Recent Changes in the Out of Home Care System

Most, if not all people would agree that all children need and deserve sufficient food, adequate health care, access to a good education, a safe place to call home and a family to love them. Unfortunately, a sustainable home is not a reality for a large number of children in the New South Wales population. Each week there are thousands of children staying in motels with Government workers, sleeping at different people’s homes each night, often on sofa lounges and blow up mattresses, or staying in towns several hours away from their parents and siblings. Some children don’t even know each afternoon who will be picking them up from school or daycare or where they will stay that night, much less what they will have for dinner or who will help with their homework.

These children might be children who your children go to school with, children in your street, or if you are teacher or health care professional, children you work with. They are children who have been removed from their families by the Department of Family and Community Services because the home they always knew wasn’t a safe place for them.

But instead of going to live with the modern day view of foster carers, a nuclear family, with a white picket fence, four bedrooms and two bathrooms, a cat and a dog and a Rav 4 in the garage, each week thousands of children across New South Wales are being sent to stay in motels, or to the third or fourth carer that week. Each week Community Services employees across the State are making frantic calls at ten to five each day trying desperately to find homes for these children, if not forever, then at least for a few months, if not for a few months, then at least for a few weeks, and if not for a few weeks, at least for the night. I know because I was one of them. Nearly four years ago I worked at the Department of Family and Community Services with the Out of Home Care System. It is a whole other world, so different to what you would probably imagine.

Permanent Housing children Planning

hope is on the horizon

But hope is on the horizon. From 1 October 2017, the Department of Family and Community Services has implemented a new program, known as the “Permanency Support Program.” The Department of Family and Community Services describes the new program in the following manner:

The Permanency Support Program introduces a series of changes from 1 October 2017 that shift the current placement-based service system to one that is centred on safety, permanency and well-being for children, young people and their families and kin.

The implementation of the Permanency Support Program is one of the most significant changes to the child protection and out-of-home care system in decades and is part of a broader suite of reforms under Their Futures Matter.

The changes aim to give every child and young person the chance to have a loving, permanent home for life, whether that be with his or her parents, extended family or kin, or through open adoption or guardianship.

Implementation will be staged, to help build the capacity of both FACS and our NGO partners. Full implementation starts from 1 July 2018.

Children in Out of Home Care

The program will focus on four key aspects to deliver better services to vulnerable children in Out of Home Care, striving to ensure sustainable long-term accommodation arrangements are sourced early in the Care and Protection process. These aspects are:

  1. Permanency and Early Intervention Principles being built into casework;
  2. Working intensively with parents and families to support change;
  3. A new approach to the recruitment, support and development of guardians, adoptive parents and other carers;
  4. Intensive therapeutic care system reform.

 

From October this year a series of steps will be taken to kick off the permanency support program, including the appointment of 52 permanency co-ordinators across the State to assist Community Services to achieve permanency for children and young people by helping them to link into services, and new long-term contracts for foster carers, aimed at helping to improve the long-term outcomes for vulnerable and at-risk children and young people.

 

Our solicitor and Rutherford Office team leader Emily Ostler, an experienced family lawyer and care and protection lawyer has completed a full day training with the Department of Family and Community Services and Legal Aid NSW about the permanency support program. If you are a carer or guardian of children subject to a Care and Protection Order or litigation, contact Emily today on 4932 3620 to discuss how the new program can assist you and the children in your care.

If you need help with a matter, please call 1300 JOPLIN (1300 567 546) to arrange an appointment.