In a life threatening emergency dial Triple Zero (000)

In a life threatening emergency dial Triple Zero (000)
ACT Public Hospitals

Canberra Hospital

5124 0000


Calvary Hospital

6201 6111

Mental Health

Call Mental Health Triage on

1800 629 354

(free call except from mobiles or public phones) or

6205 1065

Poisons Hotline

For a poison emergency in Australia call

131126

Drug and Alcohol Help Line

The Drug and Alcohol Help Line is available 24-hours, 7 days a week on

5124 9977

Health Protection Service

For after hours urgent public health matters including environmental health, radiation safety, food poisoning and communicable disease management phone:

(02) 6205 1700

healthdirect

24 hour health advice

1800 022 222

ACT State Emergency Service

Emergency help
during flood or storms

132 500


Orders and case management

In this section: Learn about the formal care arrangements and activities that help ensure the safety, development and wellbeing needs of children in care are met, and what role you play in them as a carer. Learn about orders, planning, meetings and reviews, as well as interstate matters and your own carer review.

Overview

When a child comes into your care, a number of processes would have already happened, and more will continue to happen while they are with you to ensure the child is protected and their needs are continually met.

Some of these processes would have included the child’s parents or a court giving CYPS responsibility for looking after the child. While you would not have been involved in the initial processes, like the formation of orders, it is still important for you to be aware of them to gain insight to what the child may have already gone through before coming into your home. The first process to know about are orders.

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Common orders

Voluntary care agreement

A Voluntary Care Agreement is a legal agreement CYPS can make with a parent to share parental responsibility for their child for a short time. It is signed by one or both parents as well as the child if they are 15 years or older and agree with the arrangement.

A Voluntary Care Agreement does not require a court application. It allows the parent to request a temporary arrangement for their child with an approved carer, like you, for an agreed time.

Usually, the parent nominates a person within their family or extended family network to care for their child (kinship care) – this is also the preferred form of care. If kinship care is not able to be located or suitable, the child is placed with a pre-approved foster carer, or a residential facility or hospital.

The length of a Voluntary Care Agreement may vary, but is generally up to six months if it is clearly in the child’s best interests.

Care and protection orders

Care and Protection Orders are granted by the ACT Childrens Court when it is satisfied CYPS has demonstrated a child is ‘in need of care and protection’. These orders are always time limited and delegate certain parenting responsibilities to the Director-General of the Community Services Directorate (and therefore CYPS). In granting an order, the Childrens Court will do so on either an interim or final basis.

An interim Care and Protection Order is usually granted when CYPS first makes an application to the Childrens Court to put in place short-term protective arrangements for a child, and provides CYPS time to evaluate the arrangements before finalising the order. This time is used to see how the child responds to their new arrangements and to note what changes the birth family are able to make in that time to have their child returned to their care.

A final Care and Protection Order is granted when the Childrens Court is satisfied it has sufficient information to determine a child is in need of care and protection and making a Care and Protection Order is in the child’s best interests. A final order is usually made for either 12 months, two years or until the child turns 18 years old.

Emergency action

It is also possible the child in your care has come to you because of CYPS taking Emergency Action. Emergency Action is used by CYPS to secure the immediate safety and wellbeing of a child in response to receiving information that indicates the child is in imminent risk of abuse or neglect. It is also possible the child has come into care because they have committed a crime and are unable to remain in their family home.

This action allows CYPS to temporarily remove a child from their parents’ care and transfer the daily parental responsibility to the Director-General, Community Services Directorate, for an initial period of no more than two working days.

During this time, CYPS may make an application to the ACT Childrens Court for a Care and Protection Order to continue the Director-General’s parental responsibility for the child. In doing so, CYPS will seek to provide sufficient evidence to the Childrens Court that the child is ‘in need of care and protection’. CYPS may also determine the child can return home rather than make an application to the Childrens Court.

Emergency Action is not taken lightly by CYPS, and is always the action of last resort. In assessing the need for this action to happen, CYPS must take into account whether the child is:

  • in immediate need of care and protection, or
  • likely to be in immediate need of care and protection if the Emergency Action is not taken.

