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


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


24 hour health advice

1800 022 222

ACT State Emergency Service

Emergency help
during flood or storms

132 500

Decision making: what you can and cannot do

In this section:

Learn about the decisions you are legally able to make for the child in your care, and which decisions you will need to seek approval for.

About parental responsibility

The court order in place for the child you are caring for is likely to include provisions that change who has parental responsibility for them while they are in care. The Children and Young People Act 2008 defines parental responsibility as being ‘all the duties, powers, responsibilities and authority parents have by law in relation to their children’. This means, the person given parental responsibility for the child while in care is legally responsible for making the day-to-day decisions about that child.

In the ACT, the Director-General of the Community Services Directorate holds full or shared parental responsibility for all children on interim, short-term or long-term Care and Protection Orders – this is granted by the ACT Childrens Court. CYPS staff act on behalf of the Director-General, performing the legal responsibilities required of them under the Act.

Parental responsibility is split into two areas – daily care responsibility and long-term care responsibility. It is with daily care responsibility where you, as the carer, come in.

The Director-General delegates daily care responsibility to you as an approved carer. This is done by issuing a Specific Parental Authority (you may hear this referred to as a SPA), which allows you to make the day-to-day decisions about the child in your care (see ‘Who makes decisions for the child in your care’). Long-term care responsibility remains with the Director-General, and therefore CYPS. CYPS is responsible for making all long-term decisions about the child’s care (unless a court order specifically states otherwise), including when ACT Together is providing case management. In all cases of parental responsibility, all decisions must be made with the best interests of the child being the central consideration.

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Who makes decisions for the child in your care

As the carer, you become legally responsible for making the day-to-day decisions for the child in your care, and you must do so in a way that is consistent with the child’s Care Plan. This is called having daily care responsibilities for the child.

The table below provides examples of daily care responsibilities and decisions you can make in your role as carer. We have also included examples of decisions that fall under long-term responsibilities that you are not allowed to make, and those that may apply to you in special circumstances. In these cases, speak to your case manager about what to do.

Daily care responsibility

Long-term care responsibility

Practical day-to-day arrangements and decisions carers can make concerning the child in their care.

Examples include:

  • bedtime arrangements
  • pocket money
  • meals
  • haircuts that do not change the child’s   identity
  • whether make-up can be worn
  • clothing
  • babysitting
  • short trips away provided pre-existing contact   arrangements are maintained
  • routine visits to, and treatments by, a doctor   or other health professional (not including surgery)
  • routine visits to, and treatments, by a dentist,   including local anaesthesia (e.g. filling or extraction)
  • who the child interacts with, when and where   (e.g. school friends)
  • school lunches and uniforms
  • overseeing and supporting the child’s   day-to-day educational progress
  • consent for school excursions and camps
  • recreational activities
  • monitoring and supporting the child’s   emotional development
  • school transport (e.g. bus or car)
  • decisions that ensure compliance with the   child’s court order, Care Plan, Case Plan and Cultural Plan.

Decisions about a child’s long-term care rests with CYPS unless a court order outlines other specific conditions.

Examples include:

  • managing the child’s financial affairs or   property
  • decisions regarding education other than those   outlined in the daily care responsibilities
  • consent to healthcare treatment that involves   surgery
  • the use of medications to treat mental health   conditions
  • decisions concerning reproduction,   reproductive body parts or gender reassignment
  • religion and religious observance regarding   foods, medical treatment etc.
  • cultural traditions.

Carers responsible for children on court orders to 18 years old may be given additional authority and responsibility.

Examples include:

  • immunisation of the child in accordance with   the National Immunisation Program Schedule
  • decisions about the child’s education
  • progressing an application for a passport.

If the child you are caring for has a shared long-term care responsibility provision as part of their court order, the Children and Young People Act 2008 requires the child’s parents must be consulted in relation to decisions about:

  • health treatments for their child that involve surgery (including immunisation)
  • long-term education, training and employment for their child
  • issuing a passport for their child
  • administration, management and control of their child’s property
  • religion and observance of racial, ethnic, religious or cultural traditions.

However, unless the child's order also includes a consultation provision, the Director-General will have the final say and will base such decisions on CYPS’ assessment of the child’s best interests. Consulting with the parents is not your job as the child’s carer. Your case manager will liaise with the parents where required.

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Emergency decisions

If you are ever unsure whether you are legally able to make a decision, but one must be made immediately, ask yourself:

  • Is it a decision that will save or protect the life of the child?
  • Is the decision in the best interests of the child?
  • If appropriate, have I considered the views of the child?

If you can answer yes to all questions, you can make the decision, but you must notify your case manager immediately after you have done so. If the emergency happens after business hours, contact the relevant after hours service to inform them of the situation. The after hours contact details are:

  • CYPS – 1300 556 729
  • ACT Together – 0402 036 254 (voice calls only)

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