3. Decision-making for the child

The responsibility of caring for a child in care involves a partnership between Child Safety, parents and carers.

For a child in care, decisions are usually made by the parents about the child's daily care (custody matters) or about issues likely to have a significant or long-term impact on the child's well-being and development (guardianship matters) may continue to be made by parents in some circumstances, or may instead be decided by the child's carer or the chief executive. The definitions of custody and guardianship are outlined in the Child Protection Act 1999, section 12 and 13.

Decision-making about a child in care will take into account:

It is important that decisions for children in care are made in a timely manner, to ensure, for example, timely access to medical examinations and treatment, or to minimise circumstances where the child feels ‘different’ because they are a child in care. For example, delays in decision-making can prevent a child from participating in developmentally or age-appropriate recreational activities as well as school excursions and camps.

The views and wishes of children in care need to be considered in decision-making processes. Communication and building relationships are the foundation to the effective engagement and involvement of children. For more information about engaging children in the decisions that affect their lives, refer to the practice resource Participation of children and young people in decision-making (PDF, 342 KB) and the Children and young people's participation strategy.

The person with legal authority to make decisions or provide consent about custody and guardianship matters for a child in  care, is determined by:

  • the nature of Child Safety intervention
  • the type of decision or consent required, either a custody or guardianship matter
  • who has custody or guardianship under an order
  • the level of the Child Safety officer delegated to make the decision or provide consent, when the chief executive has custody or guardianship of a child.

Decisions about custody and guardianship matters occur within the broader process of ongoing intervention and the principles that underpin this intervention, in particular, inclusive decision-making.

Prior approval for eligible child related costs must be obtained from the CSSC manager.

Making every day care decisions

The child’s carer has the responsibility to make daily care decisions for the child and respond as any reasonable parent would. Some of these decisions may include:

  • daily routine decisions such as meals and nutrition, homework, bath and bedtime routines
  • expectations relating to household functioning, such as keeping their bedroom room tidy and TV and computer usage
  • the child’s appearance, such as clothing, grooming and hygiene
  • decisions about the child’s absence from child care, school, training or employment
  • responding to calls from the child’s school or child care
  • daily travel arrangements, such as to and from school
  • occasional babysitting arrangements
  • providing pocket money, consistent with practices in the carer family
  • haircuts to maintain the child’s current hair style, but excluding the child’s first hair cut
  • accompanying the carer on outings and social events (when not in conflict with pre-planned family contact)
  • responding to invitations for the child to visit friends or have friends visit.

3.1 Determine who may decide a custody or guardianship matter

When a decision or consent is required for a child in care, determine who has custody or guardianship of the child, based on the nature of Child Safety intervention or type of order, in accordance with the below table.

Nature of statutory intervention / orderEffect on custody and guardianship
Assessment care agreement

The parents retain custody and guardianship.

The type of day-to-day care decisions the parents must be consulted about are included in the care agreement.

Child protection care agreement

The chief executive has custody, the parents retain guardianship.

The type of day-to-day care decisions the parents must be consulted about are included in the care agreement.

CPO - Directive order

The parents retain custody and guardianship.

CPO - Supervision order

The parents retain custody and guardianship.

Use of section 18 of the Act

The chief executive has custody, the parents retain guardianship.

TAO

The chief executive or parents have custody, the parents retain guardianship.

CAO

The chief executive or parents have custody, the parents retain guardianship.

Interim order (made on adjournment of CAO)

The chief executive has temporary custody or the parents retain custody, the parents retain guardianship.

TCO The chief executive or parents have custody, the parents retain guardianship.
Interim order (made on adjournment of CPO)

A family member or the chief executive has temporary custody, the parents retain guardianship.

CPO - Custody order

A family member or the chief executive has custody, the parents retain guardianship.

CPO - Short-term guardianship order

The chief executive has custody and guardianship.

CPO - Long-term guardianship order

The chief executive or another suitable person has custody and guardianship.

