The Department for Child Protection has introduced a number of tools and processes to support culturally responsive, child-centered and collaborative decision-making.
The new laws enshrine the principle of cultural connection through the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle. This principle recognises the importance of connection to family, culture and Country, and ensures those connections are supported and maintained whenever a child enters the out-of-home care system.
Under the principle, the Department for Child Protection must ensure it approaches all processes in a culturally appropriate and responsive manner to improve outcomes for vulnerable Aboriginal children and their families. This includes consulting a gazetted organization, Aboriginal Family Support Services, both when an at-risk child or young person is placed in care and when there is a change to their placement.
Wherever possible, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children should be placed with a member of their family, a member of their community or with another person of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander cultural background. If this is not possible, the child or young person should be given the opportunity to continue contact with their family, community and culture.
From time-to-time, families have difficulties caring for their children and this can be for many different reasons. Family group conferencing is a way to bring family members together in a positive way with an independent facilitator to make a plan for their child or young person.
Families have found this to be a really helpful way to work out a plan that everyone has participated in and agrees to.
Before the family group conference is held, the facilitator will spend time talking with you to find out who is important in your child’s life and who should attend the conference. This could include members of your family, extended family and kin, a support person or a community elder. You may also want to invite agencies that have been working with you.
The facilitator is also responsible for organising cultural representation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families. Where language is a perceived barrier, the facilitator will consider interpreting and translating services for both Department for Child Protection staff and for children and families to ensure information is understood.
Children and young people may attend the family group conference. This will depend on their age, maturity and what needs to be discussed. They can also write down their thoughts and someone else attending the conference can read this out for them.
The new family group conference process will:
- support families to explore and understand the concern for their children
- support families to identify solutions to keep their children safe and well
- promote early intervention
- identify what supports would assist the family to keep the child or young person safe
- embed family-led decision-making processes.
The Department for Child Protection is currently trialling this model, with more information coming soon.
Under the new laws, each child under custody or guardianship must have an individual case plan that sets out tasks required to support the child to have a positive care experience and reach their full potential. A case plan captures a holistic assessment of the individual child’s circumstances, and includes a cultural maintenance plan.
A cultural maintenance plan recognises that case planning must reflect the child and family’s cultural needs, particularly the child’s right to connection to family, culture, kin, community and Country. The plan will be developed in partnership with children and young people and their families, kin, carers and community members, where appropriate.