Shaping a Better Child Protection System

The NSW Government is committed to improving the lives of vulnerable children and their families with better laws, policies, systems and practices.

The Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) has released a discussion paper, Shaping a Better Child Protection System, which proposes a range of amendments to the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 (The Care Act) and the Adoption Act 2000, intended to help shape a better child protection system.

The discussion paper considers:

  • assigning response timeframes to help improve child protection services
  • encouraging the use of shorter term court orders to promote permanency planning for children and young people
  • working to keep families together by mandating Alternative Dispute Resolution before court and increasing diversion to preservation services
  • streamlining and simplifying adoption processes and Children’s Court proceedings to achieve permanency for children and young people sooner.

We are seeking comments, feedback and ideas on the changes outlined in the Shaping a Better Child Protection System discussion paper.

For a copy of the discussion paper, go to the NSW Government Have Your Say website.

Have your say by 5pm on 30 November 2017.

Major changes to the Child Protection System

On 29 March 2017, the Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Minister for Family and Community Services Pru Goward announced major changes to the child protection system.

In the short term, FACS will be:

In the longer term, Their Futures Matter – a new approach to child protection and wellbeing in NSW will bring together all government agencies, non-government organisations and the community to deliver the right supports to vulnerable children and families.

Within the next three years, Their Futures Matter will deliver:

  1. Needs-based supports: All children in, or at risk of entering out-of-home care (OOHC), and their families, will be receiving a coordinated package of supports based on their needs.
  2. One connected response: A dedicated commissioning entity, independent of service delivery agencies, will be established to drive a single response for vulnerable children and families.
  3. A smart system: An investment approach will be adopted across all services to ensure funding and evidence are aligned most effectively to wellbeing outcomes.

Our new approach to child protection will ensure a coordinated response across government and the sector and will address the needs of children and families early to give them a strong foundation for a better life.

What the short term changes will mean for children and families

We want to move away from our focus on placements, towards a service system that puts families and children at the centre of decision-making, and focuses on individual needs and helping families to change. This means developing a case plan tailored to each individual child or young person with a goal of achieving a permanent home within two years of entering care.

Our first preference is to work to keep families together as much as possible, as we believe that with the right help, guidance and support, people can change.

We are investing $90 million to create 900 places for children in intensive family and restoration services, half of which will be dedicated to Aboriginal children and families.

For Aboriginal people, in particular, we will work more with extended family and kin because we know the importance of keeping children and young people connected to their family, culture and community.

Above all, the changes will see FACS caseworkers build better relationships with children and families so that they can work out how to make a family safe, include them in decision-making, and create change that ensures each child has a safe and permanent home where they can thrive.

What the short term changes mean for foster, kinship and relative carers

Over time, we hope to see less long-term carers in NSW, as more children return home safely, and we work with carers who want to adopt or provide guardianship to make their arrangements permanent. However, foster, kinship and relative carers remain critical to a child’s pathway to permanency and we need good carers now more than ever.

FACS and our NGO partners will work with foster, kinship and relative carers who would like to become guardians or adoptive parents to make their care arrangements permanent. A new means-tested adoption allowance (print version here) will help families in this situation.

To keep more Aboriginal children and young people with their families or kin, we will also support Aboriginal carers to consider guardianship.

In the future, we will match children and carers according to their needs and long-term preferences to help make more adoptions or guardianship arrangements possible.

We’re also anticipating that foster, kinship and relative carers will play a greater role in restoration as we work with families to return children and young people home safely. Carers play a crucial role in providing vulnerable families some time out to strengthen their parenting.