Children and young people in care who experience stability and permanency are more likely to develop healthy and long-lasting emotional attachments, a strong sense of identity and connection, and achieve better life outcomes. This is why NSW child protection laws require children and young people entering care to be placed according to permanent placement principles.
The first goal of permanency planning is to return the child or young person to the care of their parents or legal guardian when it is safe to do so. This is called ‘restoration’ and involves a high level of engagement from the birth family or legal guardian. Caseworkers work closely with the birth family and the carer to ensure a safe return to the family home. Carers often play a vital role in supporting the child or young person’s contact and connection with family as part of the return-to-family journey.
If restoration is not possible then living with relatives, kin or another suitable person is considered the preferred option – this is called ‘guardianship’. For Aboriginal children and young people, guardians who are not relatives or kin should be Aboriginal people in order to be considered ‘suitable persons’.
Guardianship Orders are a way of helping ensure a child or young person has a more stable, nurturing and safe home until they are at least 18 years of age, without cutting legal ties to their family. The child will still have contact with their parents, family and important people in their life, as outlined in their care or Case Plan or Court Orders. However, under a Guardianship Order, the child is considered to be in the independent care of their guardian rather than in foster care or out-of-home care. Guardians can make decisions about the child’s care, including health and education decisions, without consulting Family and Community Services (FACS) or an agency.
Guardians receive an allowance, known as a Guardianship Allowance, to help them meet the needs of the child or young person in their care. This allowance is the same rate as the FACS statutory Care Allowance and is based on the individual needs of the child or young person.
Adoption is a legal process that transfers all parental rights and responsibilities for a child or young person from their birth parents to the adoptive parents. Adoption Orders are made by the Supreme Court of NSW and are a way of providing a permanent family for a child or young person who can’t be restored to their parents or live with a relative or kinship carer.
In NSW ‘open adoption’ is law and means a child or young person must be supported to remain connected to their birth parents and cultural heritage. Open adoption recognises that kids often benefit when both their families (birth and adoptive) are in contact with one another.
Adoption and Aboriginal culture
For Aboriginal children and young people, the aim is always to place the child with extended family or kin and keep them connected to their community. Adoption is not usually suitable for Aboriginal children. Occasionally, an adoption outside of the kinship or community group is considered appropriate. If that is the case, additional procedures must be followed as set out in the legislation.
To find out more about adopting a child in your care, including post-adoption support, you can:
- read about how foster carers can become adoptive parents
- contact your caseworker, your agency or your local community services centre
- check out the FACS fact sheets and resources
- call the Open Adoption Hotline on 1800 003 227 (Monday to Friday)
- send a question to the Open Adoption Hotline by email.
In cases where restoration, guardianship or adoption are not an option, long-term placement with a foster carer may be an appropriate way to provide children and young people with stability and permanency. Long-term foster care can be given legal status through an Order For Sole Parental Responsibility or a Family Court Parenting Order.
It is important to note that the best outcome for children or young people in care is either to be safely restored with their family, or to be taken into the permanent care of a guardian or an adoptive family.
Increasingly, the role of foster care will be to provide a safe and loving home for children and young people while more permanent arrangements are explored.
“ Caring for foster children is not always easy and saying goodbye can be heartbreaking but the love that flows back to you is pure joy. It is a privilege to share our lives with these kids. ”
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Allowances and financial help
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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander placement principles
Ensuring that out-of-home care does not disconnect children from their family and cultureRead more
The adoption process
Adoption is one way for carers to make a lifelong commitment to a child or young personRead more