Permanent Care Order

The permanent guardian has custody and guardianship

CPO - Transition order The chief executive or suitable person retains custody or guardianship as per the existing child protection order for the duration of the transition order.

Based on the intervention type, determine who is responsible for deciding or providing the required consent, by referring to the relevant procedure:

3.2 Facilitate decision-making - custody matters

When the decision or consent relates to a custody matter, advise the carer that they may legally make all custody decisions for a child in care, and subject to either:

  • a child protection order
  • a child protection care agreement, in keeping with the provisions documented in the agreement
  • an assessment order or temporary custody order, in keeping with the provisions documented in the orders.

For a child subject to an assessment care agreement, only those matters agreed to by the parent and documented in the care agreement can be decided by the carer.

There may be some cases where it is agreed, that although the carers can make all custody decisions, the parents or the chief executive will decide or have input into specific custody decisions, particularly those which may be of a contentious nature, including:

  • medical decisions
  • education
  • sporting and recreational activities
  • the child's personal appearance.

In addition, when the custody matter is considered to be a decision that is likely to have a significant impact on the life of an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child, provide an opportunity for the child and their family to be supported by an independent person to participate in the decision making process. The delegated officer will ensure the child and family’s views are considered in making the decision - refer 10.1 Decision-making about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

Custody decisions to be made by either the parents or a delegated officer will be discussed with the carer and documented in the placement agreement - refer to 1.9 Complete a placement agreement.

Where the chief executive has custody of a child through a temporary custody order or a child protection order granting custody, parents retain legal guardianship of the child and their consent to commencing or maintaining the child’s immunisation will be sought, however, a delegated officer may also provide consent for the immunisation to proceed, where this is consistent with medical advice refer 2.3 Manage the child’s immunisation schedule.

Consult a senior officer where the decision is of a complex or sensitive nature

Regardless of who can decide a custody or guardianship matter, or provide consent, always consult with the team leader, senior practitioner or CSSC manager where the decision or consent is complex or sensitive.

This is necessary to ensure any potential complexities associated with the decision are evaluated.

3.3 Facilitate decision-making - guardianship matters

Where the parent has guardianship, obtain a decision or consent about guardianship matters from the child's parents. Both parents must provide consent for guardianship decisions, unless all reasonable attempts to locate and consult with a parent have been unsuccessful.

Where the chief executive has guardianship, obtain the decision or consent from the delegated officer, as outlined further in this procedure. The level of the Child Safety officer able to make the decision or to provide consent varies, depending on the delegations assigned by their instrument of delegation and this procedure.

Where a suitable person has long-term guardianship of a child, that person makes all guardianship decisions for the child, with the exception regarding the publication of information leading to, or likely to lead to, the identification of the child - refer to 3.5 Publication of information by the media.

In addition, where the guardianship matter is considered to be a decision that is likely to have a significant impact on the life of an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child, provide an opportunity for the child and their family to be supported by an independent person to participate in the decision making process. The delegated officer will ensure the child and family’s views are considered in making the decision – refer 10.1 Decision-making about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

When the child is subject to an order granting guardianship to the chief executive, and a guardianship decision or consent is required:

  • speak with the child, the parents and the carer to advise them of the decision-making process, and to obtain their views about the necessary decision or consent
  • determine the delegated officer able to make the decision or provide the consent, and inform them of the of the decision or consent required, and the views of all parties
  • obtain and record the delegated officers decision or consent, and where applicable, attach documents providing written consent to the relevant event in ICMS.

If the delegated officer is not available to make the decision, another equivalent or higher level delegated officer may do so. For example, if the CSSC manager is unavailable to make a guardianship decision, and the matter is urgent, another CSSC manager in the region or the regional director may be contacted.

Where a guardianship decision is likely to be particularly sensitive or contentious, the delegated officer may seek a decision, or consent, from a more senior delegated officer.

In some circumstances, only a senior executive officer, as the delegated officer, may decide a specific guardianship matter, for example, decisions about end of life medical treatment - refer to 8. What if a decision about end of life medical treatment is required?

