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

Legislation and Policies


Guiding legislation and policies

In this section: Learn about the key documents and principles that guide CYPS and ACT Together in their work and commitment to enable the safety and wellbeing of children in care.

When making decisions about the care and protection of children, CYPS and ACT Together are guided by legislation, key principles and standards, in addition to organisational policies and procedures. The following information outlines the primary principles that guide their work.

Children and Young People Act 2008

The Children and Young People Act 2008 is the law that governs child protection in the ACT. It provides CYPS, ACT Together, the ACT Childrens Court and others with the legal framework to carry out their responsibilities in regards to ensuring the care, safety and wellbeing of children.

If you would like to read the Children and Young People Act 2008, it is available online from the ACT Legislation Register websiteExternal Link

CYPS and ACT Together are also required to work in a way consistent with the Human Rights Act 2004, and you can access it online from the ACT Legislation Register websiteExternal Link

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The ACT Childrens Court

In the ACT, the main decision-makers about the best interests of children under the Children and Young People Act 2008 are the Director-General (of Community Services) and the ACT Childrens Court.

When the Court deems a child to be ‘in need of care and protection’, it may make a Care and Protection Order and may transfer parental responsibility for a child to the Director-General under the Act. The Director-General may then delegate functions, including parental responsibility to CYPS, ACT Together, or to kinship or foster carers.

Applications can be made to the Childrens Court once every 12 months by interested parties to extend, amend or revoke a Care and Protection Order, or more often if there has been a significant change in any relevant circumstances since the order was made or last extended or amended. Applications can be made by any party involved with the original proceedings for a Care and Protection Order. Other interested parties may also become involved such as carers who, for example, are not in agreement with a decision made by (or on behalf of) the Director-General. However, the Childrens Court does not, review decisions made pursuant to Care and Protection Orders, rather the Court makes a new decision based on the evidence before it.

Under the Act, those parties to proceedings for a Care and Protection Order may also appeal to the ACT Supreme Court regarding certain decisions made by the Childrens Court – however, an appeal can only be brought before the Supreme Court against a decision of the Childrens Court.

The role of a court is to be a decision-maker, not to review previous court decisions or those made by the Director-General.

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A Step Up for our Kids strategy

A Step Up for Our Kids is the out of home care strategy in the ACT. It outlines the ACT Government’s commitment to a child-centred, therapeutic and trauma-informed care system.

The Strategy follows a ‘step up, step down’ approach where personalised services can scale up and down in intensity as a child’s (and their family’s) needs change over time.

This approach places a strong emphasis on:

  • Preservation – Strengthening high-risk families through early intervention support services to prevent their children from entering care.
  • Restoration – Reuniting children with their birth parents as quickly as possible if they do enter care.
  • Permanency – Providing children with permanent alternative homes, with a priority on kinship care, as quickly as possible when they cannot safely return to their birth parents’ care.

The Strategy places the child at the centre and recasts the system as a therapeutically oriented, trauma-informed system of care. It aims to reduce the number of children entering care, and for those that do, to improve their outcomes. It aims to do this by ensuring the views and wishes of the child are heard, strengthening relationships around the child and providing more flexible, child-focused practices and services that are informed by a sound understanding of trauma, attachment and child development. The Strategy also focuses on strong collaboration between all partner organisations at both a strategic and individual level.

More information about A Step Up for Our Kids

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Working principles and practice standards

In doing their work, CYPS and ACT Together are guided by the following principles provided by the Children and Young People Act 2008. These are:

  • the primary responsibility for providing care and protection for a child lies with the child’s parents and other family members
  • priority must be given to supporting parents and other family members to provide for the wellbeing, care and protection of their child
  • if a child is ‘in need of care and protection’ it is the responsibility of the Government to take steps to secure their safety. (Under the Act, a child is in need of care and protection if their parents are unwilling or unable to protect them from abuse or neglect, whether temporarily or permanently)
  • if a child can no longer live with their parents, the safety and wellbeing of the child is more important than the interests of the parents
  • if a child does not live with their family of origin, contact with their parents, siblings and other significant people in their life, must be encouraged wherever possible
  • a court should only make an order for a child if it considers making the order is in the child’s best interests.

CYPS is also guided by its practice standards that:

  • translate the legislation and principles that guide its work into expectations about what it means when working with children, their families, carers and other agencies
  • embed thoughtful, relationship-based, culturally competent, trauma-informed practice
  • support improved and consistent quality case practice
  • increase transparency and improve accountability in decision-making and service delivery.

Access the CYPS practice standards

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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle is a national policy position recognised and supported in the ACT. It recognises the importance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children to be cared for within their own families and communities whenever possible, and where not possible, for children to remain connected to family, community and culture. It promotes a partnership between governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in decision-making, upholding that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are best equipped to make decisions about their children and therefore have the right to have some control and influence over decisions about their children.

