Questions and answers

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Overview

The Permanency Support Program is the name for changes we’re making to child protection and out-of-home care from 1 October 2017.

The main change is a shift from a ‘placement-based’ service system to a child- and family-centred service system that focuses on individual needs and helping families to change.

This aims to give more children and young people safe and stable homes in which they can thrive, and reduce the number of children who enter or remain in statutory care for long periods.

The changes have four main components:

  • permanency and early intervention principles built into casework
  • working intensively with birth parents and families to support change
  • a new approach to the recruitment, development and support of guardians, adoptive parents and other carers
  • Intensive Therapeutic Care system reform.

Under the Permanency Support Program we're continuing to work with Aboriginal service providers to ensure Aboriginal children maintain a close connection with their families, community and culture.

FACS, in partnership with AbSec, is committed to strengthening the capacity of Aboriginal service providers so that they are better equipped to keep Aboriginal children safe and cared for, in their families or with kin.

This includes expanding the Aboriginal workforce across different supports and services that vulnerable children, young people and their families and kin might require, to enhance prevention, preservation and restoration to families and kin where possible.

All service providers must work with Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal family and kin to support family preservation in the first instance, using culturally safe evidence-based tools like Family Group Conferencing.

Where restoration is not possible, guardianship can be an important pathway to permanency for some Aboriginal children, as adoption is not a preferred outcome.

FACS, in partnership with AbSec, is developing the pilot for an Aboriginal guardianship support model so it’s easier to achieve stable, loving and permanent homes with family and kin through guardianship.

The Permanency Support Program is based on evidence from other jurisdictions.

In Illinois, New York and Tennessee, out-of-home care populations dropped significantly through the use of performance based contracts for NGO partners, a continuum of supports, and a focus on permanency.

We’ve also modelled the Permanency Support Program on recent changes to contracting in the Australian Capital Territory.

The Permanency Support Program originated from a number of initiatives to increase exits, reduce entries and ensure children and young people receive quality services and supports.

This includes the introduction of performance- and outcomes-based contracts to encourage our NGO partners to focus their efforts on achieving safety, permanency and wellbeing outcomes, and ensure that the services they provide align with the permanent placement principles introduced into the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 on 1 October 2014.

The Independent Review of Out-of-Home Care (‘Tune Review’) in 2016 confirmed that these initiatives should set the groundwork for a broader reform to:

  • better fit the system to the needs of children and young people
  • enhance collaboration between FACS, NGOs and families and kin
  • invest more up front to support families and kin keep their children at home.

The Permanency Support Program draws all these objectives together under the one reform.

Links to other reforms and initiatives

Targeted Early Intervention (TEI) reaches vulnerable families earlier in the continuum of care than the Permanency Support Program. The permanency reforms generally apply to services and supports after a report that a child or young person is, or may be, at risk of significant harm from abuse or neglect.

The reform of TEI programs (2014/15 to 2017/18) is addressing the increasing number of children reported at risk of significant harm by intervening earlier.

The Safe Home for Life reforms, announced in October 2014, strengthened the child protection system through legislative change, new policy and practice, and a redesign of how technology is used in child protection.

Permanency placement principles and Guardianship Orders were introduced for the first time, alongside a renewed focus on open adoption.

Since these reforms started, out-of-home care has become a better service delivery system. While these reforms have been helping children and their families by giving them more stability and certainty, there is still much more work to be done to achieve permanency and enhance wellbeing as part of the Permanency Support Program.

The following features of the Permanency Support Program are a part of the whole-of-government vision captured in the Their Futures Matter reforms:

  • introducing child- and family-centred support packages and funding models
  • recommissioning intensive therapeutic care, and recontracting foster care services, and Aboriginal foster care services.

These key changes to the out-of-home care service system will position us to successfully deliver other reforms as set out in Their Futures Matter.

The Permanency Support Program builds quality outcomes into the service system – including through our NGO partners’ contracts.

The Quality Assurance Framework (QAF) is a tool to continuously assess, assure and improve the quality of the services provided, and the results achieved, by NSW out-of-home care providers.

When fully implemented over the next few years, the QAF will provide both FACS and NGO caseworkers with access to reliable and comprehensive information about the safety, permanency and wellbeing of children and young people in statutory care.

While we already collect significant data on safety and permanency, the information we have about wellbeing has room for improvement. The QAF will resolve this by providing a central point for holding consistent, comprehensive and integrated data for each child or young person.

Casework practitioners will be able to access and use this data in casework to determine the outcomes of focus for each child in statutory care.

At the moment, the QAF is being trialled to determine the changes we need to make to systems, process and practices to support implementation.

An infographic of the QAF is available to download here.

Yes. ChildStory will be a vital tool for case management, collaboration with sector partners, children, young people and families. ChildStory will also allow us to centrally track placements and vacancies across NSW.

We expect that once ChildStory Partner Community is up and running, NGO service providers will spend less time on contract administration. They’ll be able to access contracting information and payments and, depending on the services they provide, may also benefit from online placement requests, referrals and case information, as well as easy-to-use, pre-populated online forms.

The NSW Therapeutic Care Framework (TCF) provides FACS, its NGO partners, and carers with guidance on providing the best possible individualised Therapeutic Care to support vulnerable children and young people. The TCF has trauma-informed care at its centre.

The TCF is consistent with major changes FACS is making under the Permanency Support Program, which focuses on recovery from trauma so that children and young people spend less time in intensive out-of-home care services and achieve permanent homes where they can thrive.

In particular, FACS is introducing Intensive Therapeutic Care (ITC) to replace the current residential care system.

