3. Place a child using a child protection care agreement

3.1 Place a child using a child protection care agreement

During intervention with parental agreement, or while a child is subject to a directive or supervision order, the child may be placed in an out-of-home care placement using a child protection care agreement, if they require either:

  • a short-term out-of-home care placement with an approved carer, to ensure their protection and care needs are met
  • regular short-term placements (for example, one weekend per month), if identified as a need during the case planning process.

A child protection care agreement is a signed agreement between the chief executive and a child's parents, as defined in the Child Protection Act 1999, section 51ZD (1) and (3), for the short-term placement of the child with an approved carer.

A decision about where and with whom an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child, who is subject to a child protection care agreement, will live is a significant decision. The CSO will arrange with the child and family’s consent, for an independent person to help facilitate the child and family’s participation in the decision, refer to 10.1 Decision-making about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

When placing an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child, planning and decision-making should take into consideration requirements of the child placement principle. For further information, refer to the practice resource The child placement principle (PDF, 78 KB).

Decide to place a child using a child protection care agreement

A child protection care agreement:

  • can be used for an initial period of up to 30 days
  • can be extended more than once, if the child has a current case plan
  • can only be extended for a maximum of 30 days at a time, with the approval of the CSSC manager
  • can only be used to place a child for a maximum total of six months in any 12 month period
  • grants custody of the child to the chief executive while the agreement is in force
  • enables the parent to retain all rights and responsibilities associated with the guardianship of the child and be given an opportunity to be involved in decisions about the child's care
  • gives Child Safety the authority to make decisions about the child’s contact with others
  • can be ended by either parent (whether a signatory to the agreement or not) or Child Safety by giving two days' notice.

A child protection care agreement is not an appropriate intervention if there are safety concerns about the parent retaining guardianship, or where there are any concerns about the parents knowing where and with whom the child is placed - refer to Chapter 5, 1.8 Assess the provision of placement information to parents. In addition, where a child protection care agreement is used to place a child for consecutive months, intervention with parental agreement may not be the appropriate intervention and consideration is to be given to reviewing the type of intervention, to determine whether a child protection order is required.

To place a child using a child protection care agreement, when the child is in need of protection and subject to intervention with parental agreement, ensure the following conditions apply:

  • it is in the child's best interest to be temporarily placed in the care of someone other than the child's parents
  • there are no significant risk factors associated with the parents ability to provide consent, or to adhere to the terms of the placement (including the ability and willingness to retain all legal rights and responsibilities associated with guardianship)
  • the parents are unlikely to end the placement prematurely, and if they ended the placement without providing two days' notice, there would not be an immediate risk of harm for the child
  • the parents are able and willing to work with Child Safety to meet the child’s safety, belonging and wellbeing needs
  • it is likely by the end of the proposed intervention the child’s parents will be able to meet the child’s safety, belonging and wellbeing needs (Child Protection Act 1999, section 51ZB(a) and (c)(i)(ii))
  • there is an appropriate placement to meet the child’s needs.

A care agreement cannot be used by Child Safety to facilitate a placement with another parent as defined in s11 of the Child Protection Act 1999 including a non-resident parent. Child Safety only has authority to place a child with another parent when the child is subject to a child protection order granting custody or guardianship to the chief executive (Child Protection Act 1999, section 82(2)).

Where parents have placed a child temporarily with a family member or friend and it is subsequently assessed the child should remain out of the home to ensure their ongoing safety, a child protection care agreement may be entered into with the parents. In this circumstance either:

When a child subject to intervention with parental agreement requires an out-of-home care placement, the following guidelines apply:

  • for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, the five elements of the Child Placement Principles apply (refer to 10.1 Decision-making about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children) and active efforts to implement the five elements ensuring engagements are affirmative, active, thorough and timely 
  • the agreement of both parents is required to place a child using a child protection care agreement, regardless of the living arrangements for the child (except in circumstances where both parents cannot be involved in consenting to and negotiating the care agreement) 
  • where one parent does not agree to the use of a child protection care agreement, it cannot be used to place the child.

In negotiating the care agreement with both parents, take into consideration any arrangements currently in place via a Family Law Court parenting order or private agreement between the parents, to help minimise disruptions to the child's life.

