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Paths to permanency

The permanent placement principles provide guidance on finding the best permanent home option for a child or young person. The principles cover preservation, restoration, guardianship, open adoption and parental responsibility to the Minister.

Paths to Permanency Overview

Keeping families safely together is our priority. Where this is not possible, the permanent placement principles contained in the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 guide how we can provide children and young people with a safe, stable home.

Permanent placement principles

The permanency placement principles provide guidance on placing a child or young person safely in a permanent home. They also set out the timeframes for when the Children’s Court must decide if returning a child to their parent is possible.

The preferred order for the permanent placement of a child or young person is:

Where it is preferable to any other order, including parental responsibility to the Minister, open adoption is a permanency option for Aboriginal children in out-of-home care (OOHC).

The permanent placement principles help guide casework and decisions made by the Children’s Court. FACS must demonstrate to the court that it has considered each permanent placement option.

Family preservation

A priority of the Permanency Support Program is keeping children safely together with their families wherever possible. We work to achieve this through early intervention and effective family support.

Family preservation involves working with parents as early as possible and providing them with intensive support to help keep children and young people at home safely.

Tools to support parents keep their children safe

Family group conferencing

Family group conferencing is a family-focused, strengths-based program used mainly to resolve contact disputes or ensure that children and parents have support to enable the family to stay together. It gives families a stronger voice in decisions about their children’s care.

Family group conferencing has been shown to have a positive effect on family relationships. It helps:

  • improve communication within the family
  • reduce family conflict
  • keep children safe.

Participating in family group conferencing is voluntary. Our family group conferencing model includes information sharing, private family time and agreeing to a family plan. Private family time gives families time to make decisions about how they will ensure their child is safe.

Additional resources

Parent capacity orders

Under a parent capacity order, a parent must participate in a program, service, course, therapy or treatment to improve their parenting skills so they can provide a safe, nurturing home for their child.

Parent capacity orders reduce the need for FACS to intervene by removing a child from the family home or deciding not to return a child to their parent’s care.

The Children’s Court can make a parent capacity order or FACS can make an application if:

  • there is an issue with the parent’s or primary caregiver’s care for a child or young person
  • there is the potential risk of significant harm to the child or young person
  • it is reasonable and practical to make a parent or primary caregiver participate in a service, course or treatment program
  • there is an appropriate and available service, course or treatment program
  • it is unlikely the parent or primary caregiver would participate unless an order is made.

Parent responsibility contracts

A parent responsibility contract aims to improve parenting.

It encourages parents to set goals and agree to actions that reduce the risk of harm to their child. We ask parents to accept greater responsibility for the care of their child. This may include drug testing or treatment for substance abuse.

The contract includes details of how we support the parent to work towards positive changes in their life and how the contract will be monitored.

A parent responsibility contract can only be made if the parent agrees. It provides a structured process to help the parent attend services for their child’s benefit.

Parent responsibility contracts are registered with the Children’s Court. Because it is a legal agreement with legal consequences, parents will be given a referral to Legal Aid so they can get free, independent advice about it.

Parent responsibility contracts:

  • have a maximum length of 12 months. This allows parents to attend parenting courses or treatments and demonstrate they are no longer abusing substances.
  • can be made with expectant parents to reduce their child’s risk of significant harm after birth
  • require FACS to set up contracts with parents before care proceedings start, when appropriate.

More information

Restoration

A priority of the Permanency Support Program is keeping children safely together with their families wherever possible. We work to achieve this through early intervention and effective family support.

Restoration is reuniting a child or young person with their parents when it is safe to do so. It is the preferred permanency option if a child or young person is placed in out-of-home care (OOHC) while their family is supported to build skills to keep their children safe and ensure that they will thrive when they are back in their care.

Tools to support parents keep their children safe

Family group conferencing

Family group conferencing is a family-focused, strengths based program used mainly to resolve contact disputes. It gives families a stronger voice in decisions about their children’s care.

Family group conferencing has been shown to have a positive effect on family relationships. It helps:

  • improve communication within the family
  • reduce family conflict
  • keep children safe.

