
If you want to adopt a child you must follow a different assessment process. See Adopting a local child for more.
For children who are under a guardianship of the minister order until 18 years, carers have to get permission from the department when making a range of significant decisions.
Under an OPG arrangement, the guardians have day-to-day parenting and decision making responsibility for a child. This includes decisions about:
- child care.
Contact with the birth family
Where it is safe to do so, children will still keep in contact with their birth family and relatives.
The OP guardian will be responsible for arranging, coordinating and supervising contact (if required) between the child and their family members.
There is no set timeframe for an OPG order to be granted as every case is different. The process involves 6 stages:
- Identifying a potential OP guardian.
- Reviewing the case and consulting with the potential OP guardian, child and birth parents.
- Referring the case to the OPG assessment team.
- Assessing and preparing a care plan.
- Submitting the assessment and care plan to the OPG Advisory Panel
- Preparing for the legal process through the Youth Court.
The Youth Court makes the final decision about an OPG order.
All children under an OPG arrangement will have the same entitlements to services provided through Rapid Response as well as eligibility for a health care card, Medicare card and centralised ambulance cover.
OP guardians may also be eligible for support services from the Commonwealth Department of Human Services such as child care benefit, child care rebate and youth allowance.
Once the child becomes the legal responsibility of the carer, the department is no longer involved in the case work and case management. Financial support to carers who have transferred to OPG is negotiated on a case by case basis.
You will need your own support network to advocate for and meet your child's needs.
Children with disabilities
Children under OPG arrangements with a permanent or significant disability may be eligible to become a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) participant.
All OPG assessments involving Aboriginal children require consultation with a principal Aboriginal consultant and extended family and community members where appropriate.
A cultural identity plan showing how you will ensure the child maintains their connection with their culture will be developed through the assessment process. This includes Life Story work.
The needs of children from a culturally and linguistically diverse background will also need to be considered through the assessment and planning process.
If you are interested in becoming an OP guardian, discuss your interest with your caseworker who will explain to you the process and advise if OPG is appropriate for the child.
Once you have registered your interest, your caseworker is your main contact.
After the application has moved to the assessment stage, your OPG assessment officer will be your main contact.
If the application is successful, you will become the legal guardian of the child and be provided with an OPG carer ID card.
For more information, speak with your caseworker.