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


What is expected of a carer

In this section: Learn about the practical matters CYPS and ACT Together require of all carers to help maintain a safe environment for children in care, from the carer approval process, home safety check and appropriate discipline, to tips on Internet and car safety.

Overview

As a carer, you have agreed to provide a stable, safe and nurturing home environment to meet the needs of the child that has come into your care. There are simple and practical things you can do to ensure this. There are also things you are required to do, and things CYPS and ACT Together are responsible for ensuring.

You have very likely already done many of these things in preparation for the child coming to your home, but it is important for you to know what they are so you can continue to provide the right care for the child and are clear about what CYPS and ACT Together expect in working with you.

If you have questions about any of the following topics, please speak with your case manager.

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Carer approval process

It is important for all carers to understand how decisions are made about where a child will live and who will care for them. This is because in some cases, specifically kinship care, there can be more than one person who wants to be the child’s carer.

Decisions about where a child lives is based on a detailed assessment and checking process. This includes a criminal history check, child protection history check and a ‘Working with Vulnerable People’ check, followed by a comprehensive carer assessment process. Various sections under the Children and Young People Act 2008 also provide criteria that is used to help make decisions about who should care for a child.

When making these decisions, the highest priority is for children to be cared for within their extended family networks over all other forms of care. This is recognised as having advantages for the preservation of family, promotion of cultural identity and reduced separation trauma for the child. CYPS and ACT Together also consider many factors, including (but not limited to):

  • the relationship between a carer and the child’s birth family
  • the fit of a carer’s family for a child including the ages of any children the carer may already have
  • the proximity of a carer’s home to the child’s existing school and family members
  • the long-term health prospects of a carer.

The carer approval process is focused on finding a suitable carer for a particular child who meets the necessary legal requirements, as well as additional capabilities and matching processes. Significant attempts are made to do this. In the case of kinship care where there may be more than one suitable kinship carer, CYPS is required to make a further decision (the ‘placement decision’) that identifies which of the available and suitable carers is deemed to be best placed to care for the child (the ‘best interests decision’).

Decisions about care arrangements are important and taken very seriously. All decisions require the endorsement of various people, not just a single individual. If a person was refused based on their carer assessment (that is, they did not meet the criteria to become an approved carer), that person can have the decision externally reviewed by the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal. However, if the person was approved but not selected because another person was deemed more suitable, this decision can be reviewed internally by CYPS.

If you are not satisfied with a decision about carer approval, see ‘Feedback and raising concerns’ for information about how to raise a concern or make a complaint, and for pathways for an internal and external review.

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Working with Vulnerable People registration

To be a carer, you must by law hold a valid Working with Vulnerable People card. A carer review and re-approval process is also required every three years. CYPS and ACT Together aim to align this process with the renewal of your Working with Vulnerable People registration. For more information, or to register or renew your application, go to the Access CanberraExternal Link website.

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Carer re-approval

In becoming the child's carer, you took part in an assessment that authorised you as an approved carer for up to three years. At the end of this time, a review of your circumstances is needed to renew your carer approval and for the child to remain with you. If you are a foster carer but a child is not currently in your care, the review is required if you wish to continue to be a foster carer.

The renewal process is not intended to be difficult and CYPS and ACT Together will do their best to make it as smooth as possible so you can get on with the important role of being a carer. The focus is simply to ensure the child continues to live in a safe environment.

There are no costs to you as part of this process and where possible it will be organised to coincide with the renewal of your Working with Vulnerable People registration, which is every three years.

When it is time for your renewal, your case manager will contact you regarding the activities to be completed. Once the process is complete, your case manager will let you know the outcome.

The renewal process includes:

Activity

Description

Things to know

Child protection history check

Checks for instances of abuse or neglect by you or any member of your household who is 18 years old or over

  • You are required to inform your case manager if anything occurs that may affect your child protection history check.
  • If your check identifies any concerns, CYPS will conduct a risk assessment to determine the level of risk to the safety and wellbeing of the child in your care.
  • A child protection history check will also be completed whenever a member of your household turns 18 years old.