3.4 Communicate and record the decision

Once the delegated officer or other decision-maker decides a matter or provides consent, inform all parties of the decision and where appropriate, the rationale for the decision.

Provide advice of review mechanisms

Ensure that all parties, particularly the child, are informed of how to access applicable review processes, should they wish to have the decisions of Child Safety reviewed.

Decisions and consents with respect to custody and guardianship matters may be reviewed by a senior Child Safety officer or, through external review mechanisms, at the request of the child or a person acting on their behalf, for example, a parent or carer.

Review processes include, but are not limited to:

Ensure that the child receives appropriate support and assistance in accessing available review processes, if required.

Record information about custody and guardianship matters

In many circumstances, the provision and documentation of consent will occur through the completion and signing of official letters or forms which can be attached in ICMS or placed on the child’s file.

In other circumstances, record the following details and the decision or consent in a case note in ICMS:

  • decisions or consents about which the carers seek the Child Safety advice
  • relevant information about the views of the child, parents and carers
  • relevant information about the views of a recognised entity, where applicable
  • guardianship decisions made by parents, including verbal and written consents and refusals, and their stated reasons
  • guardianship decisions made by delegated officers, including the rationale
  • documentation associated with the approval of child related costs.

3.5 Publication of information by the media

Regardless of who has guardianship of a child, the Child Protection Act 1999, section 189 requires that a person must not, without the written approval of the chief executive, publish information that identifies, or is likely to lead to the identification of, a child as:

  • a child who is, or has been, the subject of an investigation under the Child Protection Act 1999, section 14
  • a child in the custody or guardianship of the chief executive
  • a child for whom an order is in force.

In such circumstances, the person who wishes to publish the information, usually a representative of the media, is responsible for contacting the department to obtain approval.

3.6 Make medical decisions, including dental

Custody decisions

Many custody (daily care) decisions relating to medical matters are routine decisions and can be made by the child’s carer. These include:

  • seeking the continuation of health or dental treatments and administering prescribed medication for established conditions with the exception of:
    • psychotropic or other medications prescribed to manage behaviour or mental health conditions - refer to 2.4 Develop a child health passport
    • medications being prescribed as part of a new treatment regime
  • administering non-prescription medication and seeking routine medical attention related to common illnesses or dental care
  • facilitating immunisations and routine blood tests – except for a child subject to a custody order as this requires the parents consent
  • seeking routine dental treatment where a general anaesthetic is not required
  • seeking urgent medical or dental treatment not requiring a general anaesthetic, blood transfusion or surgery
  • resuming care of a child when they are being discharged from a hospital
  • seeking treatment involving local anaesthetics
  • seeking a second medical opinion (only a guardian can decide to act on a second opinion)
  • facilitating appointments with an allied health professional, such as an optometrist, speech therapist, audiologist or physiotherapist
  • seeking medical or other health treatment for non-routine, newly presenting conditions including diagnostic tests relevant to the presenting condition - for example, x-rays.

Guardianship decisions

The Child Protection Act 1999, section 13, allows a delegated officer to authorise the medical examination or treatment, including routine medical care, immunisations, invasive medical examinations and surgical procedures, of a child subject to an order granting guardianship to the chief executive.

Guardianship decisions include:

  • immunisation -  refer to 2.3 Maintain the child's immunisation schedule 
  • blood tests - refer to the ‘Custody and guardianship medical decision-making’ table below
  • invasive medical and surgical procedures, examinations or considerations - for example, medical treatment involving general anaesthetic, blood transfusion, surgery, or the degree of care to be provided to a critically ill child
  • use of psychotropic or other medications prescribed for behavioural or mental health conditions - for example, dexamphetamines and anti-depressants - refer to 2.4 Develop a child health passport
  • management of smoking behaviour
  • acting on a second medical opinion
  • contraception where one of the following applies:
    • a child is under 12 years of age
    • a child is not considered 'Gillick competent'
  • pregnancy termination
  • end of life decisions - refer to 8. What if a decision about end of life medical treatment is required?

