OOHC Transition policies, procedures and tools
Children's Court processes, Child Assessment Tool, placement mechanisms, Referral Management System, steps in transfer process
The success of the transition out-of-home care (OOHC) in NSW from the government to non-government sector depends on how effectively we adapt to working together to grow the capacity of the sector.
Policies, procedures and tools are continually being developed to support the transition and successful, sustainable growth of the NSW non-government OOHC sector.
Agencies can occasionally be required to provide information or give evidence in Court or appear when a need to seek a change to care orders has been identified. While Community Services is formalising procedures, this section features some general information about ways agencies can be involved and the interim procedures in place.
The Child Assessment Tool (CAT) is a new tool used for all new OOHC placements, cases re-entering care, placement changes and transition of carers (and the children in their care) from Community Services to non-government agencies. It identifies the most appropriate level of care for a child, based on their behaviour, and health and development issues.
There are resources and information available to assist OOHC NGOs improve their responses to critical incidents and to think about what OOHC NGOs need to consider in managing critical incidents.
There are a number of partner organisations that can assist OOHC NGOs to develop systems to mitigate the risk of critical incidents occurring and to help them respond and manage when a critical incident occurs.
The resource wall chart is a helpful tool to assist your organisation to begin to think about what needs to be considered in the management critical incidents.
From 1 July 2018, there will be no exception placements and no exception support payments available as they are not part of the new Permanency Support Program funding model.
As part of working towards the cessation of all exception supports and placements there are some significant changes to how, what and when applications for exception supports and exception placements can be made.
Information Exchange: information and resources for OOHC NGOs
The care and protection of children and young people is dependent upon shared information. Access to accurate, relevant information will assist organisations working with children and young people to assess risks, make decisions and identify and deliver appropriate services. The NSW Interagency Guidelines contain additional information.
The response a child or young person receives following a disclosure of abuse can be critical to their ongoing wellbeing and in ensuring their future safety and the safety of other children and young people. The relationship between your organisation and JIRT is instrumental to the wellbeing of children and young people, including those who may be identified as the alleged offender/person of interest (POI).
A literature review on the factors that affect the restoration of children and young people to their birth families has been conducted by Neha Prasad and Marie Connolly (Transition Program Office – ACWA) to inform the restoration work currently being undertaken in NSW.
When placements are at risk of breakdown or unplanned placement changes are required, placement mechanisms across the state allow Community Services and non-government agencies to work together at the local level to best meet the needs of children in OOHC.
The Referral Management System (RMS) is a new online system to strengthen transparency, reliability and responsiveness for placement referrals to all NGOs. The RMS is a transparent mechanism for 'real time' placement referrals and complements Placement Matching Panels.
Supporting victims of crime
NGO OOHC service providers have specific responsibilities towards victims of crime under the NSW Charter of Victims Rights. The Supporting victims of crime guidelines, Supporting children and young people in out-of-home care who are victims of crime - caseworkers factsheet, and Working with victims of crime eLearning module are designed to provide assistance to NGO OOHC service providers in meeting their responsibilities to victims of crime.
Individual guides and a flowchart that clearly outline the five steps for smooth and consistent transition across the state are now available for carers, non-government agencies and Community Services staff.
Transition policy papers
Three policy papers endorsed by the out-of-home care transition Ministerial Advisory Group (MAG) to inform implementation of the transition of OOHC service provision from Community Services to the non-government sector.
- Transition Program Office Policy Paper 1: Transition Cohort Priorities
This paper sets out cohort transfer priorities that have been identified in order to show how the transfers will occur over time to non-Aboriginal, partnership and Aboriginal agencies
- Transition Program Office Policy Paper 2: Transfer and Placement of Aboriginal Children and Young People
This paper provides clear direction on the transfer and placement of Aboriginal children and young people
- Transition Program Office Policy Paper 3: Caring for children and young people in NSW
This paper provides an overview of how children and young people are cared for in NSW, with a particular focus on out-of-home care as defined under s135 of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998.
Children's court and case management
The need to engage with the Children’s Court is an important aspect of case management of children and young people in out-of-home care (OOHC).