Home safety check

Ensures your home continues to be a safe and appropriate environment for the child.

  • Requires a visit to your home to assess all indoor and outdoor spaces.

Compliance with ‘suitability information criteria’check

Identifies if you or any member of your household who is 18 years old or over has:

  • a police or criminal history
  • any non-compliance with a legal obligation in relation to providing services for children
  • any other consideration relevant to your ability to provide high quality care for children.
  • Suitability information criteria is defined in the Children and Young People Act 2008.  Under this Act, you have an ongoing duty to inform CYPS or ACT Together of any changes to your suitability information within seven days of the change occurring.
  • Each person 18 years old and over living in your home is required to complete a police check form. If any check returns a police record, your case manager will conduct a risk assessment to determine the level of risk to the safety and wellbeing of the child in your care.
  • A police check will also be completed whenever a member of your household turns 18 years old.
 

Working with Vulnerable People (WWVP) check

A background check of any person in the ACT who works or volunteers with vulnerable people. It aims to reduce the risk of harm or neglect to these vulnerable people.

  • If you hold a WWVP card for another purpose, you do not need to apply for another one.
  • You can renew your WWVP card via the Access Canberra website or by calling them on 13 22 81.
  • When you are granted a new WWVP card, photocopy both sides of your card and provide to your case manager.

Identification of carer support needs

A discussion with your case manager to identify if you require any changes to your support needs.

  • This is an opportunity for you to raise any supports you would like considered for yourself and your family. It is a good idea for you to think about any particular highlights or challenges as well as future development needs concerning the child.

Additional checks (Occurs only in certain situations)

Can include requests for references for you (or any household member who is 18 years old or over) or to undergo a test or medical examination for a stated purpose.

  • The Children and Young People Act 2008 allows CYPS and ACT Together to request additional information to determine your carer authorisation if the above checks are not conclusive in their outcomes.

It is important to know, CYPS and ACT Together can also conduct a review whenever they become aware of information that may affect your carer approval, such as a new adult living in your home.

It is also important to understand, CYPS will conduct a review whenever it becomes aware of any allegation of child abuse or neglect, such as a Child Concern Report being made against you, or any other criminal matters.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding your carer re-approval, please talk with your case manager. If you are not satisfied with a decision about your carer approval, see ‘Feedback and raising concerns’ for information about how to raise a concern or make a complaint, and pathways for an internal and external review.

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Home safety check

A home safety check will be completed on your home. This sets out the standard level of safety that needs to be met and maintained. When conducting the check, your case manager will make sure your home is safe from hazards – chemical, electrical or other. Each room in your house will be checked, as well as outside and any cars you have.

If any areas are found to be unsafe, an agreed plan will be made with you about what needs to happen to rectify the issue and when it must be done by. The responsibility and cost of ensuring safety in and around your home is your responsibility as the carer.

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Smoking and drugs

All children in care are to live in a smoke-free environment and be cared for by adults who do not take part in any illicit drug use. The use of illicit drugs by carers is strictly prohibited while caring for a child.

Passive smoking dramatically increases health risks to children. For example, a young child’s exposure to smoking can cause middle ear infections, asthma and other chest infections. It has also been linked to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, also known as SIDS.

For these reasons, you are not permitted to smoke near or around the child in your care. You also need to ensure the child is not exposed to smoking through others, like visitors to your home.

If you are a smoker, speak to your case manager about developing a plan to ensure the child is not exposed to smoke. This can include things like smoking outside away from the child, and ensuring the child is not exposed to smoke from your clothes, breath or skin.

In the ACT, it is also an offence to smoke in a car with children under 16 years old. The penalty is an on the spot fine of approximately $250.

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Alcohol use

It is important for you to consider your consumption of alcohol while caring for the child. Consideration should be given to the importance of being able to provide the child with proper care, as well as the importance of setting a good example for them.