To facilitate the provision of a child’s recommended schedule of immunisations, carers are authorised to make the necessary immunisation arrangements on behalf of the chief executive. This applies only for a child subject to an order granting guardianship to the chief executive. Carers are to provide the immunisation provider with a copy of the Authority to Care – Guardianship to the Chief Executive form.

Where a child is in the custody of the chief executive, consent from the child’s parent or an authorised officer is required for them to be immunised. Refer to 2.3 Maintain the child's immunisation schedule.

Medical decisions can only be made after consultation with the appropriate medical practitioner where the CSO obtains sufficient information about the:

  • treatment, procedure or surgery
  • possible side effects or restrictions the child may experience
  • rehabilitation requirements
  • medical follow up required, with any medical practitioner or health professional.

The table below outlines the delegated officer able to make decisions or provide consent in relation to medical matters when the chief executive has guardianship of a child.  

Medical decison-making - chief executive has guardianship
Decision or consentDelegated officer
Prescribed medications to manage behaviour or mental health conditions

CSAHSC senior team leader or manager, CSSC manager

Immunisation*

CSSC senior team leader, CSAHSC senior team leader or manager, CSSC manager, regional director*

Blood tests (excluding DNA testing)*  

CSSC senior team leader, CSAHSC team leader or manager, CSSC manager, regional director*

Invasive medical and surgical procedures or considerations

CSSC senior team leader, CSAHSC senior team leader or manager, CSSC manager, regional director*

Acting on a second medical opinion

CSAHSC senior team leader or manager, CSSC manager, regional director, depending on the type of illness/condition and proposed treatment

Other decisions relating to medical matters requiring a guardian’s explicit consent

CSAHSC senior team leader or manager, CSSC manager, regional director*

Pregnancy termination

Regional director

Contraception

  • a child is under 12 years of age
  • a child is not considered “Gillick competent”

Regional director

DNA testing Regional Executive Director
End of life decisions

Director-General

The Child Protection Act 1999, section 97, provides the authority for a health professional to medically examine or treat a child subject to an order granting custody to the chief executive, including a child subject to a child protection care agreement.

In circumstances where a child protection order grants custody to the chief executive, but does not grant guardianship, the consent of the child's parents must be obtained for an end-of-life decision for the child. In this circumstance, the Director-General will not provide consent for an end-of-life decision for the child. If the parents cannot be located or will not consent, and the medical advice is that the proposed treatment, including the withholding of treatment should proceed, the CSO will inform the CSSC manager, who will immediately seek advice from Legal Services Branch. For further information, refer to 8. What if a decision about end of life medical treatment is required?

In circumstances where a child is presented to a health professional for medical examination or treatment, the CSO will provide the health professional with the letter Authority to medically examine or treat a child in accordance with the Child Protection Act 1999, section 97. This letter clarifies the authority of the health practitioner to proceed with medical examination or treatment and the written consent of parents is not required.

Give careful consideration before proceeding with medical examination or treatment of a child subject to a child protection care agreement without the full consent of the parents, given the voluntary nature of the placement.

To facilitate the provision of health services, carers of a child subject to a child protection order granting guardianship to the chief executive, are authorised to make the necessary arrangements for a child to have a blood test, where one has been requested by a doctor to assist in diagnosis or medical intervention (excluding any DNA blood testing). This consent is included on the ‘Authority to Care – Guardianship to the Chief Executive’ form. This authority does not extend to children in the custody of the chief executive.

In life threatening emergency situations where appropriate consents cannot be obtained prior to treatment, or the time taken to obtain appropriate consent would jeopardise the child's life, doctors have the legal authority to proceed with treatment.

Where a delegated officer provides the consent for a guardianship decision, for a child subject to a child protection order granting guardianship of the child to the chief executive, about applicable medical or dental needs, they will sign the Consent form - Operations and treatment. A copy of the form is to be attached to the relevant event in ICMS and either:

  • the original forwarded to the relevant professional
  • the original provided to the carer, to be provided to the professional.

