About foster care
What you need to know about becoming a foster carer, types of foster care, how to apply, what to expect, legal matters, and your rights and responsibilities
Foster carer legal rights and responsibilities
As an authorised foster carer, you are one of the most important people in the child's or young person’s life for the time they're in your care.
However, you are also part of a team all with different responsibilities. Your rights and responsibilities as a carer of a child placed with you following a Children’s Court Order are outlined in the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998.
Foster care is a partnership between:
- the child or young person
- the child or young person’s family and friends
- the foster family
- the caseworker for the child
- key people in the child or young person’s life from education, health, religious or cultural organisations
- the designated agency.
Always remember that you are sharing the care of the child with the child’s family as well as with Communities and Justice (DCJ) and other professionals. Your child’s caseworker plays a key role in this partnership and is there to support you at all times.
Code of Conduct for authorised foster carers
Under the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Regulation 2012, the Minister of Family and Community Services is empowered to require all authorised carers comply with a code of conduct. The Code of conduct for authorised carers aims to foster stable and positive relationships between the child or young person, their carer and the designated agency.
The Reportable Conduct Unit
The Reportable Conduct Unit is responsible for investigating allegations of reportable conduct made against DCJ employees, specifically DCJ authorised carers. For more information about the policies and procedures when an allegation is made about a DCJ authorised carer, read Managing allegations against reportable conduct against authorised DCJ carers.
If you disagree with release of placement information
Children and young people entering care come with a network of relationships. Providing information about a child’s placement to parents and other significant people in their lives can help maintain those relationships and support a young person’s sense of belonging and identity. Read the Out-of-Home Care Release of placement information legislation.
If you need legal help because you disagree with the decision to release high level information, read Out-of-home care legal assistance for carers.
Foster carer's rights
As an authorised foster carer, you have the right to:
- be given information about the child or young person in your care in order for you to decide whether you can accept the placement
- say “no” to a proposed placement
- participate in the decision making process, for example, attend case conferences
- make certain decisions regarding the day-to-day care and control of the child or young person
- in some circumstances, be indemnified if the child or young person placed by DCJ in your care causes deliberate or accidental loss or damage to property or personal injury to you as a carer
- receive information about foster care services that can support you in your role as a carer
- receive help from your DCJ or foster care agency caseworker to access community services or local supports so that you can better meet the needs of the child or young person
- be informed about how DCJ or the foster care agency decisions may be reviewed and how you can make a complaint
- be regularly visited by your caseworker or foster care worker to support you and your family during a placement
- be regularly reviewed after the first year of providing care and annually thereafter, according to the experience gained and the type of care you provide
- this review is to identify strengths and areas where skill development might be necessary to meet the needs of the child or young person in care
- the review should take place regardless of how many or how few placements you have in the past year and when there are significant changes in your household
- be paid an allowance to meet the needs of the child placed in your care
- apply for sole parental responsibility after two years of continuous care. Application must be made with the consent of the parents or person who had responsibility for the child prior to them coming into out-of-home care.
Foster carer responsibilities
- provide a caring home and experiences that meet the child or young person’s physical and emotional needs
- work as part of the team with DCJ or your foster care agency and other professionals to ensure the safety, welfare and wellbeing of the child in your care
- attend foster care meetings when required and training sessions when offered
- seek guidance from your caseworker when you are not sure of the limitations of your role. Also seek guidance if you experience problems with the child or young person’s behaviour or with other agencies that the child is involved with, for example, school and health services
- treat information about the child or young person’s family as confidential
- allow DCJ and other childcare workers to visit and support you on a regular basis and to see the child or young person on their own
- help the child or young person understand why they are in care and express their feelings about their own family
- help the child or young person retain their own sense of identity and culture, including religious beliefs
- understand and respond to the child or young person’s key developmental milestones
- avoid criticism about the child or young person’s family
- actively encourage the child or young person to participate in recreational activities
- cooperate positively with contact arrangements with the child or young person’s birth family
- participate in regular reviews of the case plan for the child or young person
- uphold the principles of the Charter of Rights for children and young people in care and ensure your foster child is also familiar with their rights.
- consent to medical and dental treatment which doesn’t involve surgery
- contact your DCJ or foster care agency caseworker if the child or young person needs a general anaesthetic for any purpose or if a medical practitioner (doctor) recommends the administration of any drug of addiction or psychotropic medication
Life Story work
- maintain records, for example, keep a diary or scrap book of key events, photos, school and health records on the child or young person’s progress in your care — see more on Life Story work
- record any relevant information about the child or young person while they are in your care, such as any injury the child may experience in your home, no matter how minor.
Give your caseworker clear information about the child’s progress and behaviour. Inform your caseworker:
- as soon as possible in the event of a critical event, for example, the child or young person suffers a serious accident, injury or illness (or call the Child Protection Helpline 132 111 if after hours)
- if the child or young person makes any disclosures of abuse
- if you or anyone in your household is charged or convicted of an offence for which a penalty of imprisonment for 12 months or more may be imposed
- about any significant changes or events in your family including new people coming to live in your home
- if you intend to travel or move interstate or overseas.
- attend ongoing training and talk to your caseworker about any seminars or courses that may assist you in your role as a carer
- work in the best interests of the child or young person. This may mean accepting that the child or young person will probably be going home and you and your family may have mixed feelings about this - especially if the child or young person has become part of your family
- cooperate with the caseworker and discuss any areas where you disagree with a case plan and why
- accept that a different home may be more suitable for a child or young person who does not settle into your home.
Authorised carers now have the option to apply for sole parental responsibility for children and young people who have been in their care for two years or more.
Under legislation proclaimed in March 2004, a sole parental responsibility order gives you most of the powers and responsibilities which, by law, parents have in relation to their children. You could make long-term decisions for the child or young person and decide for yourself about their best interests without the need to consult with the designated agency.
A sole parental responsibility order is a long term order intended to last until the child or young person is 18, and is aimed at increasing their sense of stability. The order requires the consent of the birth parents and the child or young person if they are over 12.