It is also important to consider the child in your care may have been exposed to alcoholism and/or drug abuse in the past and seeing the consumption of alcohol and its associated behaviours could trigger negative memories for them.

Alcohol abuse or misuse while providing care may fall under the ACT Ombudsman’s Reportable Conduct Scheme as a reportable behaviour, see ‘Reportable conduct’.

If you have any questions about alcohol use while caring for the child, speak with your case manager.

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Managing behaviour

Children who enter care often have unique vulnerabilities as a consequence of their trauma history, and this can make them more sensitive to the effects of discipline.

As such, CYPS and ACT Together do not support the use of physical (corporal) punishment as a means to manage a child’s behaviour, and reject the view that any form of physical chastisement is a reasonable form of behaviour management. This position is underpinned by research that clearly indicates other forms of behaviour management are more effective and less harmful (Australian Institute of Family Studies, 2017).

CYPS and ACT Together stipulate no child in care should ever be physically chastised, including smacking.

During your time as a carer, you will need to appropriately manage the behaviour of the child. An important component of this is be consistent.

You are encouraged to access information on appropriate strategies from your case manager, ParentLink, the Raising Children Network or ACT Child and Family Centres, depending on the amount of support you require. This could even include relevant training. Please also see ‘Acknowledging and responding to behaviour’ later in this handbook.

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Animals in your home

The value of pets in a family is well recognised. Not only do they provide children with enjoyment, they also help them develop skills such as nurturing, responsibility and communication. If your home includes animals, some guidelines and boundaries for the safety of both the child and your pet is required.

Many children love animals, while others can be timid, unsure or even frightened. Introducing the child to your pet should not be forced. Let the child take the lead and go slowly until they are ready.

Your home safety check will outline requirements for the safekeeping of pets when you are caring for the child. Your pet’s food and water are not to be a hazard to the child, and there must be a way of separating your pet and the child if an issue arises, for example a separate fenced area for your pet. All areas of your house and yard are also to be kept clean, for example birdcages and cat litter trays.

With pets, there is also a risk of injury from bites and scratches. It does not matter how friendly your pet has always been, all animals have the potential to harm by accident or if provoked. It is also possible the child does not know how to properly treat and interact with animals, even if they have previously had animals in their life. When a child has experienced trauma, they may take out their frustrations on an animal, even if they love them, as they may see it is a comfortable thing to do. As their carer, you will need to help them learn other ways to manage their frustrations so both the child and your pet are safe. Your case manager can help you if this is an issue for the child in your care.

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Internet safety

The Internet is now a big part of everyday life and for some people it can be difficult to live without – it is both a great tool and a risk all at the same time. It is therefore important to put practices in place to protect the child in your care from the dangers of Internet use and overuse.

If you are not a big user of the Internet yourself, protecting others from it and putting practices in place may feel difficult and unfamiliar. If this is you, that is okay. Speak to your case manager about what you can do to protect the child you are caring for.

If you are more familiar with Internet use, it is important you teach the child the necessary skills for them to manage it on their own as they grow older and become more independent.

Regardless of your own personal use, it is important you remain up to date with the current uses and issues regarding the Internet, including social media sites.

You should feel comfortable talking to the child from an early age about the benefits, uses and dangers of the Internet. These conversations will educate them prior to issues arising. Putting in place clear boundaries for the child about device use is also a good idea – consider their developmental age and their current level of understanding of the Internet. You will also need to consider how many different ways the child can access the Internet in your home, such as through a computer, TV, game console, tablet, smart phone and other mobile devices.

It is also important to ensure Internet access in your home is as protected as possible. This will require the use of virus protection software and appropriate parental controls on devices.

More information about Internet safety, including how to help the child in your care have a safe and enjoyable online experience, is available from the Australian Government’s eSafetyExternal Link website.

Carer training on Internet safety may also be available at times – talk to your case manager if you are interested. Schools and childcare centres also occasionally host information sessions about Internet safety, so check with your school or childcare centre if there are any upcoming sessions.

