Permanent care for Aboriginal children - advice

This advice provides additional information regarding permanent care orders for Aboriginal children.

Introduction

See procedure Permanent care orders for tasks that must be undertaken.

Aboriginal communities have a number of concerns about permanent care and particularly placements with non-Aboriginal families. Many are concerned that children placed in permanent care with non-Aboriginal families will loose their connectedness to their Aboriginal culture and community.

Practitioners can go some way to allaying these concerns by demonstrating a sensitivity and willingness to learn, and in particular by paying careful attention to the need to support children's continuing connection to family, culture and community through, for instance, careful attention to cultural plans.

The Court cannot make a permanent care order in relation to an Aboriginal child unless it has received a report from an Aboriginal agency recommending the making of the order. In addition, a cultural plan must have been prepared for the child.

Section 321(1)(ca) CYFA requires a standard condition to be included on a permanent care order to the effect that a person caring for a child, must in the best interests of the child, and unless the Court otherwise provides, preserve the child’s identity and connection to the child’s cultural of origin and the child relationships with the child’s birth family.

Aboriginal child specialist advice support service (ACSASS)

ACSASS provides consultation and advice for child protection practitioners involved with Aboriginal families from the point of a report being made to child protection through to case closure. ACSASS assists child protection practitioners or A&PC teams to comply with the Aboriginal Child Placement Principle and to meet the requirements under the CYFA regarding decision making and care arrangements for Aboriginal children. The ACSASS team will be involved in ongoing planning for Aboriginal children while they are in out-of-home care, including the decision as to whether a permanent care placement is appropriate.

VACCA permanent care program

The VACCA permanent care program has a specific role when the permanent placement of an Aboriginal child is being considered. Good practice requires child protection or the Adoption & Permanent Care (A&PC) team will not lodge a permanent care application with the court in respect of an Aboriginal child without having received a permanent care cultural assessment report from VACCA's permanent care program, which recommends the placement identified by the department.

Case planning for permanent care

The process for deciding on a permanency objective for an Aboriginal child needs to accord with the additional decision making principles for Aboriginal children - refer to s. 11(h)(i) and s. 12 of the CYFA.

When permanent care is being considered, the case plan must have specific regard to s. 13 of the CYFA, which sets out the Aboriginal Child Placement Principle and under s. 323(1)(c) CYFA, the Secretary needs to be satisfied that a permanent care order will accord with this principle.

The Aboriginal Child Placement Principle governs placement of Aboriginal children outside their immediate family. In order, the priority placement should be:

  • with the child's extended family or relatives or where this is not possible with other extended family or relatives
  • with an Aboriginal family from the local community and within close geographic proximity to the child’s natural family
  • with an Aboriginal family from another Aboriginal community
  • as a last resort, with a non-Aboriginal family living in close proximity to the child’s natural family.

An Aboriginal family-led decision making (AFLDM) meeting should be convened and conducted in accordance with program guidelines in all instances where the placement of an Aboriginal child is being considered.

ACSASS has an ongoing role in the planning process for the child while they are in out-of-home care. In situations where an Aboriginal child cannot return home to live with their parents and a PCO is being considered, the ACSASS team must be involved in this decision. See Placing Aboriginal children in out-of-home care - advice

Requirements for the permanent placement of an Aboriginal child

Case plan

Where a case plan has a permanency objective under s.167 of the CYFA of permanent care for an Aboriginal child, the child protection practitioner or A&PC team must contact the manager of the VACCA permanent care team and include them in the case planning process. The involvement of the VACCA permanent care team is in addition to the continued involvement of ACSASS.

Following the decision that the permanency objective is permanent care, the case planner must write to inform the Chief Executive Officer, VACCA and formally request VACCA's permanent care program to provide a report for the Court.

Information provided to the Chief Executive Officer, VACCA must include information about the AFLDM meeting. Copies of the request and the case plan should also be forwarded to the permanent care manager, VACCA.

Report to the court and cultural plan

When the decision has been made to seek a PCO the child protection practitioner or A&PC team is required to organise a meeting with the VACCA permanent care program to discuss the development of a permanent care cultural assessment report and to negotiate the allocation of tasks.

VACCA is the Aboriginal agency funded to provide a report to the Court under s.323(2)(a). VACCA's permanent care program has a specific role of recommending or not recommending the making of a PCO for an Aboriginal child through the development of a permanent care cultural assessment report.

It is important to note that the permanent care cultural assessment report is not an assessment of suitability of the carer. It will assess the carer's capacity to keep the child connected to their family, culture and community.

Once the VACCA permanent care program has completed the cultural assessment of the proposed carers, their internal assessment panel considers the report and recommendations. VACCA will then send a letter to child protection or the A&PC team with their advice and the recommendation on the making of a PCO. The VACCA permanent care program then submits their assessment report with a recommendation to the court and provides a copy to child protection or A&PC team.

In completing the report to court the practitioner must have regard to the information required by the Court. Section 323 CYFA states that court must not make a permanent care order for an Aboriginal child unless -

  1. the disposition report states that -
    • no suitable placement can be found with an Aboriginal person or persons and
    • the decision to seek the order has been made in consultation with the child, where appropriate and
    • the Secretary is satisfied that the order sought will accord with the Aboriginal child placement principle and
  2. the court has received a report from an Aboriginal agency that recommends the making of the order and
  3. a cultural plan has been prepared for the child.

Recommendation or non-recommendation of the PCO

Where the VACCA permanent care program recommends the making of the order and providing all other assessment considerations are positive, child protection or the A&PC team should proceed to lodge the application for a PCO at the Children's Court.

If the VACCA permanent care program does not recommend the placement, the Court cannot make a PCO in respect of an Aboriginal child. Child protection or the A&PC team is required to arrange another AFLDM meeting, with VACCA in attendance, to explore other options for the child. The above process is repeated in full if the permanency objective remains permanent care.

Considerations for good practice

Aboriginal communities have a number of concerns about permanent care placements with non-Aboriginal families. Many are concerned that children placed in permanent care with non-Aboriginal families will loose their connectedness to their Aboriginal community.

Practitioners can go some way to allaying these concerns by demonstrating a sensitivity and willingness to learn, and in particular by paying careful attention to the need to support children's continuing connection to family, culture and community through, for instance, the use of cultural support plans.

Good practice requires child protection or the A&PC team not to lodge a permanent care application with the court in respect of an Aboriginal child without having received a permanent care cultural assessment report from VACCA's permanent care program, which recommends the placement identified by the department.

Related procedures

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