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3.1.4 Family or significant other care

Last Modified: 15-Jun-2022 Review Date: 04-Jan-2021

 ‭(Hidden)‬ Legislation


To inform senior child protection workers (SCPWs) of the practice and procedures associated with assessing, supporting and reviewing a family or significant other carer applicant or approved carer.

Note: CEO refers to the Chief Executive Officer of the Department of Communities.

  • The assistant district director (ADD)/​district director (DD) must approve the care arrangement with a family or significant other for a child in the CEO’s care.

  • The family or significant other must be assessed against the competencies identified in the Children and Community Services Regulations 2006 (the Regulations).

  • SCPWs must not proceed with an assessment or care arrangement if they become aware of any information (for example, from the criminal or our record checks) that the person is not suitable to be a carer.

  • The assessor must determine the citizenship and/or residency status of the applicants. Consideration can only be given as a last resort and on a case by case basis to temporary visa holders performing the role of a family or significant other carer, or as a provider of short break support if the urgency of the situation warrants it, and there are no more stable options available.

  • The temporary visa holder should advise the Department of Home Affairs of their intention to become a family carer and any resulting impact the care arrangement of the child has on their circumstances, such as change of address, living arrangements or monetary situation.​ They can also contact the Department of Home Affairs Perth office

  • An Aboriginal practice leader (or other senior Aboriginal officer) must be consulted where a care arrangement for an Aboriginal child with a family or significant other is being considered.

  • SCPWs must consider the specific cultural and language needs of a child from a culturally and linguistically diverse (CaLD) background in selecting a care arrangement.

  • All family members and significant others caring for a child in the CEO’s care must have a Working with Children Check (WWC Check), unless an interim care arrangement is required with a family member or significant other. In this instance, the application for a WWC Check must be lodged within five days of the child being placed in their care. If the carer and/or other relevant adult household members have not applied for a WWC Card within five days of the interim arrangement commencing, the child must be removed and the carer subsidy ceased.

  • A person who receives a Negative Notice or an Interim Negative Notice under the Working with Children (Criminal Record Checking) Act 2004 must not provide a care arrangement. Where a child has been placed with a family member or significant other in an interim placement and a Negative Notice is later returned, the child must be removed from the care arrangement.

  • Carer reviews must occur on an ongoing basis during monthly and quarterly visits. This information must then form a consolidated annual review report and be approved by the ADD/DD.

  • SCPWs must implement a rolling 11 month planning cycle so that carer reviews are completed within the required timeframe.

  • If staff become aware that a person has been charged with, or convicted of, a Class 1 or Class 2 offence, or any other offence that, in our assessment, makes them inappropriate to carry out child-related work, the Screening Unit must be notified.

  • A reassessment must occur if there is a change in the family member or significant other’s primary relationship, such as a new partner.​​​


Information and Instructions

  • Introduction
  • Identification and engagement
  • Assessment and approval
  • Ongoing competency building
  • Annual review
  • Reassessment of a family or significant other carer
  • Assessment of family and significant other carers applying to become foster carers
  • Naming assessment and review forms in Objective
  • Introduction

    Section 3 of the Children and Community Services Act 2004 (the Act) defines ‘Relative’.

    ‘Significant other’ is not defined in the Act but includes adults who:

    • would be included in a child’s ecomap
    • have known, and demonstrated an active interest in, the child and/or their family for a significant period, and
    • belong to the same cultural group.

    Identification and engagement

    Identification of potential family and significant other carers should, wherever possible, occur in conjunction with Signs of Safety meetings that assess and plan for the safety of a child. Potential family and significant other carers are identified by either the family or staff and should be brought into Signs of Safety meetings as soon as appropriate.

    Assessment starts at the point of identification of the potential carer and the decision that a child could be placed with them. Assessment is an ongoing process which should include building capacity to meet and enhance competencies.  The opportunity to do this will occur at every contact.

    Assessment of the family and significant other applicant is undertaken by a SCPW with input from the care team (case manager, team leader, Aboriginal practice leader, senior practice development officer), and is different to a foster carer assessment in that:

    • it considers the pre-existing relationship between the child, family and the applicant
    • the applicant is being assessed to care for a specific child, and
    • the applicant is usually identified by the child or their family.

