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What is foster care?

Foster care is provided to children and young people who are unable to live with their own families. Foster carers support families by caring for children while parents get help to change.

For a period of time, foster carers take on the responsibilities of a parent to provide a safe, nurturing and secure family environment for children and young people needing care.

Foster carers are often in contact with the parents of the child or young person in their care. They also get involved in the decisions and planning for the child's care along with family and other important people in the child or young person's life.

We also need people to be parents forever for a child through guardianship or open adoption but foster carers are people willing to provide short-term and emergency care for children.

By working together, we can give every child and young person a safe, loving and permanent home in which they can thrive.

Aboriginal children

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people who come into out-of-home care must be placed according to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child and Young Person Placement Principles.

Watch: We need more carers like you

You don’t have to be a superhero or a social worker to change a child or young persons life. You just need a big heart and a genuine desire to make a difference. Read more about how to become a foster carer or  send an enquiry via our online form.

Types of foster care

Children and young people stay in care until they're able to safely return home. The length of time in care will vary.  If they're not able to return to their birth parents, we try to locate a member of the child’s extended family to care for them.

There are generally 5 types of foster care:

Immediate or crisis care - Emergency placements are for children who need an urgent placement because there are concerns for their immediate safety. These placements can occur after-hours and on weekends. Emergency carers need to be able to provide care for very young children at short notice.

Respite care - From time to time, parents and carers need a break from their caring role. Respite care is for short periods of time, such as school holidays, weekends or for short periods during the week.

Short to medium-term care - this can last for anywhere from a few months to two years. Short to medium-term care has a strong focus on reuniting the child with their birth parents or extended family within two years of the child or young person’s coming to live with them. In some circumstances a short-term carer may be caring for a child before they move to another carer who is not a relative or kin.

Long-term or permanent care - these are placements for longer than two years. Long-term or permanent care usually occurs when the child is not expected to return to their family. In some circumstances, carers can apply to become legal guardians of, or adopt children, who have been in their long-term care.

Relative or kinship care - Relative or kinship care is when a child or young person lives with a relative or someone they already know.

Find out more about the types of OOHC care types

How to become a foster carer

You could be working full-time, part-time or not at all. You can be single, married, in a de facto relationship or in a same-sex relationship. What a foster carer needs most of all is a big heart and a lot of patience.

Each day people from all walks of life are opening their homes to vulnerable children and young people, but we need more people like them. Whether you have days, weeks, months or years to spare, there's a child who could benefit from your love and kindness.

You:

  • are ideally over the age of 25
  • are an Australian citizen or permanent resident
  • are in good health
  • do not have an unfavourable criminal record.

Communities and Justice (DCJ) is recruiting carers

Although DCJ has transferred the provision of out-of-home care to non-government agencies, we are recruiting carers:

  • who can offer emergency care
  • who can offer short-term care
  • to care for Aboriginal children
  • to care for children with a disability
  • to care for sibling groups (2 or more children or young people)

Locations where we need more carers

We need more carers, across all care types, in the following areas:

  • Sydney's central and western suburbs
  • Regional locations in Western NSW
  • Regional locations in Far Western NSW

Aboriginal carers and emergency carers are needed in:

  • Bourke, Cobar, Broken Hill, Brewarrina, Walgett and Moree areas

Carers for children with special needs and disabilities and emergency carers are needed in:

  • Sydney (most areas)
  • Illawarra and Shoalhaven area
  • Albury, Wagga Wagga, Griffith, Leeton and Deniliquin areas

Carers for sibling groups are needed in:

  • Western and Central Sydney
  • Albury, Wagga Wagga, Griffith, Leeton and Deniliquin areas

How to apply to become a DCJ foster carer

As an authorised carer, with DCJ or a non-government agency, you will receive a carer allowance. The carer allowance is designed to cover the general day-to-day costs of raising a child.

Please call My Forever Family NSW on 1300 782 975 or visit My Forever Family NSW to enquire about becoming a DCJ foster carer, view eligibility requirements, how to apply, and learn about the ongoing support and training you’ll receive.

Or you can complete the enquiry form or call 02 9765 5000 to find out more about becoming a DCJ foster carer.

Apply with non-government foster care agencies

There are now many non-government agencies providing foster care either as independent organisations or as part of a larger, sometimes church-based organisation.

Fostering NSW can help you find  accredited foster care agencies in your area, including Aboriginal agencies.

How are carers authorised?

Your suitability to be an authorised foster carer will be determined based on the outcomes of background checks on all adults in the household including a criminal record check, DCJ history and personal and medical referee checks. Having a criminal record does not automatically disqualify you from becoming a carer. The nature of the offence will be taken into consideration as part of your assessment as a potential carer.