As part of case management, an agency may be required to provide information or evidence in Children’s Court proceedings or to seek a change to care orders .
Community Services is currently formalising procedures for agencies in performing these roles. In the meantime, here is some general information about the interim procedures in place and some ways agencies can be involved.
Section 76 reports (supervision orders) Where a care application is made in respect of a child or young person, the Court may place the child under the supervision of the Director General (under section 76(1) of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998). Organisations may be responsible for the restoration of a child to their parent.
Section 82 reports (suitability of arrangements) Where the Children’s Court makes an order allocating parental responsibility to a person who is not the parent of the child or young person (eg Minister for Family & Community Services), the Court will often order that a report be prepared and filed detailing the suitability of the arrangements made for the child or young person (“section 82 report”).
Section 90 applications Agencies with case management responsibility for a child or young person will, in some cases over time, consider it appropriate to seek to vary or rescind a care order of the Children’s Court.
Care proceedings for agencies
When case management for a child or young person is assigned to a non-government out-of-home care agency, the agency will be involved in care proceedings and be required to supply information to Community Services to inform decision making by the Court.
Child Assessment Tool
The Child Assessment Tool (CAT) is a new tool used for all new out-of-home care (OOHC) placements, cases re-entering care, placement changes and transition of carers (and the children in their care) from Community Services to agencies.
The CAT has been designed to identify the most appropriate level of care for a child, based on assessment of their behaviour, and health and development needs. The tool improves transparency and consistency of placement decisions and focuses on the needs of the child.
The CAT is based on the Cleveland Child Assessment Tool and has been in use in the US for more than 15 years. It was customised for NSW in partnership with Tracey Feild from the Annie E Casey Foundation, one of the developers of the Cleveland tool. The Annie E Casey Foundation is a not-for-profit public policy agency specialising in services for vulnerable families and children.
What does the Child Assessment Tool do?
The CAT is based on behavioural issues and health and development needs applied across three age groups (under five years, five–eight years, and nine years and over). It then identifies a recommended level of care, across six levels of care and corresponding placement types.
The tool allows for a 30-day review period, during which the agency may request a review of an assessment completed by Community Services. These reviews are only conducted when new or additional information emerges that may affect the level of care required by the child.
Community Services caseworkers are working with non-government agencies to ensure the CAT is completed based on information about the behaviourial or health needs of a child available at the time of placement.
Taking on responsibility for placing all children and young people in statutory care means non-government agencies need to work together at a local level to respond when placements are at risk of breakdown or unplanned placement changes are required.
The implementation of placement mechanisms, including placement matching panels, across the state is an excellent example of Community Services and agencies working very effectively together at the local level to meet the needs of children in OOHC.
Placement Matching Panels in action
Community Service Metro West region Placement Matching Panel (PMP) is a leading example of collaboration in action between Community Services CFRU (Child & Family Regional Unit) and non-government agencies in the region to achieve the best placements for children and young people in care.
The panel meets fortnightly to discuss profiles of children and young people requiring placement and match them to available agency carers. These panels ensure the child’s needs always paramount.
While the PMP can’t answer all the challenges a complex child protection system faces, it does represent an opportunity to raise and discuss sector-wide issues and broaden understanding by all parties as well as secure long-term matches between children carers.
Metro West PMP aims
- Improve matching children and young people to available placements.
- Improve placement stability.
- Share sector knowledge and discuss sector issues.
- Improve collaboration.
- Improve accountability, openness and transparency.
- Increase participation of non-government sector.
- Become a unified voice in the sector.
Guidelines outlining the phases/steps required for smooth and consistent transition across the state are now available.
A flowchart and individual guides have been designed to assist carers, agencies and Community Services through the five phases of transferring from the government to the non-government Out-of-Home Care sector.
Flowchart: OOHC transition process flowchart
- OOHC transition process for NGOs
- Consent to Release Personal Information
- File Transfer List
- Transfer of OOHC case management for a child or young person from CS to NGO
- Transfer of authorised carer from CS to NGO
For carers: OOHC transition process for carers
For Community Services staff: please refer to Casework Practice for the OOHC transfer procedure.