Prior approval for all eligible child related costs must be obtained from the CSSC manager unless the expenditure is related to emergency medical or dental treatment.

Gillick competency

Health practitioners will apply the concept of 'Gillick competency' in deciding whether a child can consent or whether the consent of a custodian or guardian is required for a medical procedure or treatment. 'Gillick competency' is a legal term referring to a child's ability to understand and provide consent. Where a child is Gillick competent, doctors are not required to notify parents or carers, although carers may be involved through their support of the child.

Smoking behaviour in children

A carer or staff member must not actively support a child’s nicotine addiction, due to the potential long-term impacts on the health of the child. This includes supplying cigarettes, setting aside an area specifically for children to smoke, or enabling or advising a parent to supply the cigarettes to the child for the period of their placement. Whilst a carer or staff member is not able to physically stop a child from smoking, they are obliged to actively discourage children from smoking.

When a child presents with a nicotine addiction, seek medical advice whenever a nicotine reduction strategy is planned to manage their addiction. This includes the use of nicotine replacement therapy products or any similar treatments.

3.7 Make counselling decisions

CSOs and senior team leaders can make custody (daily care) decisions about counselling that are consistent with case decisions and the child's case plan.

Decisions or consents in relation to counselling and therapies that are not part of the agreed case plan must be provided by the guardian. When a child is in the guardianship of the chief executive, a CSSC manager is the delegated officer able to make guardianship decisions about counselling.

3.8 Make education decisions

Custody

A carer can make the following custody (daily care) decisions:

  • selecting and enrolling a child in a child care centre that is eligible for the Australina Government child care subsidy payment (which is a separate to any financil decisions about costs)
  • variations to school routine, including day excursions of low to moderate risk that are intrastate or interstate
  • sporting and recreational activities of low to moderate risk, undertaken at school
  • attending meetings at the school about the child
  • signing school reports
  • consenting to school or class photos, where this is for personal or family use
  • consenting to curriculum related activities, including but not limited to swimming, arts council and religious education consistent with the views/beliefs of the child and their family.

A CSO or senior team leader can also make these decisions, where required.

Under the Education (General Provisions) Act 2006, both custody and guardianship to the chief executive comes within the meaning of parent. Where enrolment or a change of school is assessed as being in the child's best interest, and the parent is unwilling or unavailable to consent, the team leader can make this decision.

Guardianship

The table below outlines the delegated officer able to make a decision or to provide consent in relation to education matters where the chief executive has guardianship of a child.

Decision or consentDelegated officer

Enrolling a child in a school

Senior team leader

Day excursions involving high and very high risk activities

Senior team leader

Sporting or recreational activities involving high and very high risk activities

Senior team leader

School camps (except high risk activity or overseas travel)

CSO

Educational adjustment program for students with disabilities

Senior team leader

Work experience, including school-based apprenticeships and traineeships

CSO

The decision to seek dispensation from compulsory schooling, that is, for a child to leave school prior to the compulsory school leaving age

CSSC manager

3.9 Make sporting and recreational activities decisions - daily and overnight

Custody

A carer can make the following custody (daily care) decisions:

  • sporting and recreational activities not involving high or very high risk activities
  • consenting to club photos, such as sport, dance or drama, where it is only for personal or family distribution and will not be published
  • taking a child on family outings that do not conflict with family contact arrangements or the case plan
  • allowing a child to stay with another person for a period of up to two nights - for example, a sleep-over at a school friend's house.

A CSO or senior team leader can also make the decisions outlined above, where required.

If an activity is considered to be of high or very high risk, refer to 7. What if a child wishes to participate in a high or very high risk activity?

Guardianship

Allowing a child to be in the care of another person for three nights or more requires a decision by the child's guardian. Where a child is in the guardianship of the chief executive, a CSSC manager is the delegated officer.

This decision-making capacity is intended to be used to normalise the activities of the child, for example, a weekend away with friends. It is not intended as a substitute for placement decision-making or to override regulation of care requirements.