Social media

Facebook and other social media are part of an ever-changing world and it is critical you understand photos and identifying information about the child in your care should not be placed on any social media site. Once a photo is posted, it can be accessed by anyone and used for any reason, including if your profile is marked as private.

All children in care must be protected from potential problems or exposure to predators that can arise from online posting. The use of social media is something you should always discuss with your case manager. Decisions will be made on an individual basis; however, the initial starting point is, to not post any photos or comments that could identify the child in your care. It is a criminal act to identify a child as being subject to a Care and Protection Order or in out of home care. Also see ‘Internet Safety’.

Just like with the Internet more broadly, it is important you remain up to date with the current uses and issues of social media, even if you are not a social media user yourself, so you are more prepared to identify potential risks if they come up.

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Car safety

As a carer, there are things you need to be aware of when travelling with the child in your car for the safety of everyone involved. These are:

  • All children must travel using a seat belt or an appropriate child restraint that meets Australian safety standards. All restraints must be in good condition (less than ten years old) and fitted according to correct guidelines. Restraints must be replaced if any straps are deteriorating or are involved in an accident.
  • As the driver, you are legally responsible for ensuring any passenger up to the age of 16 years is restrained by a seat belt or restraint suitable for their size and weight. Children up to seven years of age are required to be in a restraint. After this age, consideration needs to be given to the child’s age, weight and how they travel before removing them from a restraint.
  • Kidsafe ACT External Link can assist with advice on purchasing, hiring, installing and checking child car restraints. You can visit their website or contact them on 6290 2244.
  • All road rules must be obeyed.
  • It is an offence to drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or to smoke in the car with children under 16 years old.
  • Any cars transporting the child in your care must be registered, road worthy and safe. This information will be recorded as part of your annual home safety check.

If an incident happens that affects your ability to drive, either with your licence or vehicle, please let your case manager know so the needs of the child can be considered and alternate methods of transport can be explored if needed.

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Sun safety

Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. It is important you ensure the child you are caring for is protected from the sun whenever they are outdoors. This includes:

  • Sunscreen – Make sure the child wears water-resistant 30+ SPF (or higher) sunscreen, applied 20 minutes before going outdoors and reapply it often.
  • Time of day – Avoid having the child in the sun at the hottest part of the day and encourage them to seek shade whenever possible.
  • Cover up – When outdoors during hot weather dress the child in light weight clothes that covers their body, like wide brim hats, long sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Be a role model – By using sunscreen yourself and covering your body with the right clothing you will be teaching the child good sun care.

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Water safety

Drowning is the greatest cause of accidental death in children under five in Australia. Each week, on average one child drowns. Before allowing the child in your care to take part in any activity where water is involved or nearby, it is important you first find out if the child can swim and what they know about water safety. However, even if the child tells you they can swim, you should confirm this with your own eyes.

The best way to keep children safe near water is to:

  • Supervise at all times – Drowning is silent so you need to watch the child and keep them close at all times so you can help them if needed. This includes supervising bath time (age appropriate) and emptying the bath immediately after use. You should supervise the child near any type of water including, but not limited to pools, spas, buckets of water, the beach, rivers and ponds.
  • Teach the child to swim – All children should have the opportunity to learn to swim so they can be safe near water. You can do this yourself, or you can organise lessons that can be paid for under your Carer Subsidy.
  • Educate the child – Talk to the child about the dangers water can present. Do this in a way that is appropriate to their age and level of understanding.
  • Keep your backyard and home safe from drowning risks – Cover ponds and bird baths with mesh. Keep pet water bowls and fish tanks out of reach. Keep doors to the bathroom, toilet and laundry closed. If using a nappy bucket make sure the lid is secure and keep the bucket out of the child’s reach.

As a carer, you are responsible for maintaining pools, pool fencing and gates to keep children in your care safe. For information about pool safety and compliance requirements, visit the Access CanberraExternal Link website.

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The above checks are in place to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the child, as well as everyone in your home. If you have concerns about any of these matters, please speak with your case manager.

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