Employees of the Department of Communities (the Department) may provide foster care to a child in the CEO's care or may consider becoming a foster carer. It can be difficult to balance work responsibilities and being a carer, and there may be times when you, as an employee, may require additional support or guidance to navigate this area. It can be particularly difficult caring for a family member and engaging with the Department as a safety network person, carer, and employee.
Note: CEO refers to the Chief Executive Officer of the Department.
If you wish to become a general foster carer, you should apply to be assessed and managed by a non-government fostering agency. Exceptions may include where an employee wishes to provide emergency foster care.
If you apply to become a general foster carer, or take on the care of a child in your own family as a family or significant other carer, advise your line manager as they can be contacted as a referee during the assessment process. For more information, see Chapter 3.1 Family and significant other care.
If you wish to become a foster carer you must be screened, assessed and approved in accordance with the Department's procedures, standards and competencies, in addition to those of the Community Service Organisation. If you are being assessed through an external agency, as is preferred, that agency will be responsible for ensuring competencies are met through the contractual arrangement with that agency. Any persons over the age of 18 years living in the home will also need to be assessed and screened.
To meet carer competencies as an individual carer under s.79(2)(b)(i) of the Act, the regulations state that you must satisfy the CEO that you are:
able to provide care for a child in a way that promotes the wellbeing of the child, promotes the child's family and interpersonal relationships, and protects the child from harm
able to provide a safe living environment for a child
able to work cooperatively with officers, a child's family and other people when providing care for a child
able to take responsibility for the development of your competencies and skills as a carer, and
are a person of good character and repute.
If you are an employee of the Department the carer assessment should be done by an assessor or contract assessor or, in the case of family or significant other foster carers, an officer from a district other than that in which you work. This should not be an issue where you have registered to become a foster carer through a community service organisation.
If this is not possible, for example in country areas, the assessment should be conducted, wherever possible, by a senior child protection worker or team leader. Complete this assessment in consultation with the Child and Carer Connection Hub (the Hub).
The assessment should consider the potential conflict of interests, confidentiality, and the possible risks involved in becoming a foster carer, and your understanding of these issues.
Before agreeing to become a carer, you should be fully informed about and have plan in place to manage the challenges of balancing the responsibilities of being a carer and an employee of the Department. This includes being aware of the procedures you will be required to follow if any abuse in care allegations are raised and if an assessment is conducted.
If concerns arise for the safety or wellbeing of a child that has been in your care, the matter may be forwarded to the Integrity Operations for investigation. This process will be followed if you are a general or family and significant other carer.
All concerns relating to children in the CEO's care or concerns relating to children with whom the employee has contact in the course of their employment must be reported to Integrity Operations.
For more information, see Chapter 2.1 Responding to concerns about employees.
It is strongly encouraged that you register your interest to become a foster carer via a community service organisation. Where this is not possible, authority to approve an employee as a foster carer resides with the relevant Executive Director; or with the Director General if the employee is an Executive Director or Level 9 officer.
If you are approved as a general foster carer for the Department, you will be allocated to a district outside the district in which you are employed. It is accepted that this may not be possible in country areas. In such cases, the District Director will take responsibility for implementing strategies to enable a clear separation of the two roles and to manage any conflict of interest.
You cannot be the case manager or decision maker for a child who is placed with you as a foster carer.
You will be reminded of the restrictions on accessing confidential information that would not normally be available to a foster carer. This includes any information about the child in your care and their families, in relation to any assessment or case notes about you as a foster carer.
If you are the line manager of an employee who is caring for a child in the CEO's care, it is your responsibility to discuss, monitor and manage any conflict of interest. This issue should be discussed with the employee at regular intervals including at the time of employment, at the time of approval, in annual staff performance appraisals, and at the annual foster carer review.
If you are a carer for a child in the CEO’s care and management by another district is not possible, for example, due to geographic distance, discuss how case practice guidance will be managed without conflict of interest. For example, consider if case decisions should be made by the District Director or a specific Assistant District Director.
If you become a general foster carer with a non-government agency, inform your line manager as soon as practicable. Where you are a line-manager and you learn an employee is a foster carer with a non-government agency, take appropriate steps to ensure the employee understands any potential conflict of interest, confidentiality, and the possible risks.
Be aware that as a line manager of an employee who is a carer, you may face difficulties related to managing conflict of interest. –For example, when there are issues relating to subsidies, practice decisions that the foster carer (employee) disagrees with, or when the foster carer (employee) requests changes in work practices to meet the needs of the child in their care.
Case practice and carer management decisions are made by the district case managing the child.
Employment issues are managed by the district employing the person who is a carer. Any employment issues or decisions should be made in consultation with the District Director or senior management.
There may be exceptional circumstances where an employee (who is not a registered foster carer or family member of the child) is asked, or volunteers, to care for a child in the CEO’s care.
Making an urgent care arrangement with an employee must not be considered if there are any other acceptable options. This arrangement is to remain in place for the shortest possible length of time. For more information on other forms of urgent care arrangements, see Chapter 3.1 Family and significant other care.
An urgent care arrangement for a child in the CEO's care may be considered with a Departmental employee in the following circumstances:
Protective action was taken to ensure the immediate safety of a child afterhours and there are no known or willing family members to care for the child, and no emergency care arrangements available via the Department or non-government agencies.
An existing care arrangement has broken down and it is not safe or appropriate for the child to remain in the care arrangement or home with the current carer. No other family members are willing or able to care for the child in an urgent care arrangement, and no emergency care arrangements are available via the Department or non-government agencies.
Where a child is being transported to an urgent care arrangement and long-distance travel is required, which includes an overnight stay with the child. This may include accommodation in a hotel.
Care arrangements in these circumstances may be required quickly, but the best interest and safety of the child must be the paramount consideration. To ensure the safety of the child and to complete all necessary actions within an appropriate timeframe, follow the 'urgent care by employee' checklist. Where you are the worker facilitating an urgent care arrangement, this form will prompt you to:
consider and discuss the responsibilities and expectations for an employee while caring for a child in the CEO's care. This includes ensuring the employee understands what confidential information can and cannot be accessed, agrees to an Assist and Family and Domestic Violence Triage (FDVRT) check and agrees for their name and details to be recorded in Assist
ensure the employee has made an informed decision to care for the child.. This includes understanding what assessment and disciplinary processes will be initiated ifallegations are made of concern for the child/ren
provide the employee with the Care Arrangement Referral (CAR). This should include adequate information for the employee to safely care for the child, including basic cultural and health information
determine what, if any, financial or practical support is required to ensure the employee can safely care for the child
ensure all relevant forms have been completed, including statutory declarations, and that Working with Children Cards (where available – refer to the 'urgent care by employee' checklist) have been sighted
complete all relevant consultations and approvals for the care arrangement from the Assistant District Director or the District Director
identify any risks associated with people in the home or the care environment, and
ensure that any identified or possible risks have been included and addressed in the safety plan.
This document is a checklist, approval form and safety plan incorporated into the one form. Once completed, upload the checklist onto the child's file and label it clearly.
Provide the employee with the details for Statewide Referral and Response Service – Crisis Care Unit (SRRS-CCU) in case they require assistance afterhours.
Document the checklist and any case notes clearly to ensure SRRS-CCU staff can locate information quickly, easily and can respond appropriately.
The child must have a safe and clean sleeping environment, with age-appropriate levels of privacy. The sleeping environment should be sighted prior to finalising the approval for the urgent care arrangement. Sighting the sleeping environment can be done in person, or through the use of photos or a virtual phone call.