Where information about one parent (“other parent”) is unknown, gather the following information from the resident parent or any other relatives who know the other parent:

  • the contact details of the other parent (address and phone number)
  • whether any orders or parenting plans exist under the Family Law Act 1975
  • whether any contact arrangements are in place
  • the nature and extent of the other parent's involvement with the child.

In some circumstances, both parents cannot be involved in consenting to and negotiating the child protection care agreement, such as where:

  • the resident parent will not disclose details of the other parent and this information cannot be gathered from any other source
  • attempts to locate the other parent are not successful
  • the identity of the other parent is not known.

Ensure the immediate safety needs of a child are not compromised by an inability, or the time taken, to contact the other parent.

In these cases:

  • enter into a care agreement with the resident parent only
  • document all attempts to contact the other parent
  • continue to seek information about the other parent during the course of the child protection and attempt to locate them
  • inform the other parent as soon as possible, following the placement of the child.

Place the child using a child protection order

If the other parent does not agree to the child being placed in out-of-home care via a child protection care agreement, seek an order through the Childrens Court to secure the child's safety and enable Child Safety to place the child - refer to Chapter 3, 2. Decide the type of child protection order, if required.

Orders pursuant to the Family Law Act 1975

A care agreement overrides any parenting order made (or parenting plan agreed to by the parents) by the Family Court of Australia (Family Law Act 1975, section 69ZK). In negotiating the care agreement with both parents, take into consideration any arrangements currently in place via a parenting order or private agreement between the parents to help minimise disruptions to the child's life.

If a parenting order or parenting plan exists, that allows a parent or a third party (for example, a relative) to have contact with a child, and it remains in the child's best interests to continue to have contact with the parent or a third party, make all reasonable attempts to uphold this contact arrangement for the duration of the child protection care agreement.

Where a current parenting plan exists, sight a copy of the plan to verify its existence. If the parents are unable to provide a copy of the plan, intervention should proceed as if one does not exist, and any previous Family Court of Australia orders should be considered to be current.

Negotiate the child protection care agreement

To negotiate a child protection care agreement, undertake the following actions:

Place the child using a child protection care agreement

When a child is to be placed using a child protection care agreement, the placement decision is to be aligned with the following:

  • placement with family members (who will need to be approved carers or approved as a kinship carer)
  • placement with an approved foster carer
  • placement with a licensed care service
  • where the above options are either not possible or not in the child’s best interests, then placement with a provisionally approved carer or
  • placement with another entity considered to be the most appropriate for meeting the child’s particular protection and care needs (Child Protection Act 1999, section 82(1)(f)).

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children

In addition to the above requirements, when deciding about placement of an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child, consideration must be given to:

  • the views of the child and their family – note: the child and family have the right to have an independent person help facilitate their participation in the decision-making process, refer to 10.1 Decision-making about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children
  • ensuring the decision provides for the optimal retention of the child’s relationships with parents, siblings and other people of significance to the child under Aboriginal tradition or Island custom
  • ensuring the child is placed in accordance with the Child Protection Act 1999, section 83, in the following order of priority:
    1. with a member of the child’s family group
    2. with a member of the child’s community or language group
    3. with another Aboriginal person or Torres Strait Islander person who is compatible with the child’s community or language group
    4. with another Aboriginal person or Torres Strait Islander person
    5. with a person who lives near the child’s family, community or language group and has a demonstrated capacity for ensuring the child’s continuity of connection to kin, country and culture.

Before placing the child in the care of a family member or other person who is not an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, proper consideration must be given to whether the person is committed to:

  • facilitating contact between the child and the child’s parents and other family members
  • helping the child to maintain contact with their community or language group
  • helping the child to maintain a connection to kin, country and culture
  • preserving and enhancing the child’s sense of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander identity.

Refer to the practice resource The child placement principle (PDF, 78 KB) for more detailed information about placing an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child.