For information on other common care arrangements, see ‘Types and lengths of care’.

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Case management

Caring for a child in care requires a team effort. The primary goal is always to ensure the child’s safety and wellbeing, and for everyone involved to keep the child’s best interests at the centre of all decisions. This includes an ongoing effort to identify and connect the child with their kinship family. As a carer, you will form part of the child’s Care Team, along with other support people and professionals, and play an active role in various planning and case management activities specific to the child.

Case management is the process of how the needs of the child in your care will be met and how their Care Plan will be implemented. The purpose is to:

  • capture the needs and views of the child
  • identify strategies, support and resources required to meet those needs
  • articulate whether restoration to the child’s birth family, long-term orders or permanency is the focus
  • assist in decision-making for those involved
  • provide an opportunity to review the progress of the child during their time in care.

Case management happens through many activities dependent on the child’s needs, care arrangement, stability and the involvement of other services. As their carer, it is very likely you will be involved in the following activities:

  • development of a Care Plan
  • development of a therapeutic Case Plan
  • Care Team meetings
  • case conferences
  • annual reviews
  • Viewpoint questionnaire
  • record keeping.

Note: If ACT Together is responsible for your case management, Care and Case Plans are the one document.

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Care Plans

A Care Plan outlines what needs to happen to ensure the care and protection of a child. Legislation requires a Care Plan to be developed for any child who has a Care and Protection Order or Voluntary Care Agreement in place. They can also be developed, or updated, at the end of a Care Team meeting (see below) or at any stage while a child is involved with CYPS or ACT Together.

Care Plans cover all aspects of a child’s care and will clearly state:

  • the child’s needs, how each need will be addressed, who will be responsible for addressing them and when
  • the birth parents’ needs, how each need will be addressed, who will be responsible for addressing them and when
  • an agreed date to review the plan.

Care Plans will usually also indicate if the goal for the child is restoration, permanency or transition.

Care Plans are developed in partnership with relevant people linked to the child and include consultation with:

  • the child – if they are of appropriate age and understanding
  • you as the carer, with daily care responsibility for the child
  • birth parents
  • anyone who would be involved in implementing the child’s Care Plan, including agencies or services with an ongoing relationship with the child
  • the Cultural team if the child identifies as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

Each party will be given an opportunity to make suggestions for the child’s Care Plan, including for both daily and long-term matters if relevant, and CYPS and/or ACT Together must consider each suggestion. However, CYPS and ACT Together are not required to accept all suggestions and in making decisions will consider what is in the child’s best interests.

CYPS or ACT Together will provide you and other Care Team members with an up-to-date copy of the Care Plan for the child in your care. If you do not have one, contact your case manager.

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Case Plans

All children who have ongoing involvement with CYPS and ACT Together will have a Case Plan in addition to a Care Plan. The Case Plan identifies:

  • the goal to be achieved
  • the objectives to achieve the goal
  • the tasks to be undertaken, by whom and when, to achieve each objective.

The Case Plan is the primary day-to-day case management tool developed and used by CYPS and ACT Together to meet the child’s safety and care needs, and to monitor how the child is going. It is informed by the various assessments previously conducted and developed in conjunction with you, the child, their birth family and relevant support services. The Case Plan is more detailed than the child’s Care Plan and includes information about how you will be supported to care for the child in your home.

The Case Plan for the child in your care will be regularly reviewed to ensure progress against the set goals is happening and to identify if any changes need to be made.

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Care Team meetings

Care Team meetings, also known as review meetings, are a chance for everyone involved in the child’s care – including you, the child, their birth parents and any involved professionals, such as the child’s class teacher, counsellors and support services – to meet and discuss the child’s current and future needs. The meetings will be organised regularly by your case manager and will focus on planning and reviewing progress and seeking a majority view on best interests decisions. Attending these meetings is a good opportunity for you to actively share how the child in your care is going and what you feel would help them.