While called the Child ‘Placement’ Principle, the principle is far broader than where an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child should live. Care living arrangements are just one element. The principle includes five inter-related elements that together aim to improve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families. The five core elements are:

  • Prevention – Protecting children’s rights to grow up in a family, community and culture by redressing the causes of child protection intervention.
  • Partnership – Ensuring the participation of community representatives in service design, delivery and individual case decisions.
  • Placement – Placing children in out of home care in accordance with the established Child Placement Principle placement hierarchy:
  • with the child’s extended family or kinship group
  • within the child’s Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander community or group
  • with another Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander family, where culturally appropriate
  • where no other option is available, with a non-Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander family.
  • Participation – Ensuring the participation of children, parents and family members in decisions regarding the care and protection of their children.
  • Connection – Maintaining and supporting connections to family, community, culture and country for children in out of home care.

CYPS and ACT Together work within the context of the Child Placement Principle – alongside their legislative requirements – and are working towards fully embedding the principle’s five elements across all aspects of their work. In doing so, CYPS and ACT Together are committed to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families to improve outcomes for these families and their children, and to help achieve the overarching aims of the Child Placement Principle. These are to:

  • recognise and protect the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, family members and communities in child welfare matters
  • increase the level of self-determination of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in child welfare matters
  • reduce the disproportionate representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the child protection system.

More information about the Child Placement Principle External Link

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Charter of rights for kids in care

The ACT’s Charter of rights for kids in care ensures the rights of all children who are unable to live with their parents, and are being cared for in short or long-term out of home care. This includes children living in kinship care, foster care, respite care or other residential care facilities.

The Charter sets out what children can expect from the people who look after them and work with them while they are in care.

The rights of all children in care are:

  • The right to be safe and looked after.
  • The right to be respected.
  • The right to be treated fairly.
  • The right to have fun, play and be healthy.
  • The right to be heard.
  • The right to privacy and have their own things.
  • The right to ask questions about what is happening to them.
  • The right to have contact with the people they care about and know about their family and cultural history.
  • The right to go to school.
  • The right to talk to people about things they don’t like or don’t understand.

More information about the ACT Charter of Rights

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The ACT Carers' Charter

The ACT Carers' Charter provides a policy framework to guide the way government and community services meet the needs of carers in the ACT. It outlines what carers should expect from the ACT Government and community organisations that provide them with support.

The purpose of the Charter is to raise awareness of those in our community who provide a caring role. It also aims to provide a platform for improving the experience of carers by recognising that while carers’ needs are diverse, all carers should expect to be treated with dignity and respect.

The principles of the ACT Carers’ Charter are:

  • Carers are engaged in matters that affect them as carers. Carers are involved in decisions that have an impact on them as individuals and are consulted in the development and evaluation of services in our community.
  • Carers are valued and treated with respect and dignity.The knowledge and experience carers have is recognised and appreciated, and their contribution is acknowledged.
  • Carers are supported to sustain their caring role. Carers are provided with timely information and appropriate services, are able to achieve financial security and are supported through transitions in their caring role.
  • Carers’ diverse needs are acknowledged and appropriate supports provided. The needs of specific carer groups, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, are often very different. This is acknowledged by carers knowing about and having access to appropriate and timely supports that recognise their needs.
  • Carers share a quality of life that is in accordance with community standards.The health and wellbeing of carers is addressed, and they are able to stay connected with their communities.

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The ACT Carers Strategy

The ACT Government, in partnership with Carers ACT, is developing the ACT Carers Strategy 2018-2028. This Strategy will better support carers in the Canberra community, including foster and kinship carers, acknowledging the positive impact they make in people’s lives and the broader community.

The Strategy articulates a shared vision, outcomes and priorities for carers to improve carer wellbeing and recognition.

More information about the ACT Carers Strategy

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Use of carer information

During your time as a carer, CYPS and ACT Together will keep information about you. This can include your carer approval and assessment information, meeting notes, records of conversations, forms you have completed and any other documents concerning your role as a carer and the child in your care. All information will be kept securely to ensure confidentiality is maintained. If you have any questions about information concerning you, speak to your case manager.

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National Standards for out-of-home care

The National Standards for out-of-home care were adopted by the ACT in 2016. The Standards are designed to deliver consistency and drive improvements in the quality of care provided to children who come into care. They seek to improve the outcomes and experiences for these children by focusing on the key areas that directly influence positive outcomes. These are:

  • health
  • education
  • care planning
  • connection to family
  • culture and community
  • transition from care
  • training and support for carers
  • belonging and identity
  • safety, stability and security.

CYPS and ACT Together are guided by these Standards in their decision-making when working with children.

The National Standards were developed as an initiative of all governments – the Australian Government and state and territory governments – and is part of the National Framework for Protecting Australia's Children.

More information about the National Standards for out-of-home careExternal Link

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Children and Young People Commitment

The ACT Child and Young People Commitment is an initiative of the ACT Government. It sets out a vision for a whole of government and community approach to promote the rights of children in the ACT and how they can be supported to reach their potential. CYPS and ACT Together support this initiative. The Commitment identifies six priority areas:

  • provide access to quality healthcare, learning and employment opportunities
  • implement policy that enables the conditions for children and young people to thrive
  • keep children and young people safe and protect them from harm
  • advocate the importance of the rights of children and young people
  • build strong families and communities that are inclusive and support and nurture children and young people
  • include children and young people in decision making, especially in areas that affect them, ensuring they are informed and have a voice

More information about the Children and Young People Commitment

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