Proceed with the placement 

Once the placement is to proceed, refer to Chapter 5. Children in out-of-home care and:

  • create a placement event for the child in ICMS
  • complete an 'Authority to care for child' form in ICMS
  • place the child with an approved carer, in accordance with the Child Protection Act 1999, section 82
  • provide the carer with copies of the completed 'Authority to care', 'Care agreement - Form' and 'Child Child information form’, minus section C'
  • complete a placement agreement with the approved carer
  • complete actions in Carepay to commence payment of the fostering allowance to the carer, ensuring that the Care agreement grid in the details screen of the child profile is completed
  • where necessary, complete a Child Safety After Hours Service Centre: After hours referral form detailing case circumstances and possible after hours scenarios.

When a child is placed in out-of-home care using a child protection care agreement:

  • normal case planning and review requirements apply, as outlined in Chapter 4. Case planning
  • the approved carers are eligible for fortnightly caring allowance and applicale child related costs.

3.2 Extend a child protection care agreement

A child protection care agreement cannot be extended beyond 30 days unless the child has a case plan.

The following conditions apply to the extension of a child protection care agreement:

  • an extension requires the approval of the CSSC manager
  • extensions can only be for a maximum of 30 days
  • an extension cannot be made if the total of the following would be more than six months:
    • the period of the current agreement
    • the period of the proposed extension
    • the period for which any other child protection care agreement was in force for the child within the 12 months before the extension
  • a safety assessment must be completed prior to the end of the 30 day period to inform the decision about whether an extension of the child protection care agreement is in the child's best interests
  • where the outcome of a safety assessment is 'unsafe', further consideration should be given to the extension of the care agreement, or to taking other appropriate action to ensure the child's safety.

During intervention with parental agreement, or while a child is subject to a directive or supervision order, the child may be placed in an out-of-home care placement using a child protection care agreement to offer respite to the family, as long as it does not exceed the six month criteria outlined above.

Where an extension to a child protection care agreement is to be sought, complete the following actions:

  • ensure in a timely way that the proposed extension is possible in accordance with legislative timeframes outlined above
  • consult with the senior team leader prior to the end of the current 30 day period, to consider the outcome of the safety assessment and whether the case plan remains appropriate for the child's needs, given the proposed extension
  • where the case plan is no longer relevant, determine whether a case plan review is required
  • discuss the need for the extension with the child's parents and the child, if age and developmentally appropriate, at least two business days prior to the expiry of the care agreement – where the extension is being considered in relation to an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child - arrange, with the consent of the child and family, for an independent person to help facilitate the child and family’s participation in the decision-making process
  • seek approval from the CSSC manager for the extension
  • complete a new child protection care agreement with the parents
  • initiate the child health passport process for the child after they have been in an out-of-home care placement for more than 30 days, as outlined in Chapter 5, 2.3 Develop a child health passport.

To decide whether to grant an extension of a child protection care agreement past 30 days, the CSSC manager must be satisfied:

  • the child has a current and relevant case plan
  • the parents have agreed to the proposed extension
  • an extension is in the child's best interests, taking into consideration the progress made toward the case plan goal and outcomes, and the child's developmental needs.

3.3 End a child protection care agreement

Both Child Safety staff and the parents may end a child protection care agreement at any time by giving at least two days' notice. A parent who was not a signatory to the agreement is also able to end the agreement by providing at least two days' notice to the parties. The child will be returned to the parent from whom they were removed, or where applicable, the parent with residential responsibility via a Family Court parenting order.

The agreement will automatically end if:

  • a TCO is made granting custody of the child to the chief executive
  • an interim order is made granting custody of the child to the chief executive
  • a child protection order is made granting custody or guardianship of the child to the chief executive or a suitable person
  • the child leaves or refuses to return to the out-of-home care placement outlined in the care agreement and is currently a placement that is not approved - refer to 3. What if the actions of the child end the child protection care agreement?

There may be times when a change in the parents situation leads to increased risk for the child, or a parent may advise that they wish to end the agreement without providing two days' notice. In these circumstances, assess the safety of the child, complete a safety assessment, and if the child is likely to be endangered or placed at extreme risk, take the following immediate action:

Complete a safety assessment when a decision is made for the child to return home. Where the outcome of the safety assessment is ‘unsafe’, the child cannot be returned home, and consideration should be given to extending the child protection care agreement, or taking other appropriate action. If the outcome of the safety assessment is ‘safe or conditionally safe’ and a safety plan has been negotiated, the child may be returned home.