Care teams - advice

This advice provides additional information regarding the establishment and ongoing participation in care teams for children in out-of-home care.

Introduction

See procedure Care teams for tasks that must be undertaken.

When a child is placed in out-of-home care there are a number of people who share responsibility for doing the things parents generally do for their own children. The purpose of a care team is to manage the day-to-day care and best interests of the child in accordance with the overall case plan.

These caring tasks encompass a number of practical details and activities involving day-to-day coordination of schedules. A specific care management focus is required to ensure these practical tasks are much more detailed than case planning processes which focus on the high-level decisions that need to be made concerning the child.

Definition of care team

A care team is defined as the group of people who jointly care for a child while the child is in out-of-home care.

A care team is required for every child in out-of-home care, except for permanent care and adoption placements.

Role of the care team

The care team focuses specifically on the day-to-day care issues, and as such is a sub-group of all those providing for the protection, care and wellbeing of the child.

A CSO providing a placement or kinship placement support is responsible for establishing and leading the care team.

Child protection is responsible for establishing and leading the care team if:

  • the placement is provided by the department
  • a kinship placement is not receiving either placement establishment support or case contracted support from a CSO.

Membership of the care team

The members of a care team are the people who need to work together to jointly determine and do the things that parents ordinarily do to provide good care for a specific child in out-of-home care. A care team should always include:

  • the child’s CSO based care manager (who leads the care team)
  • the child’s case manager
  • the child’s primary carer(s)
  • the child’s parents (unless there is a very good reason not to include them)
  • any other adults who play a significant role in caring for the child.

The child’s CSO based care manager is identified by the CSO and may be a placement agency case worker, team leader, residential care house supervisor, kinship service worker or the CSO based contracted case manager (if the case has been contracted to the CSO providing the placement).

In relation to residential care, the house supervisor (or equivalent title) – the staff member responsible for the overall care provided in the residential care household – must be a member of each child or young person's care team in the unit, in addition to the CSO based care manager if that is a different person.

If the child is in a departmental placement or a kinship placement and not receiving kinship support from a CSO, the child protection case manager is also the child’s care manager. The child’s case manager will be the allocated child protection practitioner or the CSO based contracted case manager (who would generally also be the CSO based care manager) or the CSO based case manager (if the child is not a child protection client, as may be the case for a child with a disability).

The child’s primary carer will be the child’s foster carer/s, key residential worker/s, kinship carer/s, or lead tenant/s.

Other adults who play a significant role in caring for the child may be an Aboriginal community member, grandparent, aunt, respite carer, Take Two practitioner, or disability practitioner.

It is important that the care team for an Aboriginal child includes at least one person from their Aboriginal community, wherever possible.

Other people may become members of an out-of-home care team depending on the specific issues and needs of the child, remembering the care team should only include the people who are determining and doing things a parent would generally do. The care team should be kept as small as possible to be effective.

The care team members must consult and work closely with mainstream and specialist services including schools, teachers, educational psychologists and tutors, health professionals, mental health professionals, disability professionals, drug and alcohol professionals, therapeutic specialists, sexual health professionals, police, youth justice workers and any other people involved in the child’s life in the same way as good parents caring for a vulnerable child with complex needs would.

A child is not a member of their own care team because a care team comprises the people who are responsible for the child’s good care. However children in care must always have a say and be listened to about the things which affect them. Therefore care teams (like good parents) must involve the child or young person age appropriately in the processes they use for making decisions about their care.

Care team processes

Care management must be undertaken in accordance with the overall case plan using Looking After Children processes. Looking After Children records comprise the required care management section of the case plan for a child in out-of-home care (including providing the required format for documenting leaving care and transition planning). The Looking After Children records comprise:

  • Essential Information Record
  • Care and Placement Plan
    • 0-14 years or
    • 15+ Care and Transition Plan
  • Assessment and Progress Records
    • under 12 months
    • 1-2 years
    • 3-4 years
    • 5-9 years
    • 10-14 years
    • 15 years and older
  • Review of the Care and Placement Plan.

The Looking After Children framework considers the child's needs and outcomes in seven life areas which cover the critical areas identified from outcomes research, namely the child's:

  • health
  • emotional and behavioural development
  • education
  • family and social relationships
  • identity (including cultural identity)
  • social presentation
  • self-care skills

See Looking After Children.

Care teams do not need to have formal meetings – instead they must have regular discussions and conversations, and these must occur as frequently as is needed to ensure good day-to-day care. Care team members must have enough face-to-face contact with each other to enable all members to work together effectively, especially at the beginning of the placement. However, some discussions and conversations can be quite effectively carried out over the telephone or via email, especially when care team members have developed good working relationships with each other.

Although care teams do not keep minutes, they must use the Looking After Children records, which should be seen as living documents which are regularly updated.

The CSO based care manager records actions, responsibilities and timelines required to collaboratively provide good day-to-day care of the child or young person and prepare the child for adulthood in the Looking After Children Care and Placement Plan (for children up to the age of 14 years) or the 15+ Care and Transition Plan. This care plan is a sub-section of the overall case plan and it must be kept up-to-date and reviewed at least every six months.

All care team members must have a copy of the current case plan and care plan so members are clear about actions, responsibilities and timelines. A copy of the care plan should always be given to child protection so it can be attached to the planning component of the child’s case record in CRIS.

