The term 'out of home care' refers to children and young people who are placed in statutory out of home care because they are in need of care and protection that is necessary for their safety, welfare and wellbeing. It is sometimes also referred to as foster care.
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.
Children in out of home care are placed with relatives, kin, foster parents, adoptive parents, in residential care or independent living arrangements. Community Services, tries to keep children with their families wherever possible and helps parents regain care of their children if removed.
Children and young people stay in care until they can safely return home or until they turn 18 years. This may be a temporary, medium or long-term living arrangement. If they are not able to return to their birth parents, Community Services seeks to place them in relative or kinship care. This form of care places a child or young person with a relative or someone they already know.
When relative or kinship care is not available, Community Services, through its out of home care program and funded non government agencies, delivers a range of care, accommodation and support services to children and young people across New South Wales.
Students enrolled in government schools who are living in out of home care live in many different home situations such as foster care, kinship care, small group homes or individual settings supported by care workers.
Support for students in out of home care in government schools and pre schools in New South Wales
The NSW Department of Education and Training provides a range of services in government schools to support the health, welfare and wellbeing of all students, including those in out of home care. Details of programs in place in government schools can be found at http://www.schools.nsw.edu.au/studentsupport/index.php
In addition to the staff in their school, students may be supported through a network of school counsellors, student welfare consultants, teachers specially trained in behaviour management or disability support, year advisors and home school liaison officers. In some schools there are also Aboriginal education officers and community liaison officers.
Many schools also operate mentoring programs, tutoring programs and peer support programs to support students with learning and personal/social needs.
Carers, caseworkers or agencies can contact the school and obtain information or advice about support for students in out of home care, and their families, in matters relating to a student's education and welfare needs.
Out of home care in government schools
The Out of Home Care in Government Schools Policy has been developed to clarify the roles of principals, staff and other key school and regional personnel in supporting students in out of home care, and of the department's responsibilities under Keep Them Safe: A shared approach to child wellbeing.
From the beginning of term 3, 2010 all students who are seeking enrolment in or already attending government schools and preschools, and are new to care, will have an education plan developed for them within 30 school days of entering out of home care.
The Out of Home Care in Government Schools Education Plan Procedures have been developed to support schools to develop education plans for children and young people in statutory out of home care.
The education plan cover sheet is attached to education and other plans. Other plans may include a disability, transition, behaviour or health care plan.
An example of an education plan cover sheet has been developed to assist schools. Four examples of education plans that could be attached to the cover sheet are as follows:
When a student transfers to a new school, a copy of the cover sheet and education plan should be forwarded to the new school in a timely manner.
Regions have a range of support staff who assist schools and students including:
- Student services officers with expertise in out of home care, attendance, behaviour, counselling, early intervention, hearing, vision, integration, learning assistance, disability, student welfare, transition, home school liaison
- Teaching and learning consultants including K-6 curriculum, 7-12 curriculum, middle years consultants
- Other consultancy support in areas including Aboriginal education, equity programs, reading recovery, vocational education.
Some students may experience difficulties in successfully engaging with education because of their care circumstances particularly as they transition into and between care settings and schools. The school may organise for additional support to be provided during these transition periods. This supplementary support is in the form of teacher and/or school learning support officer relief.
Memorandum of Understanding
The NSW Department of Education and Training and Community Services have a memorandum of understanding in relation to the provision of educational services for children and young people in out of home care (PDF 211 kB). This provides an agreed framework for a coordinated approach by the two agencies in responding to the needs of children and young people in statutory out of home care who are enrolled in, or applying to enrol in, a NSW government school, including a preschool.
Each regional protocol (PDF 211 kB) identifies local systems, processes and strategies that support collaborative practice and joint responses to meet the needs of children and young people covered under the memorandum of understanding.
An independent evaluation of the implementation of the memorandum (PDF 46.3kB) in 2007 indicated its effectiveness in promoting interagency relationships, improving communication and increasing commitment of staff from both agencies to support children and young people to remain engaged in education.
The evaluation also found that the memorandum of understanding had strengthened the working relationships between the two agencies; setting a positive foundation for facilitating better educational outcomes for children and young people in out of home care.
Keep Them Safe: A shared approach to child wellbeing
Keep Them Safe: a shared response to child wellbeing sets out the NSW Government's five year plan to improve the safety and wellbeing of children and young people. It was developed in response to the Report of the Special Commission of Inquiry into Child Protection Services in NSW that was conducted by the Hon James Wood AO QC during 2008.
The plan recognises that caring and supporting children is first and foremost the responsibility of parents, families and communities. Where intervention is needed, the responsibility to protect children must be shared across all agencies in the government and non government sector.
Included in Keep Them Safe is an emphasis on children and young people living in out of home care and strategies for improving their educational outcomes. Keep Them Safe also recognises that children and young people in out of home care are at a higher risk of poor educational achievement and the need for work to address the unacceptable over-representation of Aboriginal children in the child protection system.
Keep Them Safe aims to reduce this over-representation through a range of initiatives aimed at increasing support to Aboriginal children and their families, and by providing a commitment to assessing the impact of all actions in the plan on Aboriginal children and families.