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  3. 10. General
  4. 10.1 Decision-making about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children
  5. Key steps
  6. 3. Refer the family for family-led decision-making

3. Refer the family for family-led decision-making

To support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families to meaningfully participate and exercise self-determination in regards to significant decisions, Child Safety will refer a family for family-led decision-making processes, when it is practicable and in the best interests of the child:

  • when deciding the outcome of an investigation and assessment, where an outcome of ‘child in need of protection’ is likely, and, if appropriate, the type of ongoing intervention required to provide for the child or young person’s protection and care
  • when developing a case plan.

Family-led decision-making during the investigation and assessment phase is aimed at providing a culturally inclusive decision-making process where a child’s family group collaboratively identify and address safety concerns, with the intent of forming alternative plans to ongoing intervention. Where it is determined the child is in need of protection, family-led decision-making is focused on identifying strategies to minimise the degree and length of necessary ongoing intervention, including keeping the child connected with family, community and culture where the child cannot remain safely at home.

The Child Protection Act 1999, provides for family group meetings to facilitate family-based responses to children’s protection and care needs. It allows for a family group meeting to be convened by a delegated officer (usually the family group meeting convenor) or by a private convenor. Family group meetings for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child will be family-led processes as far as possible, facilitated by the Family Participation Program or the family group meeting convenor.

Facilitation by the Family Participation Program

The Family Participation Program, comprises services delivered by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisations to support a child’s family group to participate in child protection processes. Families are assisted to develop family-based solutions, with the aim of ensuring the safety of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children within family, community and culture. The Family Participation Program recognises that children and families have the best knowledge about the strengths and risks that exist in their own families and communities.

Staff from the Family Participation Program facilitate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family-led decision-making processes, where authority is given to children, parents and their family to identify solutions to problems and lead decision-making about their family, in a culturally safe space. Importantly, the process is facilitated independently of Child Safety.

The purpose of the Family Participation Program facilitating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family-led decision-making:

  • is for the child’s family to fully participate in a significant decision, for example:
    • the decision about whether a child is in need of protection
    • the decision about what is included in the child’s case plan
  • is to enable the collective resources and protective capabilities of the extended family to be taken into account to ensure the best decisions are made for the child
  • is to identify and explore the extent of possibilities that the family can offer
  • seeks to give effect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s right to self-determination.

Where the child and family choose to have an independent person help facilitate their participation in decisions being considered at an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family-led decision-making process, arrange for the independent person, refer to 2. Arrange for an independent person to facilitate the child’s and family’s participation.

At an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family-led decision-making process during the investigation and assessment, the CSO will explain the child protection concerns and the possible outcomes of the investigation and assessment and their implications for the child and family. The family will have private family time to develop a proposed plan for keeping the child safe. Depending on the level of concern for the child and the resources of the particular family, at times the family’s plan may propose that support and monitoring by the child’s safety and support network may sufficiently mitigate risk of harm to the child. At other times, the family’s plan may identify that ongoing intervention by Child Safety is needed to keep the child safe.

The facilitator from the Family Participation Program will provide the family’s plan to the Child Safety staff present to help inform Child Safety’s decision about whether the child is in need of protection.

At an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family-led decision-making process during ongoing intervention, for example to develop an initial case plan, the family will propose a plan about how they think the child’s protection and care needs can be addressed, whether at home or in care. Where a child cannot remain safely at home, the aim is for the family to identify family-based care options. The family’s plan informs the goals and actions identified in the child’s case plan. As the delegated officer for approving the case plan, the senior team leader is ultimately responsible for the decision about what is included in a child’s case plan. Where an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family-led decision-making process is facilitated by the Family Participation Program for the purpose of developing a case plan, the facilitator from the Family Participation Program will fulfil the functions of a private convenor and together with Child Safety staff, will ensure the meeting complies with the requirements of a family group meeting as outlined in the Child Protection Act 1999, section 51.

As the delegated officer for approving the investigation and assessment outcome and for approving the case plan, the senior team leader will consider the family’s plan to help inform these decisions. The responsibility of the senior team leader to finalise these decisions will be explained to the family in advance of the family-led decision-making process. Where the senior team leader is not able to be present at the family-led decision-making meeting, the family will be told in advance and be prepared that the final endorsed plan may not be able to be confirmed on the day of the meeting and either:

  • participants will be contacted to discuss the final plan or
  • participants may need to continue the family-led decision-making process at another time.

Facilitation by a Family Group Meeting convenor

At times a child and family may choose to participate in a family-led decision making process, facilitated by the family group meeting convenor.

As it is not facilitated independently of Child Safety, it differs to the model of ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family-led decision-making’, which is undertaken exclusively by the Family Participation Program or other Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander service.

Make a referral

A referral for either an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family-led decision-making process or a family-led decision-making process may be made:

  • while an investigation and assessment regarding an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child is in progress and it appears likely the outcome of the investigation and assessment will be that the child is in need of protection
  • to develop or review a case plan for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child.

To make the referral:

  • discuss with the parents and child, depending on the child’s age and ability to understand:
    • the purpose of family-led decision-making
    • that where they wish to participate in an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family-led decision making process, wherever possible will be facilitated by the Family Participation Program or a similar process facilitated by a Child Safety family group meeting convenor
  • where the parents wish to participate in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family-led decision making process, refer the family to the Family Participation Program, outlining the:
    • child protection concerns
    • purpose of the meeting
    • the child and parents’ details
    • contact details of relevant family members, if known, and any relevant timeframes.
  • where the parents wish to participate in a process facilitated by the family group meeting convenor, make a referral to the family group meeting convenor.

For further information about family-led decision-making processes, refer to the practice resource: Family-led decision-making. For further information about Child Safety staff working in a culturally capable way, refer to the practice resource: Culturally capable behaviours (PDF, 412 KB) Culturally capable behaviours (DOCX, 50 KB).