The Out-of-Home Care program provides care to children and young people who are not able to live at home safely.
They may have experienced significant harm, are at risk of abuse or their families might be unable to care for them because of disability, drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence or mental illness.
To remove a child from their home, Community Services must have sufficient evidence to satisfy the Children’s Court that the action is necessary for the child’s wellbeing, or must have a parent’s consent to provide support to the family.
The Children’s Court ultimately decides if the parental responsibility for a child or young person will be placed with the Minister for Community Services, with another person or, in some cases, shared between the Minister and another person.
Out-of-home care is provided under the terms of The Children and Young Person (Care and Protection) Act 1998.
Children and young people may be placed with authorised carers (e.g. relatives or foster parents); in residential care or in independent living arrangements.
The Out-of-Home Care program also provides related support services (e.g. assistance with family restoration, respite care and adoption).
why is this program important?
The Out-of-Home Care program provides children and young people who are unable to live at home with a safe living arrangement and support services geared to their developmental needs and circumstances.
For example the program can assist children and young people who need care for a short period of time as well as children and young people who need permanent care.
It can also provide intensive support services for high needs children and transitional services to assist young people leaving care.
The client group for Out-of-Home Care includes children from birth and young people leaving care up to the age of 18 years.
After-care support may also be arranged or provided to young people who are discharged from care at 15 years or over, potentially until they reach the age of 25.
As at 30 June 2010, there were 17,400 children and young people in out-of-home care in NSW, of whom a third were Aboriginal.
what does the program deliver?
Out-of-home care services range from family restoration, general and intensive foster care, residential care, wraparound services including respite, supported independent living services, leaving and aftercare and adoption.
The placements can be emergency/crisis, short term, long term and permanent.
The program also includes supported care arrangements, which provide financial assistance and support to carers where there is a risk of entry into out-of-home care.
The most common form of out-of-home care is general foster care. Foster carers take on the role of a parent to provide a safe and nurturing family environment for children and young people whether for a short or long period of time.
Foster carers need to be authorised by Community Services or by an accredited out-of-home care agency.
Relative or kinship care is the second most common form. It refers to foster care provided by a person who is a relative or a close friend, or a member of the child or young person's community. Kinship carers can help children and young people stay connected to their family.
In line with Community Services policy, a significant number of Aboriginal children and young people are now being placed in relative or kinship care.
General foster care and kinship care between them account for around 75 per cent of service delivery. Other forms of care are targeted towards children and young people with particular needs and include:
- Family preservation/Intensive support services work with children and young people at risk of being placed in out-of-home care. Services are targeted towards two groups: children aged 0 to 15 at risk of being removed from their family, and young people aged 12 to 15 who are living independently, but not in out-of-home care.
Services are aimed of resolving issues in the family so that the children do not need to be placed in out-of-home care, or can be restored to their family. Services may include case management, intensive counseling and home visits.
- Supported independent living is for young people aged 15 to 17 years with moderate to high support needs, who will eventually transition to independent living. Accommodation is arranged where the young person lives independently, and is supported by staff who visit regularly but do not live on site.
- Supported family group homes provide out of home care in a family-like community setting for a group of 4 to 6 children or young people, with carers employed to provide live-in full-time care.
- Residential accommodation is for young people aged 12 to 17 who for various reasons are not suited to foster care. Accommodation is set up for a small number of young people, with staff rostered to provide continual care.
- Intensive residential treatment is residential accommodation for young people aged 12 to 17 who have more complex and high support needs, and therefore need more intensive therapeutic support than in standard residential accommodation or foster care.
- Therapeutic secure care is a placement option for a very small number of children and young people, who need intensive care and support because of their extreme life threatening behaviour.
- Wraparound support services refer to intensive case management for young people in care, where a range of services are accessed, such as psychological or counseling services, health services, and educational support that meet the assessed needs of each young person.
- Intensive foster care is a type of foster care for children and young people who have higher support needs, or for groups of children, such as siblings, who together require more complex care arrangements.
how does it work?
Around fifty non-government organisations are funded to deliver 98 out-of-home care services in NSW.
All organisations providing out-of-home care must be accredited by the NSW Children’s Guardian, which involves meeting standards, complying with quality assurance processes and participating in case audits.
Non-government agencies provide placement, or accommodation, and support services to children and young people, authorised carers and families.
These services may range from temporary and crisis care to long term permanent care and can include foster care, residential care and individualised arrangements.
Each child or young person who is in out of home care is supported by a caseworker, from Community Services or a funded non-government organisation, who works with them to provide the services that will be best for them.
what funding is attached to this program?
In 2010/11, the Out-of-Home Care program will receive $233m.
what’s happening in 2011/12
The NSW Government is currently considering a range of strategies to improve the out-of-home care service system.
Key links and resources