    Assessment and approval

    ​All applicants must be assessed against the competencies set out in the Regulations.  The CEO must be satisfied that the individual:

    • is 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

    • is able to provide a safe living environment for a child

    • is able to work cooperatively with us, a child's family and other people when providing care for a child

    • is able to take responsibility for the development of their skills and competency as a carer, and

    • is a person of good character and repute.

    Assessment of applicants must be an ongoing process and should continue with every conversation the SCPW has with them. Assessment and capacity building with applicants should occur concurrently.  Each conversation should assist applicants to be aware of the things they need to do as carers, develop the necessary behaviours, and provide the SCPWs with a more complete picture about the extent to which the applicant meets the competencies.

    If you become aware that a child in the CEO's care is being charged rent or board by their carer, or that the carer is attempting to charge them rent or board, seek advice from Legal and Business Services.

    The provision of financial assistance to a carer to meet a child in the CEO's care needs must be funded by the Department and not the child.

    The values of respect, compassion, empathy and validation should be integral to these conversations.  The Family and Significant Other Care Handbook can help guide conversations with carers and help answer important questions they might have about the assessment process (in related resources).

    Assessment informs the support strategies which should be tailored for the child and applicant. The applicant may have assumed the role of carer unexpectedly, in response to an unforeseen crisis, and may require additional support and learning/training opportunities while they adjust to their new role. 

    A Carer Support Plan must be developed for every applicant to support them in acquiring additional skills and to assist them to build their capacity to meet the competencies. Access the Carer Support Plan in related resources.   

    The interim placement and family and significant other care assessment checklist, flowchart and Form 560 (in related resources) guide assessment requirements regarding:

    • the next steps following an interim placement, and 

    • the beginning steps for an assessment if a child has not yet been placed with the applicant as it is a planned care arrangement (for example the completion of Form 395 and the Application for a WWC Check).

    The number and type of contacts SCPWs have with applicants during assessments varies to suit individual needs. The competencies must be discussed with the applicant.

    Using the prompt questions and other forms of interviews, discussions and resources (e.g. ecomaps and genograms) with the carer, SCPWs must gather evidence to support the applicant's abilities against each of the competencies. Analysis of this evidence is what forms the assessment to be written into the Form 560. Resources have been developed to assist the assessment process including Practice Guidance for Swimming Pools, Spas and Other Bodies of Water, Safe Storage of Alcohol and Other Poisons and Considerations for Pet Assessments (in related resources).

    As part of the assessment process, SCPWs must contact the referees identified in Form 560 and complete Form 707 Referee Report for Foster, Family and Significant Other Carer Applicants. This must be done before the applicant is approved by the ADD/DD.

    When an applicant has indicated they have health issues, complete Form 718 Health and Lifestyle Self-Assessment for Foster Care Applicant and 711 Authority to Release Medical Information.  SCPWs can then request a medical report and discuss any concerns with the medical practitioner, including mental health and other specialists.

    If criminal record checking reveals any adverse information, the Screening Unit will request the Authorised Officer named on the applicant's Record Check Consent Form (Form 395) to discuss this with the applicant and complete a report for the ADD/DD. After considering the report, the ADD/DD decide whether the applicant's assessment should continue.

    As part of the assessment, the SCPW must develop a recommendation that the applicant be approved as a family or significant other carer (for the care arrangement to continue if the child is already in their care), or for the applicant not to be approved as a family or significant other carer (the child to be placed in an alternative care arrangement if the child is already in their care).

    This report must be shared with the applicant to discuss any issues and provide clarification where necessary.

    The assessment report must be submitted to the ADD/DD for approval.  The SCPW advises the applicant of the outcome verbally, and then the applicant is advised in writing by the ADD/DD.

    A final decision regarding the approval of the applicant as a family or significant other carer must be made within a maximum of six months of the commencement of the interim placement or assessment.  

    If the applicant is approved as a carer, the SCPW must update the applicant's status in the 'Approve and Manage Carer' screen in Assist.

    The carer must be provided with ongoing support, learning and development to continue to build or enhance competencies.

    Once the applicant has been approved, the SCPW must again discuss the Care Team Approach Practice Framework and make sure the carer has a copy (it should be given during the assessment process).


    Ongoing competency building

    Every foster and family carer must have a Carer Support Plan, and the plan must be reviewed annually.