Agencies will look at your competence in certain areas such as:

  • your personal readiness to become a foster carer
  • your ability to work effectively as part of a team
  • your capacity to promote the positive development of children and young people in care
  • your ability to provide a safe environment that is free of abuse.

How will my application be assessed?

During assessment, a range of issues will be explored and assessed. This information will be kept strictly confidential and only used in the foster care application process.

Criminal record check

It's a legal requirement for you and other members of your household to undergo a criminal record check. These are only done with your permission.

The check applies to all people living in your house aged 16 or over and may also be undertaken for anyone in the household over 14 years, if there are issues of concern.

Having a criminal record does not automatically disqualify you or a family member from becoming a carer.

Specifically, you will be asked to:

  • make a Prohibited Employment Declaration that you have not been convicted of a serious sex offence that prohibits you from becoming a foster carer
  • consent to a Working with Children Check to allow screening of your criminal and work record in relation to sexual misconduct and acts of violence involving children.

Health check

You will be asked to complete a health check and your doctor will be asked to complete a medical questionnaire about your health. You will be asked about:

  • your physical health
  • your emotional health
  • your current and past illnesses and medical problems
  • your use of alcohol or drugs or both (prescribed and non-prescribed)
  • smoking

If any medical issue arises that may affect your suitability to foster, we will discuss it with you to work out together the likely impact on any children or young people in your care.

Referee checks

You will be asked to provide the name of at least 2 people not related to you. Your referees must have known you for at least 2 years and be able to comment on your personal character and ability to care for children.

Accommodation check

As part of the assessment, we will conduct a check to make sure that your home is appropriate and a physically safe environment.

History check

A check will be done to see if you have previously been reported to DCJ. If you are known to DCJ, you are not automatically disqualified. However, any DCJhistory that affects your ability to care safely for a child or young person will mean your application cannot proceed.

Previous foster carer check

If you have been a foster carer in the past or have applied to be a foster carer for another agency, your history will still be checked.

What to expect as a foster carer

Children and teenagers who come into care often come from families affected by a range of issues that can impact their emotional maturity and development. It may take some time for them to adjust to living with a new family. Sometimes this can be expressed with anger, anxiety or difficult behaviour.

Carers need to be sensitive to the child’s experience of leaving their own family, despite difficult circumstances, and living with someone new. You don't do this alone. Caseworkers help carers and children to overcome any problems they may experience. This includes providing support, information and referrals to specialist treatment where necessary.

How will fostering affect my children?

When adults make a decision to become foster carers they also make the decision for their children to become part of a family that fosters. Fostering is a very significant change in anyone's life, even more so for the children within the family.

It's important that you talk to your children about fostering and prepare them for any impact it may have on the family. While children are growing up, they may be more able to foster at certain times and less able at other times.

It's not unheard of for a family to take a break from fostering for a short period, for instance when a child of the family is taking their school exams.

Will fostering affect my benefits or tax?

No, the foster care allowance is currently not taxed and does not impact on any benefits that you may be receiving from Centrelink.

Contact between the child and their family while in foster care

In nearly all cases children will want to maintain contact with their families during the time they are in foster care. Research shows that children who do keep in regular contact with their families tend to do better in foster care than those who, for whatever reason, lose touch.

It's important that you encourage them to maintain contact with their family and help to make this happen as appropriate to their needs. Contact can include letters, phone calls and pre-arranged visits.

Foster care training

Communities and Justice (DCJ) carers receive training and assessment. The training is designed to give you realistic information about foster caring and help you understand how children’s life experiences shape their capacities.

Your caseworker can help with support from psychologists, remedial teachers, respite care and other health services, depending on the child’s needs as identified in case planning.

There are also many foster care support groups around NSW where carers can build support networks with other carers in the area. See the Support contact list

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.

Partnership agreement between DCJ and carers

The Partnership Agreement between DCJ and foster carers has been developed to outline how we work together every day to meet the needs of children and young people.

NSW Carer Reference Groups are leading the implementation of this agreement. Contact your local Community Services Centre (CSC) for more information.

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

General care

  • 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.

Health care

  • 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.

DCJ involvement

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.

Personal responsibilities

  • 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.

Sole parental responsibility

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.

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.

Release of care 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. Providing this information can also help provide a smooth transition from care back to home.

The law

Following extensive consultation with carers, a new law was introduced in March 2007 to establish requirements for providing placement information to parents and significant others. This law:

  • considers the safety, welfare and well-being of children and young people, their carers and the carer’s family or household
  • provides opportunities for children and young people, their carers and significant others to participate in decisions about the release of placement information
  • identifies the significant people to children or young people as those with whom they have a close bond
  • enables carers to appeal decisions about the release of placement information, via internal review and the Administrative Decisions Tribunal
  • provides clear details about when information is given and to whom.

