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Education Pathway for Children and Young People in Out of Home Care : Casework Guide for Funded Service Providers

Purpose

This information describes the Education Pathway for children in OOHC to provide a consistent guide for Funded Service Providers to support children and young people in statutory OOHC to realise their education potential.

Children in out-of-home care have a right to access quality education. One of our key responsibilities is to support their access and engagement in education and training.

Education is a contributing factor in a person's quality of life and the level of education they achieve has been found to have an impact across generations. People who receive a sound education are likely to live longer and to experience better health outcomes.

Children and young people in out-of-home care are much more likely to leave school early. Early school leavers face a higher risk of social exclusion and poverty. Proactive planning and support aims to improve their outcomes and help them reach their potential.

What is the OOHC Education Pathway?

The OOHC Education Pathway is an agreement between DCJ and the three major education sectors in NSW (Government, Catholic and Independent) on how pre-school and school aged children children and young people in statutory OOHC will be supported at school. This pathway is designed to support children and young people regardless who they are case managed by (Funded Service Provider or DCj) and school they attend (Government or Private).

Children and young people in OOHC are likely to have lower levels of engagement in school and poorer educational outcomes. The pathway is in place to provide collaborative and consistent educational support to each child and young person in OOHC to support them to be engaged in suitable quality education and help them to reach their full learning potential.

It is important that all children and young people in OOHC participate in educational opportunities, supported by their carers, family and caseworkers and have learning and support planning initiated for them within 30 days of entering care or starting a new school.

The OOHC Education Pathway is triggered by notifying a school (Department of Education (DoE), Catholic or Independent, including DoE preschools) that a child or young person has entered OOHC by the use of a Notice to School.

The Education Pathway supports the NSW Child Safe Standards for Permanent Care, Standard 10.

Caseworkers role

Caseworkers have an essential role in improving educational outcomes for children and young people in statutory OOHC and education staff play an essential role contributing to OOHC case planning. Proactive collaborative planning and support improves their outcomes and helps children and young people in OOHC reach their potential.

It is also important to inform a school when a child or young person is exiting OOHC (through restoration, guardianship, adoption) or turning 15 years when leaving care planning begins so the school is aware and can support future planning and collaboratively respond to any changes in the circumstances for children and young people.

Recording

According to NSW Child Safe Standards for Permanent Care 2015 , Standard 12, children and young people should have a permanent record of their histories which contains all relevant documentation.Ensure that all available information, documents and records about a child or young person are collected and maintained. Agencies must retain records regarding the social and medical history, development and identity of children and young people.

Education Pathway: Casework Process for children and young people in OOHC

Education Pathway process can be found here.

Notice to a School

  • A Notice to a school form is sent only once, when a child or young person who:
    1. is attending school or preschool enters statutory Out-of-Home Care
    2. is already in OOHC begins school

The Notice to a school form must be lodged within 14 days of a child or young person entering statutory OOHC if the child is of school age. This informs the school that the child/ young person is under the PR of the Minister and enables the school to contribute to the child’s case planning and enables the caseworker to contribute to the child’s education planning. The school must be informed of the child or young person’s statutory care status as well as the agency with case management responsibility, the carers details and, if known, learning, behaviour and health support needs.

  • After 7 days of submitting the Notice to a School form, contact the school and request a meeting with the Principal to arrange a time for the Personalisd Learning and Support Planning Meeting (PLaSP).
    1. If you do not hear back from the child’s school or if there are educational concerns for a student, the first point of contact should be the school Principal.
    2. If a child is currently on a suspension from their previous school, this will need to be resolved before enrolment is accepted at the new school. For any suspension, a “Suspension Resolution” needs to occur before the child can return to school. This process can begin during the suspension time.
  • To discuss the educational needs of a student in OOHC, caseworkers can speak to the school Principal or OOHC teacher directly. If necessary, the school can access additional resources to support the student.

Department of Education Schools and Preschools

If a child or young person is attending a Department of Education school or pre-school while you are case managing and DCJ have not notified the school, email the Notice to a school form to oohc.cps.@det.nsw.edu.au.

Do not email the Notice to a school formto the child’s school or teacher directly. The relevant Department of Education team will forward the Notice to a school form to the school Principal directly with other relevant information and cc the caseworker into the e-mail notification. This is to ensure only relevant education personnel are informed of the child’s OOHC status. There are strict privacy and confidentiality protocols within the public education system regarding information sharing about children and young people in statutory OOHC.

To find out if a preschool is a Government school go to: Preschools in Government schools list

Catholic and Independent Schools

For private (Independent or Catholic) school enrolment, send the Notice to a school form to the school Principal and cc to Department of Education, email oohc.cps@det.nsw.edu.au. This is so the Department of Education can note the new school details for their records.