Dispute resolution in care teams

Care team members are expected to work together using a problem-solving approach. The care manager’s role in leading the care team includes working to resolve disputes as they arise. If care team members are unable to resolve disputes despite the best efforts of the care manager, the matter should be referred to the case planner for resolution.

Considerations for good practice

Care team members have a vital role to play in providing good care for children who cannot live with their own parents. It is critical that everyone works collaboratively to:

  • put the best interests of the child first
  • get to know the child well enough to know how best to involve them in decision-making processes and ensure their wishes and views are taken into account
  • develop the skills for providing trauma informed practical care
  • establish or maintain the child’s connections to their Aboriginal community and culture, where applicable
  • ensure children from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds have their cultural and religious needs met
  • respect each other and acknowledge the skill and expertise of other care team members
  • keep each other informed about what is happening
  • ensure everyone has the opportunity to contribute to plans and decisions  made about a child
  • understand each other's own role and responsibilities.

Victorian Foster Carer Charter

The charter has been developed to support foster carers to understand their responsibilities and rights, including the expectation to be supported and included as valued members of the care team. It highlights the significant role and unique position of foster carers to share views and insights into the needs of the child or young person in their care.

The charter sets out the importance of collaborative working relationships between foster carers, foster care agencies, and the department to achieve the best possible outcome for children and young people in out-of-home care.

Child protection practitioners are encouraged to refer regularly to the charter to understand their responsibilities in supporting foster carers where appropriate.

See chapter 1 of the Victorian Handbook for Foster Carers, located on the department’s internet site.

Involving the child

Children in care must always have a say and be listened to about all the things that affect them. Therefore care teams (like good parents) are expected to involve the child age appropriately in the processes they use for making decisions about their care. Each member of the care team should try to get to know the child they are caring for well enough to understand how best to engage them in these processes at any particular time.

The child should attend care team discussions about particular issues if that is the best way of ensuring that their views and wishes are ascertained and considered by the whole care team. However, participation in care team discussions will not usually be appropriate for younger children. Some children will not want to meet with the whole care team at once or may not want to be involved in another meeting process. In these circumstances, always arrange for one of the members of the care team to discuss the issues being considered with the child individually to ensure that the child’s views about the issues are considered. Remember to then follow up with the child to advise them of the result.

Make sure that each child or young person is given progressively greater responsibility for making more of their own decisions as they become older to help them prepare for successful transition to adulthood and leaving care.

At the same time, be aware that there will be times when the care team (like good parents) will have to make a decision in the child's best interests that the child may not like – and be prepared to help the child accept that decision.

There will also be times when the care team has to discuss how to act in the child’s best interests without the child being present for that particular discussion. Some matters may be too painful for them to have to have to hear or go through again. Some matters may relate to system problems or resourcing difficulties which the child should not have to worry about. However, any direct impacts or consequences that the child may experience as a result of such discussions should subsequently be explained and discussed age appropriately with the child in accordance with their best interests.

Involving parents and extended family members

When a child is in out-of-home care their parents and extended family members still have a key role in their life. Maintaining or establishing as positive a connection as possible with parents and extended family is clearly important for successful family reunification, which is the goal of most case plans. An ongoing positive connection to family is also vitally important for a child’s identity, social and emotional development, for a child in long-term care after it has been determined that they cannot be reunified.

When family reunification is the permanency objective, it is important to encourage parents and any other significant family members (such as a grandparent, uncle and aunt) who are closely involved in the child’s life, to actively participate in the child’s care team.

Expect and encourage the child’s parents to be part of their child’s care team, unless this is not safe or practical – until the permanency objective changes. 

Although parents will generally still be expected to have some ongoing contact with a child in long-term care, it is not generally considered appropriate for them to be involved in the child’s day-to-day care as a member of their care team. However, parents who have voluntarily but permanently relinquished the care of a child with a disability via a Child Care Agreement process are expected to have an appropriate ongoing role in their child’s care.

When parents are part of a care team, they should be seen as an important member of the team – not as the care team’s clients. This means the care team should focus on how the child’s needs can best be met while they are in care, and not on whether the child should be in out-of-home care. Whether and when the child goes home are case planning decisions – which should also be discussed with parents and extended family members, possibly by using family group conferencing and family mediation processes – but not at the same time or in the same way as the day-to-day practical care arrangements for the child need to be discussed and managed.

Ensure there are a number of opportunities for parents and key family members who are care team members to have a say in the practical decisions being made about how the child’s needs will be met while the child is living away from their family. This should include them sharing the care team’s collaborative responsibility for arranging contact visits in accordance with any court conditions, being part of school based student support groups, and being consulted about medical treatments.

Some parents may not be able to participate in face-to-face care team discussion because of geographic separation, mental illness or being in prison. Assist them to participate by mail, email, telephone or video conferencing or by passing on information individually through one member of the care team. Encourage and value the contribution they can make to their child’s care when they share family stories, key information about childhood illnesses or other personal information. Arrange to give parents and key family members copies of school reports, photos and other relevant information about their child’s progress.

For children in kinship care, engaging parents and extended family members from all sides of the family in care team processes may be particularly challenging. Consider drawing on practice approaches such as family-led decision making and family mediation to support care team processes in these circumstances.

Related procedures

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