What information may be given?

Two different types of information may be released:

  • General (non-identifying) or
  • High level (identifying) information

1. General (non-identifying)

Includes information about significant events in the life of the child or young person or contextual contact information that does not identify the placement. Examples include:

  • first name of authorised carer or carers
  • culture and language spoken in the authorised carers’ household
  • general household composition details (number of children, age of children)
  • the religion of the authorised carer or carers
  • pets and types of accommodation
  • births, deaths and life threatening illness or accidents of key people that have impact on child or young person’s life
  • moving house or school (the event, not address)
  • departure or arrival of other (non-idenitified) children or young people in the household
  • post office box address (where this does not identify that the authorised carers live or work in a particular small community)
  • carer or carers’ mobile phone number
  • child or young person’s mobile phone number

2. High level (identifying)

This information identifies where the child and carers live, work or attend school. Actual placement details including names and addresses of carers are given to parent/s only if it is assessed that there is no risk to the safety, welfare or wellbeing of the child or young person, the carer or members of the carer household.

Carers must be asked for written consent to the release of this information.

Examples include:

  • surname of carer or carers and others in their household
  • street address and locality of the placement
  • landline phone number of the placement
  • description of carer or carers’ work role or activities which may lead to identification of work location or identity (for example, high school teacher in Bathurst or Scout leader in Windsor)
  • name of the school the child or young person attends or a description that may lead to identifying the location (for example, High School in Armidale)

Who issues and receives this information?

The designated out-of-home care agency is responsible for providing information and gaining the carer’s written consent to release high level identification information. Parents and significant others, such as siblings and grandparents, may receive information only if it does not pose any risk to the safety, welfare or wellbeing of the child or young person, their carer or any member of the carer’s household. Significant others may also include previous long term carers.

When is information not given?

High level identification placement information will not be released where there is a risk to the safety, welfare and well being of the child or young person, their carer or members of the carer’s household. The wishes of the carer and the child or young person will be considered when making the decision to provide or withhold this information.

How can a carer appeal the release of information?

If you disagree with that decision, you can appeal to have it reconsidered. There are a number of steps you must follow to appeal a decision.

The information in the following table describes the steps involved in an appeal. It also shows the amount of time you have to complete each step. The first step in an appeal is to ask the agency to do an internal review. No information will be given out until the internal review has been completed.

Information about appealing the release on information also appears on this factsheet Out of home care: legal assistance for carers PDF, 450.21 KB

Appealing to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT)

If you are not happy with a decision after an internal review has been completed, you can ask the agency to apply to NCAT on your behalf. You might need to seek legal representation. All applications to NCAT are assessed by an independent panel and the agency will not be allowed to release your information until the proceedings are finished. If you apply, NCAT will ask the agency to prove that giving out this information will not put anyone’s safety at risk, including your safety, the safety of your family/household, or the child or young person in your care.

Financial assistance for legal costs

You can apply to Communities and Justice (DCJ) for financial assistance to help towards your legal costs. Information about how you can do this is also in the attached table. DCJ has no duty or commitment to give you any more financial assistance for your application than what is outlined in the table for your legal expenses.

Review and appeal process

Step Time frameWhoActionDetails
1 Within 21 days of the agency writing to tell you that they have decided to give out high level information Carer Ask for an internal review If you disagree with the decision to give out high level information and would like the agency to reconsider, ask the agency to review the decision.
2 Within 21 days of the date on the letter telling you about the results of the internal review Carer Think about the decision made as a result of the internal review You can write to the agency asking them to apply to NCAT on your behalf if: 1. the decision to release high level information is upheld; and 2. you continue to disagree with the reasons provided by the agency.
3 As soon as possible Carer Choose a legal representative You are responsible for choosing and instructing your legal representative. Your legal representative is independent of the agency.
4 As soon as possible after you’ve chosen your legal representative Carer Send a letter to the General Counsel, DCJ Legal Community Services Write to DCJ and give them the name and contact details of your legal representative.
5 Within seven days of getting the letter telling you that the agency has applied to the NCAT Carer Send papers to the General Counsel, DCJ Legal Send a copy of the following documents to DCJ Legal: * your original letter asking for the application to be made * the outcome of the internal review including the reasons why the information is to be released.
6 Shortly after being told you have chosen a legal representative DCJ DCJ will send a letter to your legal representative DCJ Legal will write a letter to your legal representative to give them the following advice about the financial assistance available and the conditions for payment:
1. an invoice must be received by DCJ within 12 months of being issued by the legal representative.
2. the invoice must specify that it concerns an NCAT application for a review of the decision to give out high level placement information. The invoice cannot include any work done before the application was filed with the NCAT.
3. the invoice must give details of the amount of time the legal representative spent on your case.
4. reimbursement will not be paid for disbursements
5. all invoices must be sent to you within 12 months of the NACT finishing its review of the decision.
7 Shortly after getting invoices from your legal representative Carer Send invoices to the General Counsel, DCJ Legal Services Branch Shortly after getting each invoice send it to the General Counsel DCJ Legal.
8 As soon as possible DCJ DCJ Legal will send payments directly to your legal representative Payment will be made at $330.00 per hour for each hour the invoice says the legal representative worked on your application to the NCAT. $10,000.00 is the most DCJ will pay to your legal representative when all the invoices for your case are added up. No payments will be made directly to you.