3.10 Make decisions about culture and religion

Custody

Carers, CSOs or senior team leaders can make custody (daily care) decisions about the child's observance, maintenance or participation in cultural and religious events and activities, including religious education at school. These decisions must consider and be consistent with the views or beliefs of the child and their family.

Guardianship

Decisions about the child's observance, maintenance or participation in cultural and religious events and activities that are not consistent with the views of the child and their family must be made by the guardian.

Where a child is in the guardianship of the chief executive, a CSSC manager is the delegated officer able to make a guardianship decision about culture or religion.

For an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child,   ensure carers are supported to maintain the child’s family and community cultural connections.

3.11 Make travel decisions - intrastate or interstate

Consent for decisions regarding travel for a child is dependent on:

  • who has custody and guardianship decision-making responsibilities for the child
  • the proposed type of travel, for example, air travel or non-air travel
  • whether there are any costs associated with the travel
  • the destination - intrastate, interstate or overseas
  • the duration of the travel.

Where a suitable person has been granted long-term guardianship of a child, there is no requirement for Child Safety to approve the travel.

When a carer and a child in care intend to travel within the state for up to three nights, or interstate for a day trip, the carer is not required to seek consent from Child Safety, unless travel costs are likely to be sought.

When a carer and a child in care, or a child in care, will be away from their usual residence for an extended period, for example, on holiday, advise the carer they are required to provide their contact details to the CSO with case responsibility.

When interstate travel occurs for the purpose of family contact or a holiday with kin, refer to the requirements to involve the ILO, as outlined in 2.6 Facilitate and monitor family contact.

For further details on the planning, approval and reporting requirements for undertaking travel, refer to the Travel - Domestic and Overseas policy.

The table below outlines who is able to provide consent for travel and approve travel costs, where the chief executive has custody or guardianship of a child.

Approval for travel (not the associated cost) when the chief executive has custody

Type of travel

Person

Intrastate non-air travel up to three nights and not in conflict with the case plan or family contact arrangements

Carer

 

Intrastate non-air travel of greater than three nights or in conflict with the case plan or family contact arrangements

Parent

CSSC manager

Intrastate air travel

Parent

CSSC manager

Interstate non-air day trips not in conflict with the case plan or family contact arrangements

Carer

Interstate non-air travel in conflict with the case plan or family contact arrangements

Parent

CSSC manager

Interstate air travel

Parent

Regional rirector

Overseas air travel

Parent

Regional director

Approval for travel (not the associated cost) when the chief executive has guardianship

Type of travel

Person

Intrastate non-air travel up to three nights and not in conflict with the case plan or family contact arrangements

Carer

Intrastate non-air travel of greater than three nights or in conflict with the case plan or family contact arrangements

Senior team leader

Intrastate air travel

CSSC manager

Interstate non-air day trips not in conflict with the case plan or family contact arrangements

Carer

Interstate non-air travel in conflict with the case plan or family contact arrangements

CSSC manager

Interstate air travel

Regional director

Overseas air travel

Regional director

 

Financial delegate approval for travel costs when the chief executive has either custody or guardianship

Type of travel

Financial delegate

Intrastate air and non-air travel

CSSC manager

Interstate air and non-air travel

Regional director

Overseas travel within five (5) hours flying time from Brisbane

Director-General

Overseas travel beyond five (5) hours flying time from Brisbane

Minister

3.12 Make overseas travel decisions

The consent of the guardian is required for a child in care to travel overseas. Approval for travel (not the associated cost) where the chief executive has guardianship must be granted by the regional director.

Where a suitable person has been granted long-term guardianship of a child under the Child Protection Act 1999, there is no requirement for Child Safety to approve, or to inform the Director-General of, the overseas travel, and financial support is not available.

Where overseas travel occurs for the purpose of family contact or a holiday with kin, refer to the requirements to involve the ILO, as outlined in 2.6 Facilitate and monitor family contact.

