Supporting children placed in out-of-home care - information for early childhood professionals

This page explains your obligations as an early childhood professional to support children placed in out-of-home care (OoHC).

Children in OoHC services are among the most vulnerable in our community. Many are not accessing key early childhood education and care services.

It is critical to ensure that services work together to increase access and participation of young children in care in key universal and targeted services. This includes Maternal and Child Health (MCH) services, funded kindergarten programs, supported playgroups and specialist support where needed.

Work in partnership with carers and caseworkers

Work in partnership with carers. Make them feel welcome. Listen, and take a flexible and compassionate approach to support them and their child. Remember the child and family are likely to be going through a stressful time and it may not always be straightforward for them to meet service requirements.

Communicate about the child’s learning and development. Provide resources and information that promote stimulating home learning environments.

Actively communicate and collaborate with the child’s caseworker and other agencies that are working with the child to support their enrolment and ongoing participation in your service.

This includes your local council who will have a designated OoHC contact and the local MCH nurse who may be involved in the planning for a child in OoHC, where appropriate.

Aboriginal children

Aboriginal children account for more than 20 per cent of all children placed in OoHC. In 2018 there were approximately 750 Aboriginal children under five years placed in OoHC. A large number of these children are placed with extended families who may also require support.

Find out more about early childhood services for Aboriginal children and their families.

Children with additional needs

Children with disabilities or developmental delays are over-represented in OoHC. Early support and intervention for a child with a disability are critical to helping them reach their potential.

A range of supports and information is available to enable services to provide health and education for young children with a disability. The National Disability Insurance Scheme has an early childhood early intervention approach that connects the child’s carers with an early childhood partner organisation.

Priority of access

All funded kindergarten providers are required to follow the Department's priority of access guidelines for children at risk of or experiencing abuse or neglect.

The Commonwealth Government also requires child care centres to prioritise children who are at risk of or experiencing abuse or neglect.

If a child placed in OoHC leaves your service and later returns to the area, do everything possible to make a place available again.

Information sharing

Services must comply with the protecting the safety and wellbeing of young people protocol and other relevant privacy legislation. Services are required to regularly share information with the child’s carer and caseworker.

Information about individual children placed in OoHC may be shared between services, when in the best interests of the child, and must be treated sensitively and confidentially.

Individual learning plans

Under the National Quality Framework (NQF) all children attending an ECEC must have an individual learning plan. The early childhood agreement recognises the importance of these plans for children placed in OoHC. It is expected that learning plans are of high quality and carers are engaged and informed on a regular basis on the plan for the child.

The requirement for the learning and development plans is not new for early learning educators and forms part of the NQF standard 1 educational program and practice - refer to page 96 of the NQF Guide for guidance on how to apply this standard.

Transition to early childhood service or school

Transition to school or to early childhood services can be a stressful time for any young child because it involves significant change, such as adjusting to new routines, environments and forming new relationships with adults and peers.

LOOKOUT Transition to Primary School guidance resources

A resource for carers, education providers and statutory authorities to provide best practice support for children living in out-of-home care.

Transition to or between ECEC services

Case workers in child protection, Aboriginal Care for Aboriginal Children, community service organisations, and MCH nurses should ensure children placed in OoHC are enrolled in funded kindergarten and that the children transition to an early years service or school.

MCH nurses can support children placed in OoHC to access funded kindergarten programs by linking them to council central enrolment schemes or directly to kindergarten services.

Planning should be put in place to help the child's carer understand and prepare for the new arrangements, including session times and transport requirements.

Transition to school

The child’s care team should work closely with the early years service to ensure that all practical arrangements for the child are in place for the start of the school year. This includes help with:

  • enrolment processes
  • purchasing uniforms and stationery
  • funding applications for any additional supports the child might need.

The care team should also work closely with the ECEC service and the child’s carers and Koorie Education Support Officer (KESO), where the child has been identified as Aboriginal, to ensure that the cultural support plans are put into place.

Before the child starts primary school, your ECEC service should ensure that the online transitions and learning development statement (TLDS) is completed. The TDLS is important for all children, but is particularly important for children placed in OoHC who are at risk of starting school behind their peers.

For Aboriginal children, a local Aboriginal community organisation (ACCO) along with the appropriate KESO should contribute to the online TLDS and it should be informed by the cultural plan developed as part of the care plan. Some Aboriginal children come with a cultural story and some without. The integration of cultural support plans and the TLDS is vital for the transition into school and sharing of information between professionals and the development of Koorie Education Plans.

Find out more about your requirements for transition planning.


There are a number of people who may assist in navigating the supports and services available to children placed in OoHC. They include:

  • Local government contacts such as MCH services and central enrolment officers.
  • Department regional contacts such as early years advisors in LOOKOUT centres, early years managers, KESOs and pre-school field officers. Contact your local regional office to find out more.
  • LOOKOUT centres are an additional resource to support early childhood education and care settings, Child Protection practitioners and caseworkers to meet their roles and responsibilities under the early childhood agreement.
  • Preschool field officers, inclusion support program staff and MCH nurses provide excellent supports, especially if referral to an allied health professional such as a speech pathologist might be required.
  • Koorie engagement support officers and Koorie education coordinators work with funded services and schools to better engage Aboriginal learners and communities. They are available to provide expert advice and support about culturally inclusive strategies to improve engagement and student performance.
  • Flexible support packages - Supporting children placed in out-of-home care - information for early childhood professionals.

Funding and subsidies

Children placed in OoHC have access to free funded kindergarten programs in the two years before school, including:

You can also check with your local government contact about pre-purchased places.

School Readiness Funding: Refer to the wellbeing area on the menu for both free and fee-for-service items that could be relevant.

Commonwealth government subsidies allow children placed in OoHC to access up to 50 hours a week of centre-based care. For more information, see:

Read the full partnership agreement