Care Team meetings are about:

  • consulting with you, the child, birth parents and any other person with parental responsibility
  • sharing information about the child’s needs and wishes
  • reviewing the goal of restoration or permanency
  • reviewing the child’s progress in care
  • continuing to explore kinship care options
  • updating the child’s Care Plan (if needed) and review their Case Plan
  • conducting planning in relation to what needs to happen in the future to assist and support the child.

To ensure all the child’s needs are being met while they are in your care, a Care Team meeting will generally cover the child’s:

  • health
  • education and/or employment
  • identity (including their Cultural Plan if the child identifies as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. See ‘Caring for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child’.)
  • contact and relationships with birth family and significant others
  • social wellbeing
  • emotional wellbeing
  • behaviour
  • self-care skills
  • transition planning if the child is 15 years or older.

A Care Team meeting will generally also cover:

  • your skills and capacity as a carer to care for the child
  • the skills and capacity of the birth parents to care for their child (this is dependent on the type of order in place).

Care Team meetings are a key component of permanency planning. As soon as possible after the child enters care, your case manager (and Care Team) will assess the permanent care arrangements for the child. These are:

  • restoration – returning the child to their birth parents
  • long-term care or Enduring Parental Responsibility – placing the child with a carer until 18 years old
  • adoption – transferring all legal rights from the birth parents to adoptive parents.

Your case manager will ensure the thoughts and feelings of the child are heard and considered. Timeframes for completing permanency planning varies depending on the age of the child. At the end of planning, the child will know where they will live, who with, and if this is not their birth parents how they will maintain contact with their family.

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Case conferences

At different times, you may be asked to attend a case conference to help decide on a plan to support the child in your care. Case conferences are different to Care Team meetings. Case conferences typically focus on a specific situation and what immediate actions need to happen, whereas Care Team meetings generally have a longer-term focus. Case conferences can also include relevant professionals or family members outside of the Care Team who may be able to assist with a specific situation.

Case conferences usually take place within five days of the child entering care, when there is concern their care arrangement may break down, and at other times where timely discussion and decisions are required. Typically, the case conference will involve members of the child’s Care Team as well as any other relevant support services.

Areas discussed in a case conference may include:

  • identification of kinship family who could assume the care of the child on a short-term or long-term basis
  • the support needs of the child and family (birth/carer)
  • the health and wellbeing of the child
  • the child’s behaviour
  • goals for the child and family and how they can be achieved
  • any concerns your case manager may hold about the child
  • if the child is being restored to their birth parents, identifying relevant services to support the family.

During the case conference, the aim is for the group to come up with and agree to a plan that outlines what needs to happen in the short-term to make sure the child will be safe and happy. It could include things like setting positive goals and being linked with relevant support services.

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Annual reviews

An annual review is required every 12 months for a child who has a Care and Protection Order in place. The purpose is to undertake a formal review of the child’s circumstances and living arrangements to determine if the existing arrangements continue to be in their best interests. A key focus for CYPS and ACT Together is to reunite children with their birth family as soon as they would no longer be at significant risk in their birth parents’ care. If reunification is not possible in the near future, the focus becomes finding a longer-term or permanent care arrangement for the child. This is a key consideration of the annual review process and CYPS and ACT Together will work closely with you, the child and their birth family to ensure the best interests of the child are always at the centre of all decisions.

As part of the annual review process, your case manager will:

  • visit and seek the views and wishes of the child about their current arrangements, including the opportunity for the child to use Viewpoint (see below)
  • hold a Review of Arrangements meeting to review the child’s past 12 months
  • record key information and documentation for the child that provides them with a story of their life, including capturing their experiences and memories while in your care to help nurture their identity and form a strong sense of who they are
  • prepare an Annual Review Report and consult with relevant people on the content and findings of the report
  • submit the final report to the Public Advocate ACT
  • provide you and the child with a copy of the final report for your records

The report outlines the child’s progress over the past year and provides the opportunity for CYPS and ACT Together to indicate whether the Care and Protection Order is still required. A copy of the report will be given to you, the child and their birth parents. CYPS can make an application to the ACT Childrens Court to revoke the order if it believes on reasonable grounds the child would not be in need of care and protection if the order were removed. Birth parents, carers and others can also make applications to the court seeking to amend or revoke orders.