The new ITC model outlines how the assessment, intensive therapy and supports for recovery from trauma for children over 12 years with complex or high needs should be delivered in line with the TCF.

Changes for the sector

Yes. We have reviewed the Case Management Policy and Operational Rules and Practice Guidance. We are also working with AbSec to develop an Aboriginal Case Management Policy.

No. Under the Permanency Support Program, FACS and NGOs each have a slightly different focus and set of responsibilities. It means drawing in the right people at the right time during case planning and review, including our partner agencies like the National Disability Insurance Agency, Health, Education and Juvenile Justice.

The Permanency Support Program requires FACS and NGO caseworkers to collaborate on cases until the case plan goal is decided.

FACS and NGOs also work collaboratively in reviewing progress made against the case plan goal to ensure achievement of goals is realistic within the two year timeframe.

This approach supports better collaboration between NGO caseworkers and FACS caseworkers in developing the agreed case plan goal, and identifying services to achieve a permanent home for that child.

The Permanency Support Program means significant changes for how we fund our NGO partners. Some NGOs are involved in a tender process for the recommissioning of Intensive Therapeutic Care (ITC), which will replace the current residential care system.

Others have been involved in a Single Invited Proposal process for the recontracting of foster care, and the recontracting of Aboriginal foster care. New contracts are in place for the period 1 October 2017 to 30 June 2022.

These processes set out our new expectations of the NGO sector, such as:

  • working towards permanency from the time a child or young person enters care, or as soon as possible after a review of circumstances for those already in care
  • accepting referrals for immediate placements
  • for foster care service providers, running a proactive foster carer recruitment strategy
  • collaborating more closely with FACS and other services and supports to achieve the best possible outcomes for children and young people.

See the fact sheet about what is changing for our NGO partners from 1 October 2017 on the Permanency Support Program resources page.

Under the Permanency Support Program, funding packages and targeted support packages focus on the individual needs of every child or young person, rather than their placement.

This means greater flexibility for the sector in the provision of services to achieve case plan outcomes, including providing a greater scope of services throughout the continuum of care – or, in other words, throughout a child’s journey.

It also leads to better collaboration between FACS caseworkers and NGO caseworkers – and with families and kin. FACS is also committed to reducing administrative burden for the sector through a streamlined financial management process.

New roles to support permanency

To support both FACS and NGO practitioners with these changes, 52 new Permanency Coordinators are coming on board in FACS districts.

Permanency Coordinators oversee the allocation of resources, connection of children and families to the services they need to achieve permanency within two years, and quality assurance around the implementation of initial case plan and other packages.

A new approach to the recruitment, development and support of guardians, adoptive parents and other carers

Together with the sector, FACS is developing a strategy for:

  • recruiting adoptive parents who can provide loving, permanent homes, and carers who can provide emergency and respite care, and support preservation and restoration
  • supporting and developing new and existing guardians, adoptive parents and foster, kinship and relative carers.

This strategy aims to clarify the roles that people can play to support the children and families involved in the child protection system.

When it comes to preservation, restoration, emergency and respite carers, the focus will be on ensuring children and families are supported close to home and within their existing community wherever possible.

Where children cannot safely be restored home, the strategy will aim to recruit guardians and adoptive parents to give more children and young people a loving, permanent home for life.

Intermediary organisation for best practice therapeutic care

To support the new Intensive Therapeutic Care (ITC) service model, which will replace residential care, FACS will appoint an intermediary organisation to ensure the ITC model functions in line with its intent. The intermediary will support providers with:

  • expert advice and consultancy services
  • a knowledge bank of evidence-based therapeutic care
  • knowledge sharing across the sector
  • learning and development activities
  • a Community of Practice function for Therapeutic Specialists.

The information NGOs need

We’re committed to providing NGOs with the information they need to implement the changes and achieve positive outcomes for vulnerable children and young people.

We’ll be providing regular, clear, concise and practical information via peak bodies so that their members know exactly what the Permanency Support Program means for them. This includes advice about what work we should be doing more of, what areas need a renewed focus, and what we need to do differently.

Yes. FACS will be held accountable to the same standards, indicators and data as NGOs. This will happen at regular review points and through clear governance mechanisms to demonstrate that FACS is meeting its responsibilities under the Permanency Support Program.

Changes for vulnerable children and young people, and their families, kin and and carers

Over time, we hope to see fewer long-term carers in NSW, as more children return home safely, and we work with carers who want to adopt. However, foster, kinship and relative carers remain critical to a child’s pathway to permanency and we need good carers now more than ever so that children and families can be supported close to home and within their existing community wherever possible.

Among other things, foster, kinship and relative carers will play an essential role in:

  • supporting children and young people in immediate need
  • restoration as we work with families to return children and young people home safely
  • providing vulnerable families with some time out to strengthen their parenting.

In addition to people who can support preservation or restoration, or provide emergency or respite care, we also want to give more children and young people the chance to have a loving, permanent home for life. Guardians and adoptive parents can provide this stability for children and young people who cannot live with their families.

For those wishing to adopt a child or young person, the NSW Government is committed to streamlining the process involved. A means-tested adoption allowance will also help those who require financial assistance to meet the child’s needs.

To keep more Aboriginal children and young people with their families or kin, we will also support Aboriginal carers to consider guardianship where restoration is not possible.

We're moving 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 permanency within two years.

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're working 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 are allowing FACS caseworkers to build better relationships with children, families and NGOs 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.

More

To find out more information about the Permanency Support Program, email permanencysupport@facs.nsw.gov.au

To report suspected child abuse or neglect, call the Child Protection Helpline on 132 111 (24 hours/7 days)