    After approval, you should have contact with the approved family or significant other carers on a minimum monthly basis. The information you gather from carers during your contact should be collated and used to inform the annual review process and review of the Carer Support Plan.  When reviewing the Carer Support Plan, use the Carer Support Plan template in related resources. 

    The focus of your contact with carer should centre around the care team approach, relationship building with the child and carer, and the carer's cultural awareness and ability to maintain the child's cultural connections. This process should build carer's capacity through tailored support and learning and development, so that the care arrangement is a safe and positive experience for the child.

    Record conversations with the carer as case notes or using the Signs of Safety three column template.  These notes inform your assessment of the ongoing supports required, learning and development opportunities, who can best provide learning and support, as well as the annual review process.

    You should be clear about your role in supporting carers and determine what this will involve for each carer.  

    For more information refer to chapter 3.1 Foster carer review process


    Annual review

    The annual review of the family or significant other carer is informed by the continuing conversations that have been occurring monthly and is part of an ongoing process. This involves recording key issues in the Signs of Safety three columns and highlights the areas for further support, capacity building and learning and development (refer to Form 560a Annual Review Family and Significant Other Carer in related resources). A copy is provided to the carer and the original document placed on the carer file.

    Information recorded from ongoing contacts in case notes, quarterly reports, Signs of Safety mappings, care plan meetings and the Carer Support Plan should be brought together to form the basis of the annual review and report.

    All carers must have a carer review once every 12 months (as a minimum requirement). To assist forward planning and for reviews of approved carers to be completed within the required timeframe, districts must implement a rolling 11 month planning cycle. This cycle is designed to support a sustainable and systematic approach to all carers having an annual review.

    Using this model, all planning requirements are scheduled to occur between January and November of each calendar year. This should be documented in a letter to the carers at the beginning of the cycle, detailing the future meeting date for the annual review.

    The carer review provides an opportunity for the carer and their family to give feedback on the experience of providing care, what is working well, what we and the carer might be worried about, and what needs to happen. It also provides the opportunity for the SCPW to check that the carer and all other adult household members have a current WWC Card.

    The annual review formally affirms whether or not the carer is achieving and maintaining their competencies as a carer. This should also be reflected in the Carer Support Plan, for example,  what is working well, what the carer needs further support or assistance with.

    Once the carer review process has been completed, Assist must be updated to reflect the completion of the process.


    Reassessment of a family or significant other carer

    If a family or significant other carer has withdrawn after a child has left their care and we are seeking to return that child or place another child with them, the carer must be reassessed according to the family or significant other carer assessment process.

    Reassessment must also be undertaken when:

    • an allegation concerning the standard of care has been reported and investigated, and the outcome was unsubstantiated but concerns remain
    • an allegation has been substantiated
    • a number of less serious concerns regarding the standard of care arise
    • there is a change in the carer’s primary relationship such as a new partner, separation from a partner or death of a partner. If the review identifies that the carer has a spouse or de-facto partner who has moved into the home, the spouse or de-facto partner must be screened and assessed as a carer, and will require a WWC Card, and/or
    • a carer’s situation has changed significantly and this affects their ability to provide safe and appropriate care. This may include the death of a family member or close friend.

    The extent of assessment required should be determined by the situation that led to the reassessment being required. The reassessment must determine whether the carer meets the competencies, and must be approved by the assistant district director/​​district director.


    Assessment of family and significant other carers applying to become foster carers

    If a family or significant other carer applies to become a foster carer, the process should proceed as for any other applicant – for more information refer to Chapter 3.1: Foster carer application and assessment.  Where the proposed family carers are a couple who reside together, and both will be providing care for the children, they should be assessed as joint applicants.

    The family carer assessment and subsequent reviews will be considered as part of the evidence provided for the foster carer assessment. The assessment process will include additional assessment considerations regarding their suitability to care for children who are not related to them.


    Naming assessment and review forms in Objective

    Forms 560 (for the assessment) and 560a (for the review) must be saved in Objective under the following naming conventions.

    Form 560 – for the assessment:

    • Family or significant other carer assessment – Urgent placement (list child’s surname and child’s first name)
    • Family or significant other carer assessment – Continuation (list child’s surname and child’s first name)
    • Family or significant other carer assessment – Outcome (list child’s surname and child’s first name).

    Form 560a – for the review:

    • Family or significant other carer review (list child’s surname and child’s first name).