Information and resources for Out-of-Home Care non-government organisations
In 2009 legislative changes were made to the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 (the Care Act) to include a new chapter (Chapter 16A) to encourage a shared approach to child protection. These changes were made following the findings and recommendations of the 2007 Wood Royal Commission and the development of Keep Them Safe action plan.
The NGO Learning website contains details about how to register for the Keep Them Safe: Information Exchange webinar and how to access the KTS learning module 7 What is the point of information exchange?
Chapter 16A allows ‘prescribed bodies’ to exchange information that relates to the safety, welfare or wellbeing of a child or young person whether or not the child or young person is known to Community Services, and whether or not the child or young person consents to the information exchange.
Prescribed bodies can provide information to another prescribed body (with or without a request) that relates the safety, welfare or wellbeing of a child or young person (or class of children or young persons) if the provider reasonably believes that the provision of the information would assist the agency receiving the information to:
- make any decision, assessment or plan or to initiate or conduct any investigation, or to provide any service, relating to the safety, welfare or wellbeing of the child or young person (or class of children and young people) or
- to manage any risk to a child or young person (or class of children and young people) that may arise in the recipient’s capacity as an employer or designated agency.
In May 2016, legislative changes expanded prescribed bodies under Chapter 16A to include the following private health professionals:
- nurses (enrolled and registered)
- registered medical practitioners
- registered midwives
- registered psychologists
- occupational therapists (other than students)
- speech pathologists (eligible for membership of Speech Pathology Australia).
- an unborn child (if they have been the subject of a report to the Child Protection Helpline or to a Child Wellbeing Unit).
In February 2019, further legislative changes were made to include the following as prescribed bodies under Chapter 16A:
- the Australian Capital Territory Community Services Directorate
- the Northern Territory’s Territory Families
- the Queensland Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women
- the South Australian Department for Child Protection
- the Tasmanian Department of Communities
- the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services
- the Western Australian Department of Communities
Find out more about exchanging information and private health professionals.
Find out more about requesting information from NSW Health.
When should I consider exchanging information?
Provided the exchange of information meets the requirements of the Care Act there are no limitations to when you can request and provide information. However there are some key events that should trigger agencies to consider whether they need to exchange information including when:
- a child or young person is beginning a relationship with a new service provider
- a carer or child or young person is transferring from one OOHC NGO to another
- a child is moving interstate and has safety risks that the statutory child protection agency in that state or territory should know about
- a reportable conduct allegation has been made against a carer or employee, particularly if the agency is aware that the employee or carer is engaged or employed in other child related work
- the agency is assessing a potential new carer
- the agency is following the carers register process.
What if I want to request information outside NSW?
Under Chapter 16A, prescribed bodies in NSW are able to make requests for child protection information from statutory child protection bodies in other states and territories. Although, there is nothing in Chapter 16A that imposes a requirement on these bodies to comply with a request. This is provided for in section 245I of the Care Act.
Good to know
- The requesting agency needs to specify the purpose of the request and how the information is expected to assist.
- The request can be made in writing or verbally.
- If the request is declined, the agency must provide a rationale.
- Prescribed bodies only have to consider providing information that already exists, that is agencies are not obliged to collect information for the purposes of information exchange.
- Consent is not necessary for exchange of information under Chapter 16A. It is a good idea for agencies providing a service to a child, young person or their parents/carers to inform them early on that information about them may be provided to other agencies. Where appropriate, a client should be informed that information about them is being disclosed to another agency so long as this does not place the child or young person at further risk. Keeping the client informed is part of best-practice case management and helps to maximise client engagement.
- Agencies receiving requests for information are responsible for identifying which parts of their organisation may hold relevant information.
- Agencies may rely on Chapter 16A to share information relating to the safety, welfare or wellbeing of an unborn child, but only where the unborn child is the subject of a pre-natal report to Community Services.
 A ‘prescribed body’ is any organisation specified in section 248(6) of the Act or in clause 8 of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Regulation 2012 and includes government departments and NGOs.