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Ongoing stability

Caring for a child can feel challenging or even unsustainable. Sometimes, arrangements may be disrupted or become unstable. If at any time you are experiencing difficulty, please contact your case manager as soon as possible. They will work with you to address any issues and if needed can facilitate a meeting to work out a plan of action. Such meetings are not intended to cast blame, but are a way to constructively discuss and learn from situations and where needed put in place supports or resources to assist the child and you as early as possible.

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Viewpoint

While any child is in care, it is important for their voice to be heard. Your case manager will in all aspects of case planning seek and record the views and wishes of the child in your care. One way this can be done is by using the computer program Viewpoint.

Viewpoint is an online questionnaire used around the world. It asks a child how they feel about their current care arrangements and different areas of their life, like their health, education, emotional wellbeing, contact arrangements, recreation and safety. Viewpoint captures this information and your case manager can then use it to inform future decision-making.

Your case manager will discuss Viewpoint with you and the child and set up a time for the child to complete it if they choose to do so. To ensure the child feels comfortable to share their views, only your case manager will be with them when they use Viewpoint. If the child needs help to understand or complete Viewpoint, your case manager will also do this.

See an example of ViewpointExternal Link

If you have any questions about Viewpoint, talk with your case manager.

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Record keeping

Your case manager will record various forms of information throughout the child’s time in care, including outcomes of meetings and conversations, decisions made, views and wishes of those involved, professional advice and their own professional judgement of different interactions. This is important for ongoing case management and ensuring the child’s needs are continually met. All information recorded by your case manager is kept secure.

Record keeping though is not just for your case manager. As the child’s carer, you will often know more about the child than any other professional involved with them – you may know their habits, favourite foods, likes and dislikes, current worries and aspirations for the future.

It is useful for you to take notes to keep track of how the child is managing. Any information collected will also be useful in helping you prepare for the child’s annual review, or other meetings that come up.

Different carers have different ways of keeping records. Some keep a diary, some write emails, while others keep notes on their phone or computer. No matter what method you use, it is very important to record the facts and actual behaviour of the child, not your opinion about why something happened. It is also important to record other events such as appointments and contact visits. Brief notes on positive improvements and small achievements will also be good reading in the future to remind you of all the gains the child has made in your care. They can also help develop a picture of the child’s behaviour over time. Children also enjoy hearing stories about themselves from when they were young and record keeping is a great way to keep memories for them (see ‘Identity and collecting memories’).

Record keeping is important for many reasons, including reducing the risk of allegations or complaints against your family, either while the child is in your care or after they have left (see ‘Legal matters’).

Speak with your case manager if you have questions or concerns about keeping records.

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Interstate matters

Interstate casework assistance

If you live outside the ACT and are caring for a child with an ACT Care and Protection Order in place, CYPS may ask the child protection organisation in your state or territory for Interstate Casework Assistance. This happens when the distance to your home is too great for your case manager to visit regularly.

Interstate Casework Assistance allows your case manager to receive help from the child protection organisation in your home state to ensure you and the child are sufficiently supported.

The assistance can include:

  • referrals to support services
  • linking in with your community
  • linking in with training services
  • monthly to quarterly home visits.

All assistance offered is communicated back to your ACT case manager.

Your ACT case manager retains responsibility for the child in your care and will keep in contact with you – no child or carer should be disadvantaged due to where they live.

Interstate transfers

After a period of Interstate Casework Assistance, CYPS may decide to commence an interstate transfer to have the child’s Care and Protection Order transferred from the ACT to your home state. This occurs because every Australian state and territory agrees a child must have local supports and should be supported by the state or territory in which they live.

An interstate transfer will only happen if it is in the child’s best interests.

Transfers will not happen if:

  • the placement is not stable
  • the placement is not long-term
  • transferring will result in loss of services or supports
  • transferring is not in the best interests of the child.

The process for interstate transfers varies depending on which state or territory you live in. If an interstate transfer is being considered for the child in your care, it is best to speak to your ACT case manager regularly to ensure you remain up to date.

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