Change of Circumstances

For a change of circumstance for the child or young person, use of a Change of detail advice  for a child or young person form each time.

The Change of detail advice for a child or young person form should be emailed to the oohc.cps.@det.nsw.edu.au for children and young people attending Government schools and the school Principal for Catholic or Independent schools.

These changes include but are not limited to:

  • Change of caseworker
  • Change of address
  • Change of school
  • Change of carer
  • Change of agency
  • Restoration
  • Legal status (Guardianship)
  • Exiting care (turning 18)
  • Adoption

Recording

It would be best practice (see NSW Child Safe Standards for Permanent Care 2015 ) to ensure a copy of the Change of detail advice for a child or young person is saved on the child/ young person’s file.

Personalised Learning and Support Planning (PLaSP) Process

  1. All school aged children and young people in OOHC will have a Personalised Learning and Support Planning meeting undertaken within 30 school days of a notice of the students’ entry into OOHC. In addition, children attending a Department of Education pre-school, will also need to have a Personalised Learning and Support Planning meeting.
  2. The Personalised Learning and Support page on the NSW Department of Education website identifies how this process will support students.
  3. Contact the school Principal one week after the Notice to School is lodged to arrange a time for the Personalised Learning and Support Planning meeting. The school will arrange a mutually agreeable time with key stakeholders to attend the meeting. Stakeholders may include the caseworker, the child or young person (if appropriate), the carers, the Department of Education support staff and school education staff.
  4. The school leads the Personalised Learning and Support Planning to identify education needs. When involved in this meeting, ensure that the strengths of the child or young person are included in discussing personalised learning and support needs. Take notes and request the available shared documentation (learning goals, action plan and/ or meeting notes) from the Principal or the Chair of the meeting.

Recording

It would be best practice to record and maintain notes and action plans for a child or young person on their Case Plan and file.

Aboriginal Children and Young People

All Aboriginal children and young people attending a Department of Education school will have a Personalised Learning Pathway (PLP) education plan developed in accordance with their individual needs as part of the Personalised Learning and Support Planning (PLaSP).

There is no state wide Personalised Learning Pathway template. It is recommended that schools and community develop a PLP template to suit their local needs.Dept of Education : Personalised Learning Pathways Guidelines

What is the Personalised Learning Pathway (PLP)?

PLPs are a tool for increasing Aboriginal student engagement. They have the potential to support improved learning outcomes and educational aspirations when they are developed in genuine partnership with Aboriginal students, their parents or carers and teachers. They can be customised by each school and Aboriginal community to meet local needs and contexts.

PLP’s are an active process. They are developed in a consultation process between the student, parents/carers and teachers, to identify, organise and apply personal approaches to learning and engagement. PLP’s can have short term or long term goals. Short term goals can be specific stepping stones to reach long term goals. Implementation

The school will:

  • encourage children and young people where possible, to participate in decision making in relation to their education
  • implement the school-based actions in the plan
  • promote communication between carers, school, caseworker and the student
  • provide age-appropriate information to the child or young person about educational issues impacting them
  • support the child/ young person to achieve their education goals and meet their social and emotional needs.

The caseworker will:

  • support regular school attendance and work with children and young people and their carers to raise expectations for their future success
  • organise any external services recommended in the learning and support planning which have been approved
  • support participation in appropriate educational and social activities outside of school
  • provide educational information including school reports to new carers
  • include the actions and recommendations from the learning and support planning in the child or young person’s OOHC case plan.
  • Raise concerns related to school attendance with school.

Monitoring and Review

The school will actively monitor and review the child’s Learning and Support Planning and PLP’s collaboratively with you as the caseworker, the carer and all relevant stakeholders to ensure the child’s educational and support needs are being met. It is recommended that the child’s educational needs be revisited at least once a semester with the school. This could be done in conjunction with the school’s routine reporting procedures.

Ideally Personalised Learning and Support Planning and learning goals should be reviewed following a reporting period e.g. following semester one school reports. There should also be a review after any significant change in the child or young person’s life, for example when a case plan goal is changed from OOHC to restoration, guardianship, adoption or leaving care. This is to ensure that schools can contribute to case planning and understand the impact of a child or young person exiting OOHC. It should be formally reviewed at the time of the OOHC case plan review (annually at a minimum) so that the information remains relevant to the child’s learning.

Preparing to Exit OOHC

Preparing to Exit OOHC through Restoration to family

Restoration is about a family coming back together. It is a time of challenge, discovery and adjustment for both the child and the parents. This process needs to be planned and supported in order to be safe and sustainable.

