Contemporary out-of-home care

The Victorian Government’s progress on implementation of the recommendations in volume 12 of the Royal Commission’s Final Report.

The Victorian Government is strengthening existing mechanisms to prevent child sexual abuse in out-of-home care and assisting out-of-home care service providers to better ensure the safety of children and provide effective responses if abuse does occur.

Home-based and residential carers

The Royal Commission recognised the importance of people meeting particular eligibility requirements before they take on the important role of being a carer.

In Victoria, all prospective carers must undergo a National Police History Check and a Working with Children Check.

The Royal Commission noted the importance of carers understanding the needs of the children in their care. In particular, carers should understand the impacts of trauma and abuse on children, as well as the principles of trauma-informed care.

Training and information is available to foster and kinship carers through Carer KaFÉ. Courses offered in 2019 included ‘Therapeutic Caring’, ‘Child Sexual Abuse, Sexualised Behaviours and Trauma’, and ‘Being Heard: Communication in the Care System’. Courses are regularly reviewed and updated to keep training relevant.

Residential care workers providing direct care to children and young people in statutory residential care homes are required to hold, or be undertaking, a Certificate IV in Child, Youth and Family Intervention or another recognised relevant qualification. They must also complete the following units of study:

Table 3 - Compulsory units of study for residential care workers

Work effectively in trauma-informed care: practice and contribute to the continuous improvement of trauma-informed care within a service
Provide primary residential care: provide for the care and support of clients in residential care and assist their transition from primary/residential care
Facilitate responsible behaviour: monitor individuals, respond to behaviours of concern, deal with conflict and support responsibility for behaviour management and change

Giving children in care a voice

The Royal Commission acknowledged that children in care often face additional difficulties when trying to speak up about issues that affect them.

In 2019, the Victorian Government began piloting a survey to enable children and young people to share their experience while in residential care. This survey, entitled ‘Your Voice’, is intended to complement the regular cycle of performance audits that assess whether children and young people are receiving appropriate care and support in residential care. If successful, it is anticipated ‘Your Voice’ will be made available in 2020 to children and young people as part of the regular performance audit cycle.

A Ministerial Youth Advisory Group has been established to hear from young people with experience of Victoria’s care services. The group is co-chaired by the Minister for Child Protection and a young person with lived experience of care services, and consists of representatives from a range of cultural backgrounds. The Advisory Group meets every two months.

The Victorian Government is currently reviewing practice frameworks for children in care services and will explore how to strengthen children's participation in care team decisions.

In 2019, the Victorian Government developed the client voice framework for community services. This framework aims to improve the safety and effectiveness of all community services by promoting the opinions, needs, and experiences of people in the design and delivery of these services. Consistent with this framework, the Voice of the Child Project is being developed. This project will ensure children and young people can meaningfully participate in designing the policies and services that affect them.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children

The Victorian Government continues to expand its Aboriginal Children in Aboriginal Care Program. The Program transfers the responsibility for Aboriginal children who are the subject of a Children’s Court protection order from Child Protection to Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations.

Recent legislative amendments enable the responsibility for a non-Aboriginal sibling to be transferred to the same Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation as their Aboriginal sibling. This means crucial family and community connections can be maintained.

In 2019 the Victorian Government provided funding to support an additional 200 Aboriginal children to have their case management transferred from Child Protection to an Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation. Since 2017, there has been a 250 percent increase in the number of Aboriginal children and young people receiving case management from an Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation.

The Aboriginal Kinship Finding Service commenced in 2019. This is a state-wide service to support the early identification of kinship carers for Aboriginal children subject to Child Protection involvement, enabling connections to family, community and culture.

Supporting young people leaving care

The Royal Commission highlighted the importance of increasing emotional, social and financial supports for young people while they transition out of the care system.

Better Futures, a new way of supporting young people who are transitioning from care, was trialled in Victoria during 2017 and 2018 and will soon be available across the state.

Better Futures provides flexible support to care leavers aged 16 to 21 based on their individual needs. It aims to give care leavers an active voice in their transition planning and offers individualised support across a range of life areas, including education, employment, and community and cultural connections.

Better Futures workers will assist care leavers who experienced sexual abuse, including abuse that occurred while they were in care. Practice advice is being developed to assist Better Futures workers to help young people to access various supports, including specialist sexual assault counselling, advocacy, and legal services. The practice advice will also provide guidance about how eligible care leavers can apply to the National Redress Scheme for survivors of child sexual abuse.

As part of Better Futures, Home Stretch was also rolled out across Victoria during 2019. Home Stretch gives young people the option of continued support for living arrangements beyond the age of 18. Home Stretch provides an allowance for young people in foster, kinship and residential care to support them to either remain with their carer, or to support independent living arrangements, up to age 21.

The Better Futures model, including Home Stretch, will be evaluated between 2020-2024.