Where there are costs to be met by Child Safety related to the overseas travel for the child, for example, overseas airfares, accommodation costs and domestic flights, approval must be sought from the Director-General in circumstances when the flight is under five (5) hours in duration, for example New Zealand. If the overseas travel time is beyond five hours and costs are to be incurred by Child Safety then it needs to be approved by the Minister as stipulated in the whole of government Travel Policy.

Approval for these costs will be considered only:

  • to maintain family contact where it is assessed as essential for the well-being of the child or to support a reunification plan
  • to enable a gifted child to participate at an international level in their field of excellence, for example, sporting or academic competitions
  • in cases where exceptional circumstances demonstrate that overseas travel is essential in maintaining a child’s safety, best interests and well-being.

Approval for overseas airfares and accommodation costs will not be given for a child in care to participate in school excursions to an overseas country.

Incidental costs for overseas travel, such as passport fees, visas and travel insurance may be approved by the CSSC manager.

Where Director-General approval is required for overseas travel costs, any applicable letters of advice to the carer will be prepared by the CSSC, signed by the regional director and forwarded to Executive Services with the approval request.

Where a child in care has been approved to travel overseas and the carers are covering the costs of the travel, the CSSC will prepare an accompanying draft letter for the regional director's signature to either the carers or the child who is travelling (whichever is appropriate under the circumstances). The above correspondence should then be sent to the regional office and include the carer’s name and address, along with the request for the regional director’s approval for the travel.

Note: Staff are encouraged to seek travel advice from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) by telephone on (07) 1300 555 135 or to refer to the Smartraveller website for information regarding security and/or health risks relating to the proposed travel destination.

3.13 Apply for a passport

Where a child in care does not have a current passport and requires one, the Australian Passports Act 2005 requires that the passport application be signed by all persons with parental responsibility, that is, both the guardian and the person who has custody of the child.

If a person other than the parents has guardianship, the parents are not required to sign the passport application, however, they will be informed of the proposed travel and have their views sought, where possible.

In addition to the passport application, the DFAT Form B-10 must be completed and signed by either:

  • the regional director, where the chief executive has guardianship
  • the suitable person, where a suitable person has guardianship.

The table below outlines the forms required, and the persons responsible for signing the relevant forms.

Type of child protection orderFormsType of consent required

Guardianship to the chief executive

Australian Passport Child Application Form

DFAT Form B-10

Regional director

Note: parental consent is not required

Guardianship to a suitable person

Australian Passport Child Application Form

DFAT Form B-10

Suitable person

Note: parental consent is not required

Custody to the chief executive, including an interim order

Australian Passport Child Application Form

Regional director and parents

Custody to a suitable person

Australian Passport Child Application Form

Suitable person and parents

Where parental consent is required and either or both parents decline to sign the passport application, or are unable to sign, discuss the matter with the team leader, who may seek advice from Legal Services Branch.

Foster and kinship carers will be reimbursed for the purchase of a passport for a child, including the cost of the application and the child's photograph.

3.14 Make family contact decisions

Carers and CSOs can make custody (daily care) decisions with regard to family contact arrangements if they are consistent with case decisions and the case plan. These decisions must take into consideration the views of the child, their carer, the family and service providers, if applicable. For information and guidance to inform the family contact decision-making process, refer to the Practice guide: Assessing harm and risk of harm (PDF, 886 KB).

Any decisions with regard to making or varying family contact arrangements for a child in the custody or guardianship of the chief executive, where they substantially conflict with the agreed case plan, or are likely to result in significant issues for the child or their family members, must be made by the team leader or the CSSC manager. For further information refer to 2.6 Facilitate and monitor family contact.

For an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child, family contact arrangements will also include people of significance to the child under Aboriginal tradition or Islander custom who can help the child’s identity development and connection with the child’s family and community.

3.15 Make a change to a child's surname

In some circumstances a child may request that they be referred to by a different surname. The child's views must be given consideration, and the child supported, where appropriate.