Your role is develop a strong case plan with the child, their family and support services which prepares everyone for the changes to expect during the journey home; and addresses any worries about the child's safety. When preparing a child or young person to exit OOHC through restoration, collaboration with the school is important to ensure information sharing and continuity of education support.

When restoration is being considered, contact with the school must occur at a number of points:

It is important to advise the school when it is apparent that a restoration application will be filed, as a restoration order will:

  • End casework support for the child (unless there is a Supervision order in place)
  • End DJC or a Funded Service Provider’s participation in future reviews of Personalised Learning and Support Planning (unless there is a Supervision order in place)
  • End the requirement of the school to provide student reports to DCJ or the Funded Service Provider (unless there is a Supervision order in place)
  • Make the parent(s) or family member responsible for all future parental approvals.

Preparing to Exit through Guardianship

When preparing a child or young person to exit OOHC through guardianship, collaboration with the school is important to ensure information sharing and continuity of education support.

It is important that prospective guardians are provided with the most recent evidence of the child or young person’s Personalised Learning and Support Planning or Personal Learning Pathway (PLP). Additionally, the school should be informed of the impact of a guardianship order; by exiting OOHC all casework support from DCJ or the Funded Service Provider will cease and the guardian(s) will have full decision making responsibility in regard to the child or young person’s education.  Guardianship support payments for non-general education costs (e.g. private tutoring) may be accessed by guardians, where approved in the Financial Plan and where confirmed by the school that the child is attending that these resources are unavailable to the child through the school.

The Guardianship Financial Plan must include future non-general education costs. The school’s assessment of the child’s future needs will inform costing projections for the Financial Plan. For children in the year prior to kindergarten commencement, Best Start interviews and assessments may help determine the educational needs of the child.

Preparing to Exit OOHC through Adoption

When adoption is being considered, contact with the school must occur at a number of points:

  • Gathering information for formal adoption assessment
  • Preparing an adoption application for Supreme Court
  • Advising the outcome of the application.

In order to make an evidence-based assessment, an adoption assessor requires recent school reports about the child. You may be asked to provide assistance in the event that the child’s file does not contain recent reports.

If an adoption application is subsequently prepared, the adoption caseworker (DCJ or Funded Service Provider) may make a further request for a school report, since the two most recent school reports must be included in the application. In addition, the adoption caseworker will seek evidence of the current PLaSP or PLP for the child, if a PLP has been prepared.

It is important to advise the school when it is apparent that an adoption application will be filed, as an adoption order will:

  • End casework support for the child
  • End DCJ or the Funded Service Provider’s participation in future reviews of Personalised Learning and Support Planning
  • End the requirement of the school to provide student reports to DCJ or the Funded Service Provider
  • Make the adoptive parent(s) responsible for all future parental approvals
  • Cause a change of name to be registered by Births, Deaths and Marriages, with a new birth certificate issued to the child. The school may need to make plans to manage this transition, depending upon the name by which the child is known to the school community. In addition, the school will need to take an action to follow up directly with the child’s adoptive parent(s) in order to obtain a copy of the new birth certificate for the school records.

Adoption orders are not made unless each carer is able to meet the child’s needs, including educational needs. On occasion, DCJ approves exception funding requests in order to meet specific support needs post-adoption. These requests may include speech therapy or tutoring that support educational outcomes. In these cases, the school must be advised.

It is important that as part of transition from OOHC to adoption, prospective adoptive parents are provided with the most recent copy of the child or young person’s Personalised Learning and Support Plan.

Turning 15 years old and preparing to Leave Care

When a child is turning 15 years old, contact the school Principal to commence leaving care planning. Leaving care plans are developed for each young person prior to leaving care and planning for leaving care begins when the child or young person reaches 15 years of age.

The period of transition from care is worrying and scary for many care leavers. Young people leaving OOHC face enormous challenges and disadvantages compared with their peers.

Start case planning for leaving care when a child reaches 15 years of age. Although young people leaving care are particularly vulnerable, leaving care planning should be focused on the young person's strengths and resources, looking to build resilience and community with them. Work in collaboration with the child, their carer and the school to understand what the child’s educational needs are and incorporate this into the planning. It is important to provide a long, well planned preparation period so that care leavers are given the chance to maximise their opportunities, feel ready and prepared to leave care, and are able to reach their potential into their future.

Questions about the OOHC Education Pathway should be directed to your manager in the first instance.  For further information see https://www.facs.nsw.gov.au/families/resources/fostering-our-future/previous-issues/issue-45/chapters/education-pathways

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Last updated: 30 Aug 2019
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