Contacts

NCAT
1300 006 228 select Option 3

DCJ Legal General Counsel
DCJ Legal Department of Family and Community Services
Locked Bag 4028, ASHFIELD 2131

Out-of-home care legislation

The 2 major pieces of legislation covering and justice  (DCJ) work with children and families are the Community Welfare Act 1987 and the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998.

The main legislation which outlines legal obligations in the provision of care for children and young people who cannot live with their families is the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998.

This Act sets standards for DCJand other agencies which provide out-of-home care (OOHC), including foster care.

New regulations

Regulations have been written around existing and new sections of the Act and these are also legally binding.

DCJ staff have been given comprehensive information and training on the implications of the legislation for DCJ, our staff, other foster care agencies and service providers, foster carers, children and young people in care and their families.

Your foster care caseworker or supervisor can answer any questions you might have on how this legislation affects you as a foster carer.

Section 90 applications

When the Magistrate or Judge is asked to reconsider the current order for the child in your care it’s called a section 90 application. Depending on what is in the best interests of the child, the order may stay the same, be changed, cancelled or a completely new order may be made.

What does it mean for carers?

No decisions will be made straight away and there will be time for you to ask your supervising agency questions. You will be asked to provide information as well as your views about what you see as important to any decision about the future of the child in your care.

What is the process?

When the court makes final care orders for a child it has to be satisfied that suitable plans are in place for the long term care and development of the child. The court will only consider a request to change final orders if it is satisfied that there has been a significant change in circumstances relevant to the child. The court looks back at the problems that led to the original orders and decides whether things have changed enough to justify changing or cancelling the orders.

Before changing or cancelling the orders the Magistrate or Judge considers:

  • the age of the child
  • the child’s wishes
  • how long the child has been in the current placement
  • the child’s relationship with his or her birth family, and other people close to the child, including you as their current carer
  • the capacity of the person making the application (usually the parents) to care for the child
  • the psychological effect on the child of changing their current care arrangements

What can carers expect from DCJ?

Court order’s are already in place giving the Minister of Communities and Justice (DCJ) legal parental responsibility of the child in your care. It is ultimately the responsibility of the agency exercising the Minister’s function (in most cases this is DCJ) to make decisions around the court proceedings that are in the best interests of the child. DCJ has an obligation to ensure that all relevant information concerning the child is presented to the court.

DCJ arranges a lawyer to prepare a response to the application and ensure that the court has all the relevant evidence so that a decision can be made in the best interests of the child. The lawyer works with your agency to make sure that all the important information held by the agency and you as the carer, including your own views, are presented to the court. The DCJ lawyer will provide progress updates to the agency so that everyone knows where the court case is up to.

What can carers expect from their agency?

You and the child in your care will be provided with case management and support from your agency. Your agency will act as the formal link to the DCJ lawyer. Your agency will be available to support you through the process and answer any questions you may have. Your agency is also responsible for keeping you up to date with the court proceedings and ensuring your views are available to the DCJ lawyer.

What is expected of carers?

Care of the child continues as normal throughout the court proceedings. If you think things are getting too stressful for you or the child make sure you seek support and guidance from your agency. It’s best to work with your agency to provide all relevant information required to allow DCJ to present the evidence needed to make the best possible decision in the interests of the child.

What rights do carers have and do they need their own solicitor?

As the carer, your views are relevant to the decision that the magistrate or judge makes and you have a right to have your views expressed. In most cases you can rely on the DCJ lawyer to present your views to the court.

If you feel your views are not being heard or may be misrepresented first speak to your supervising agency to try resolve the issues. If you are still concerned then you might consider getting some independent legal advice.

In some circumstances the court may allow you to appear in the court proceedings as a party in your own right. If you think this is necessary you should obtain your own independent legal advice, the costs of which you will be your responsibility.

The information on this page also appears on the Section 90 applications - information for NGO authorised carers PDF, 66.93 KB factsheet.

Adopting a child in care

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Last updated: 24 Sep 2019