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Rights of children in foster care

Foster carers play a vital role in promoting and protecting the rights of children and young people in out-of-home care. The Charter of Rights outlines the general rights and responsibilities of every child and young person in out-of-home care. These rights reflect those of any child or young person. The Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 requires that these rights are supported by carers and caseworkers.

The purpose of the Charter of Rights is to:

  • provide children and young people in out-of-home care with a clear statement of their rights and responsibilities
  • provide a guide for carers and workers who have responsibility for ensuring children and young people in out-of-home care know about their rights and responsibilities
  • help children and young people in out-of-home care assert their rights

As an authorised carer, you are responsible for upholding and complying with all the rights of children and young people in your care. You should ensure that any child or young person in your care understands and knows their rights.

To explain rights in a simple, easy to understand language, we have created some booklets, videos and posters for children and young people:

Carers should also read the Charter of Rights for Children and Young People in Out-of-Home Care factsheet.

What does the Charter of Rights mean for me as a carer?

Under Section 162 of the Act, you must uphold the rights outlined in the Charter. If you are an authorised carer, you can help the children or young people placed with you by explaining the Charter to them in a way that they can understand and by helping them with any questions they may have.

How do I go about explaining complex terms?

A child or young person may have difficulty understanding some of the terms used in the Charter. While the pictures in the booklets help explain some of the meaning, it is important to check that children understand. Information to help you to explain different terms to the children or young people in your care is provided below. If you find it hard to explain the terms after you have read this information, you can contact a caseworker for more help.

Caseworker: Some children or young people may know caseworkers by name or by a title other than ‘caseworker’. Carers can help children who are not aware of the term ‘caseworker’ by letting them know what a caseworker does and how they can contact a caseworker.

Records: Some children and young people are not aware that out-of-home care organisations keep records on the children and young people with whom they have contact. Children and young people may not know how to look for this information. Carers can help children and young people to understand that there is an official record kept of their time in care and that they are able to access it.

Leaving care: In the Charter, leaving care refers to young people 15 years or over and their right to have a leaving care plan developed for them by their out-of-home care organisation. The leaving care plan should identify any assistance they might require after they have left care. To children and young people in out-of-home care, particularly younger children, ‘leaving care’ could be interpreted to mean different things, such as returning home to their birth families. Children and young people in out-of-home care may benefit from talking about this right and how it may relate to them at present or in the future.

Out-of-home care organisation: Some children or young people may not know the name of the organisation which has arranged their out-of-home care placement, whether it’s DCJ or another out-of-home care provider. It would be helpful to let them know which organisation is involved in their care so that they know which organisation to contact if they need to.

I'm related to my foster child and a Charter of Rights was sent to them

If your relative is the subject of an order made by the Children’s Court, he or she is considered to be in out-of-home care and so will be sent a copy of the Charter automatically. As an ‘authorised carer’ you will also receive information about the Charter.

We are foster carers and also have our own kids. How do we use the charter of rights?

Most of the rights in the Charter are things we all take for granted within our families, including maintaining culture and religion, participating in decisions, and getting information and help when it’s needed.

You might want to have a family discussion about the rights in the Charter. You might decide to have a number of talks over a period of time, particularly if the children are younger. You can then talk about a few of the rights each time.

Based on your knowledge of the individual children, you may decide to take a different approach. For example, it might be better to talk to the child or young person individually about the Charter. If you are unsure about how to approach the discussion, or would like some more information about a particular right, contact a caseworker and discuss it with them.

The child I'm caring for is very young and won’t understand what a ‘charter’ or a ‘right’ is

The Charter of Rights is being distributed to children and young people in out-of-home care who are over 6 years of age. This is because very young children won’t understand the ideas in the Charter. They will best learn from what they experience.

As a carer you can help them understand about rights by making sure that you understand and apply the rights in the Charter.

As the child matures, his or her understanding of the rights included in the Charter will change. As with most things, it is important that you take the child or young person’s stage of development into account when deciding how to explain ideas in the Charter.

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Last updated: 18 Oct 2019