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Accreditation and monitoring e-newsletter - December 2016

Welcome to the fourth Office of the Children’s Guardian (OCG) Accreditation and Monitoring team e-newsletter. This newsletter provides information about OCG activities, information about sector trends and an update of current legislative and compliance requirements.

To ask question or make any suggestions please email us at accreditation@kidsguardian.nsw.gov.au

Kerryn Boland at Foster Carers PicnicAnnual Foster Carers Picnic

The Annual Foster Care week picnic was held on 11 September. It was a beautiful sunny day and the event was attended by more than 1000 foster carers, children and young people.

The theme of this year’s Foster Care Week was ‘Be part of an amazing journey - Foster a child’s future’. This theme highlighted the ways that foster carers can make a life-changing difference to a child by offering them a loving and safe home. The picnic asked attendees to dress as superheros to recognise the ‘superheroes’ among foster carers, children and young people.

The day began with a Welcome to Country by Darug man Chris Tobin, followed by an official opening by the Minister for Family and Community Services Brad Hazzard.

FACS Secretary, Michael Coutts-Trotter was also in attendance and spent the afternoon talking with carers. The Children’s Guardian, Kerryn Boland, had the difficult task of selecting the best dressed of the Superhero costumes on the day.

Our staff at the Foster Carers PicnicActivities included games, races, face painting, superheros, a magic show, a petting zoo rocket launching and a train ride.

The OCG team gave out well received superhero hats, bubbles, bags, temporary tattoos and clip on sunscreen to children, young people and foster carers.  

The event required about 150 volunteers from both government and non-government sectors to ensure its success. We wanted to thank everyone who participated in this celebration.

Publication of names and identifying information - key points to remember

Section 105* of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 outlines restrictions around the publication of the name of a child or young person in statutory out-of-home care.

The Act states that it is not permissible to publish any information about a child or young person in statutory out-of-home care including pictures sporting pictures in local newspapers and photos and names in school newsletters which are then published and available on the school’s website.  However, if the Secretary is of the opinion that the publication or broadcasting of information may be of benefit to the child or young person, the Secretary may grant approval for publication to go ahead.  All designated agencies should seek the appropriate consent via Family and Community Services prior to any publications which relates to a child of young person in statutory out of home care. 

*This section of the Act should be considered in its entirety by all designated agencies.

Under 12s in residential care

A new process was introduced in late 2015 in relation to the placement of children under 12 years in residential care, designed to reduce administrative requirements on agencies.  This new process requires all agencies to notify the OCG when any child under 12 in residential care either commences or ceases a placement in the residential care program so that we can monitor accordingly. This has generally been successful and agencies are meeting their responsibilities of notifying the OCG on both occasions. It is timely however that a reminder is provided to all agencies providing residential care. 

It is a Condition of Accreditation that agencies notify the Children’s Guardian in writing each time a child under 12 is placed in residential care with the agency. To do so, complete the recently updated form available on the OCG website http://www.kidsguardian.nsw.gov.au/out-of-home-care/statutory-out-of-home-care/designated-agencies/about-designated-agencies including signature from your agency’s Principal Officer and forward it to oohcnotifications@kidsguardian.nsw.gov.au. No other attachments are required.

Agencies are also required to notify the OCG when a child ceases to be in the residential placement (other than as a result of turning 12 years). The cessation form is also located on the OCG website http://www.kidsguardian.nsw.gov.au/out-of-home-care/statutory-out-of-home-care/designated-agencies/about-designated-agencies.This ensures the OCG can maintain the most current information.

Principal Officer absences from their roles

Every agency has a nominated Principal Officer for the OOHC program. This person is listed on the OCG website against the individual agency. The Principal Officer holds certain responsibilities in overseeing the OOHC program within the organisation. 

Where an agency is wanting to delegate certain responsibilities, this must be approved by the Children’s Guardian. Fact Sheet 6: Principal Officers is available on the website to guide agencies in relation to what functions can be delegated and how approval for this can be sought.

There may also be occasions where the Principal Officer is absent from the agency for a period of time e.g. for planned leave. Where this occurs and a decision has been made for another person to act in the role of Principal Officer for this period, the OCG should be notified. The reason for this is two-fold:

  • To ensure the appropriateness of this temporary acting appointment
  • So that the OCG can ensure appropriate expectations of acting Principal Officers during assessments

Where the Principal Officer will be absent and another individual acting in their role during this time, the following should occur:

  • Written advice should be provided by the Principal Officer to the OCG prior to the absence commencing. This can be done via letter or email and sent to accreditation@kidsguardian.nsw.gov.au
  • The advice should include:
    • The reasons for the Principal Officer’s absence
    • The dates the absence will apply
    • The name and position title of the individual who will be acting in this role
    • Confirmation that a WWCC clearance for this person has been completed and verified by the agency

The Accreditation team will maintain a register of these temporary absences for reference as part of future assessments. Where Principal Officer responsibilities are assessed during a visit, it is expected that this will reflect the nominated Principal Officer, unless another person has acted temporarily in the role due to the Principal Officer being absent.

There are two responsibilities of the Principal Officer that cannot be permanently delegated to another person:

  • approval of behaviour support plans for a child who has been prescribed a psychotropic drug and
  • notifying the Children’s Guardian of a death of a child in care 

The Children’s Guardian expects that during assessments conducted by the OCG, the Principal Officer will have approved behaviour management plans with psychotropic medications and notified the Children’s Guardian of any deaths in care. If the Principal Officer is absent and another individual has acted in this role, there may be times when they have approved these behaviour management plans. If the OCG has not been notified of this, the assessment will find this to be an area of non-compliance for the agency.

Compliance monitoring program

The Compliance Monitoring Program has visited 54 agencies throughout NSW, with 924 children and young people’s files were reviewed as well as 834 authorised carer files and 569 staff files over the past 2 years. The purpose of the monitoring program is to provide agencies with assessment outcomes to inform each agency as to how they are meeting particular standards and to advise of potential areas of improvement. Thank you to all of the agencies for your co-operation as part of this assessment process.

The assessments considered outcomes for children and young people in four key care domains, a review of authorised carer and staff recruitment and support as well as an assessment of the management and operations of the organisation. All agencies will have received a written feedback report as well as individual results for children and young people, carers and staff reviewed. The OCG will review the material collected and identify common themes across the sector. This will provide a picture of how the sector is progressing and will be shared with agencies. This has provided us with invaluable baseline data.

The next phase of the monitoring program will be responsive to identified issues across the sector and concerns relating to particular agencies. Assessments may also be timed to coordinate with accreditation renewals and completion of Direct Evidence programs. Further information will be provided to agencies in the coming months. 

Carers Register refresher training

The OCG acknowledges the ongoing commitment involved for designated agencies to achieve and maintain the requirements of the Carers Register. The OCG conducts ongoing desktop assessments of Carers Register data. It is noted that there has been a significant improvement in data quality reducing the amount of data remediation required.

The OCG is commencing Carers Register refresher training targeted to specific agency needs and at a location nominated by the agency. In the coming months the OCG will contact your agency to determine the need for refresher training.

For further information about the NSW Carers Register including the Carers Register Guidance Notes, training modules, fact sheets and key statistics go to the OCG website www.kidsguardian.nsw.gov.au/out-of-home-care/nsw-carers-register

A few points to keep in mind:

If you have any questions about the Carers Register, please email carers-register@kidsguardian.nsw.gov.au