From time to time, allegations of inappropriate conduct or behaviour towards children and young people are made against carers. Education, training, good parenting practices and a strong connection to your caseworker can help prevent situations that may be seen as inappropriate. However, even the best carers can have allegations made against them.
What is a reportable allegation?
Allegations arise for a variety of reasons. When an allegation is made against a carer, FACS or the relevant non-government agency is required to determine whether the allegation constitutes a reportable allegation under the Ombudsman Act 1974. Reportable allegations include any:
- sexual offence or sexual misconduct committed against, with, or in the presence of a child (including a child pornography offence)
- assault, ill-treatment or neglect of a child
- behaviour that causes psychological harm to a child whether or not, in all cases, with the consent of the child
- behaviour that may not meet the requirements of the Code of Conduct, for example, if a carer physically punishes (smacks) a child in care.
Investigations are based on fairness to the carer who is the subject of the allegation, while giving the highest possible priority to the safety and wellbeing of the child or young person.
What happens when an allegation is made?
The FACS Reportable Conduct Unit investigates allegations of reportable conduct made about FACS carers.
When a non-government agency receives concerning information about a carer’s treatment of a child, the agency decides if it fits the definition of an allegation of reportable conduct. If it does, an investigation is carried out.
To ensure the welfare of the child or young person and any other children living in the house, it may be necessary to remove them from the home during the investigation. This decision is made following an assessment of the safety and welfare of the child or children in care. If the concerns meet the threshold of reportable conduct and an investigation is carried out, the carer will be:
- told there is an allegation
- told what the allegation is in as much detail as possible so they can respond and give information that they think is important about the event or allegation
- able to have a support person present if they choose to be interviewed during the investigation
- able to ask questions, provide information and seek a review after a finding is made, if they believe not all the relevant information was known.
The carer will be notified of the allegation once FACS or the relevant agency has the information it needs to provide a clear and accurate decision about the conduct.
All details, records and documents about the case are treated confidentially. Only people who have a direct role in the investigation are included in discussions and correspondence. Confidentiality is extremely important for protecting all concerned from undue stress and making sure the investigation and assessment process is fair.
What are the next steps?
If FACS or the relevant agency decides that the carer’s conduct fits the definition of an allegation of reportable conduct, the agency:
- plans an investigation, gathers evidence and gives the carer the opportunity to respond to each allegation of reportable conduct
- completes an investigation report and makes findings for each allegation of reportable conduct
- tells the carer the outcome in writing
- may make recommendations about what should happen next, for example, providing support to children or reviewing the carer’s situation to determine if they are able to continue caring for children in out-of-home care.
- may notify the Office of the Children’s Guardian or the NSW Ombudsman about the allegation and what action the agency has taken. The NSW Ombudsman ensures the government and certain non-government agencies in NSW have systems in place for preventing reportable conduct and handling reportable allegations and convictions involving their employees
- updates the Carers Register.
If it is decided that the conduct does not fit the definition of an allegation of reportable conduct, the agency and sometimes FACS decide what further action is required to keep the child safe.
You might also be interested in...
What to do if you have a compliant
Processes for dealing with issues and disagreementsRead more
Carer support organisations
Contacts for groups providing carers with support, training and advocacyRead more
Acts and regulations
Get to know the Charter of Rights and the Code of Conduct for Foster, Relative and Kinship CarersRead more