The legal change of surname requires the consent of the child's guardian. Where a child is in the guardianship of the chief executive, the CSSC manager is delegated to make a decision about the child's surname.

For an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child, consider the long-term impact of the decision on the child’s indentity and connection to culture. Where a legal change of surname is considered to be a significant decision for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child, taking into account their individual circumstances, arrange with the consent of the child and family, for an independent person to help facilitate their participation in the decision, refer to 10.1 Decision-making about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

3.16 Make decisions about a child's personal appearance

A child has the right to have their views considered in relation to their personal appearance, including haircuts, clothing, jewellery and piercing. If the decision may become contentious, the carer should consult the CSO with case responsibility.

For example, the decision to have a child's hair cut is a custody decision that the carer may make. If the child has always had long hair, and the carer wants their hair cut short, the CSO or team leader may decide to:

  • ask the child's parents to make the decision
  • make the decision, after considering the views of the child, their parents and the carer.

Tattooing or intimate body piercing is unlawful for a child under 18 years of age.

3.17 Make decisions about DNA testing

A DNA paternity test can be used when there is uncertainty about a child’s parentage and if it is considered to be in the best interests of the child.

A DNA paternity test should only be undertaken in exceptional circumstances. Exceptional circumstances may include where significant conflict about the child’s parentage may result in a change in the child’s placement or their usual family situation.

Child Safety does not have the authority to compel any child or adult to undertake a DNA test. In most cases a DNA paternity test will not be undertaken by Child Safety when a father has been recorded on the child’s registered birth certificate. In part this is because there is a presumption contained in the Status of Children Act 1978 that a person listed on the birth certificate is the child’s parent. Legally a mother or father is required to apply to register a birth under the Births,Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 2003, and a parents name cannot appear on the birth certificate unless the parent signed a birth registration application.

The recording of a father on a birth certificate is therefore considered the primary evidence of parentage of a child. When another person is identified as possibly being the child’s father, consideration of a DNA test to prove paternity will only occur in exceptional circumstances and when it is assessed as being in the child’s best interests.

Child Safety may make two types of approval decisions relating to a DNA paternity test:

  • approval for a DNA test for a child subject to a child protection order granting guardianship to the chief executive
  • approval for the financial costs of the test.

Prior to seeking approval for a DNA paternity test, consult with the senior practitioner and in legal contexts your OCFOS lawyer about the decision. For an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child, consult with the child and family, and where the decision is considered to be significant for the child, arrange for an independent person to help facilitate their participation in the decision, refer to 10.1 Decision-making about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

When a child is subject to a child protection order granting guardianship to the chief executive, regional executive director approval is required for the DNA paternity test. If a child is subject to a short term order granting custody to the chief executive, consent for a DNA paternity test must be provided by the relevant legal guardian.

If the Regional Executive Director is to provide approval for the DNA paternity test prepare a brief with the following:

  • who requested the DNA paternity test
  • the views of the parent and the child, where age and developmentally appropriate, about the test
  • why the DNA paternity test is being considered
  • what understanding the family has of a DNA paternity test and the impact of the test outcome
  • what emotional support will be offered to the child and family
  • who is going to inform the family of the DNA paternity results
  • the potential long-term effect of the DNA paternity results on an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child’s connection to family and culture.

Attach the brief and other relevant information to the relevant event in ICMS.

Where costs for the DNA paternity test cannot be met by the child’s legal guardian, seek financial approval from the CSSC manager. The CSSC manager has the discretion to exercise their financial delegation to approve the financial cost of a DNA paternity test where it is consistent with the case plan and the appropriate approval has been obtained.

For further information about DNA paternity testing, refer to the practice resource DNA paternity testing. For further information about decision-making for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child, refer to 10.1 Decision-making about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

3.18 Decide other guardianship matters

The decision for a young person under 18 years of age to marry, or to join the Australian Defence Forces, requires the consent of the guardian. Where a child is in the guardianship of the chief executive, a regional director is the delegated officer able to provide consent for these decisions.