Participating in family group conferencing is voluntary. Our family group conferencing model includes information sharing, private family time and agreeing to a family plan. Private family time gives families time to make decisions about how they will ensure their child is safe.

Additional resources

Contact with family, community and Country

As with all children in OOHC, while children are being restored to their parents, it is important that they retain connection with their family, community and Country.

More information on connections and contact.

Guardianship

Guardianship orders give children and young people greater stability. These orders are made after a Children’s Court decides that a child or young person cannot live with their parents. Guardianship makes sure a child or young person has a stable, nurturing and safe home without cutting legal ties to their family.

Under a guardianship order, a child or young person is not in foster care or out-of-home care but in the independent care of their guardian.

A guardian is a person who provides a caring, safe home for a child or young person until they turn 18. Guardians have full care and responsibility for a child or young person. They make decisions about health and education, and manage contact between a child or young person and their parents, family and other important people in their lives. A guardian also ensures the child or young person’s emotional, social, cultural and spiritual needs are met.

The Children’s Court can make a guardianship order for a child or young person who needs care and protection or who is currently in out-of-home care. If it is safe to do so, a guardianship order will still give a child or young person contact with their parents, family and other important people in their life.

If a child or young person is Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, or from a different cultural background to their guardian, they maintain connections with their culture and community through a cultural support plan that identifies their cultural needs. Guardians follow this plan and encourage and support the child or young person to participate in cultural activities and events.

Becoming a guardian

A guardian can be a relative or kinship carer, a family friend or an authorised carer who has an established and positive relationship with the child or young person.

Anyone wanting to become a guardian will go through a detailed review and assessment process. This includes seeking the views of the child or young person, their family and their carer. Children or young people aged 12 years or older must give their written consent to a guardianship order being made, where they are able to do so.

The Children’s Court makes the final decision about a guardianship order.

If you would like to find out more about becoming a guardian, speak to your casework practitioner or contact your local Community Services Centre . You can also call the guardian information line on 1300 956 416 or email Guardianship Information.

In October 2014, the Children’s Court granted guardianship orders to relative and kinship carers who had already been granted full parental responsibility orders. This means relative and kinship carers with full parental responsibility for a child or young person became their guardians.

If there were any additional conditions in the parental responsibility order, such as contact arrangements, these conditions continue as outlined in the final order.

Support for guardians

Guardians receive a guardianship allowance so they can meet the needs of the child or young person. This allowance is the same rate as the FACS statutory care allowance and is based on the individual needs of the child or young person.

Guardians can get help from a range of local services , including child and family support, family counselling, health services, youth programs and disability and child care services.

Guardians may be able to seek help from their local FACS Community Services Centre to contact these services.

Guardians may also be eligible for benefits or support from the Department of Human Services (Centrelink) .

Open adoption

Adoption orders aim to provide children and young people with a loving home for life as a legal member of their adoptive family.

The status of the adopted person, and of the adoptive parent, is the same as if the child had been part of the family at birth.

Open adoption in NSW is different to past adoption practices. Adopted children are supported to remain connected to their birth family and cultural heritage. Adoptive parents follow an agreed adoption plan, which includes the ways they will support their child’s cultural identity and contact with birth-family members.

Open adoption may be considered if a child cannot be restored to their family and stable care cannot be provided by suitable relatives or kin.

Where it is preferable to any other order, including parental responsibility to the Minister, open adoption is a permanency option for Aboriginal children in out-of-home care (OOHC).

Aboriginal children have access to the same permanency options as any other child in OOHC, including adoption. However, adoption has lower priority under the permanent placement principles outlined in Section 10A of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998.  Aboriginal children and families have the right to participate in decisions about adoption.

Becoming an adoptive parent

Any person who is an authorised carer may seek to adopt a child from OOHC. Many carers gain dual authorisation, which means that they are considered suitable to provide foster care and to adopt.

Depending on their financial circumstances, adoptive parents may be eligible to receive an OOHC adoption allowance after an order of adoption is made.

To find out more, contact the Open Adoption Hotline on 1800 003 227.

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Last updated: 12 Feb 2019
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