Communities and Justice

NSW Therapeutic Care Framework


The NSW Therapeutic Care Framework (TCF) provides guidance on supporting children and young people. At the centre of the framework is trauma-informed care. The framework will guide NSW service providers, caseworkers, carers and other stakeholders to provide the best possible individualised Therapeutic Care for children and young people.

The TCF is consistent with major changes to the child protection system under the Permanency Support Program , which focuses on recovery from trauma so that children and young people spend less time in intensive Out Of Home Care (OOHC) services and achieve permanent homes where they can thrive.

Best practice: Therapeutic Care can change a child or young person’s life

Children and young people in OOHC have often experienced trauma, abuse, neglect and/or are faced with severe adversity before being placed in care. They may have also suffered after separation from their families or others close to them. This may lead to poor outcomes later in life: developmental, behavioural or mental health issues.

Children and young people’s care needs are different, and every OOHC journey varies throughout their time in care. A child or young person’s needs should therefore be continually assessed, to allow the flexibility to increase or decrease the level of support and services required as their care needs change. This can make a big difference to the lifelong impacts of trauma, and greatly influence a person’s lifelong outcomes once they exit care.

The Framework sets the principles for Therapeutic Care

The TCF outlines a set of 16 Core principles for providing Therapeutic Care (i.e. casework and care) to children and young people, to ensure their individual and often complex needs are met, given the trauma they have experienced.

The TCF focuses on:

  • developing consistent service delivery of evidence-informed Therapeutic Care (across the OOHC sector) to improve outcomes for children and young people in care
  • providing quality care environments that support positive, safe and healing relationships and experiences, to address individual and complex needs and work towards addressing the trauma experienced
  • children and young people with receiving the appropriate level of care, ‘in the right way, at the right time’ (i.e. throughout their continuum of care)
  • Therapeutic Care (trauma-informed casework and care) being provided to children and young people, that is individualised, holistic and culturally respectful and responsive
  • building capability across the OOHC sector to enable assessment, and measurement of outcomes, and to determine whether children and young people in care are receiving quality Therapeutic Care, treatment and support.

More information

See the Framework and publications or Questions and Answers for more information.

The framework was developed in partnership between Family and Community Services (FACS) and the Association of Children’s Welfare Agencies (ACWA), The Aboriginal Child, Family and Community Care State Secretariat (AbSec), OOHC sector representatives and academics in the field of child protection. The draft framework documents also went to public consultation in November/December 2016. See the Sector and public consultation section for further information.

Sector and public consultation

Work on the NSW Therapeutic Care Framework began in 2013, as a partnership between the Department of Family and Community Services (FACS), the Association of Children’s Welfare Agencies (ACWA) and a range of sector representatives.

The purpose of the Framework was to address the high level of complex needs of children and young people who require a more intensive and individualised trauma-informed practice and care approach.

The project focused on:

  • identifying an evidence-based, common conceptual framework that was based on a shared understanding of Therapeutic Care
  • guiding the OOHC sector and stakeholders to act consistently and with a shared purpose in their delivery of Therapeutic Care to children and young people in statutory care
  • growing a ‘best practice’ framework for NSW to identify an effective Therapeutic Care approach that results in improved outcomes for children and young people, including capacity for outcomes to be measured and evaluated
  • developing a framework that does not dictate which Therapeutic Care model an organisation should adopt, but rather core principles to lead practice and the delivery of Therapeutic Care.

Research analysis and sector consultation contributed to the development of a draft definition of Therapeutic Care and a set of draft Core principles. On 16 June 2016, the ACWA Board endorsed the draft framework and draft principles, and supported the release of all draft framework documents for public consultation. These documents, along with a Literature Review (PDF, 984.6 KB) and Consultation Report (PDF, 768.4 KB), were released for public consultation in November/December 2016.

Following the public consultation period, the TCF project working group reviewed all submissions and feedback received. See the ‘Summary of key submission themes (DOCX, 53.4 KB)’ for more information.

The invaluable feedback received throughout the life of the project, from both the sector and public consultation, contributed to forming the ‘NSW Therapeutic Care Framework (PDF, 4.4 MB)’.

Questions and answers

How does the NSW Therapeutic Care Framework (TCF) relate to the new Intensive Therapeutic Care (ITC) service system?

In March 2017, the NSW Government announced major long-term and more immediate changes to the child protection system.

The more immediate changes, designed to give more children a permanent home where they can thrive, are brought together under the Permanency Support Program.

One of 4 key components of the Permanency Support Program is Intensive Therapeutic Care (ITC) system reform, which is focused on transitioning the current residential care service model to a new ITC system progressively from 1 October 2017. ITC aims to reduce the length of time young people need to spend in intensive OOHC services by supporting them to recover from trauma, abuse and neglect and providing clear pathways to permanency.

The new ITC service system outlines how services and supports are to be delivered in line with the TCF.

How will the NSW TCF guide OOHC practice?

The TCF promotes a holistic, individualised, team-based care approach for children and young people in Out of Home Care (OOHC) system. The TCF focuses on evidence-informed, culturally respectful and responsive Therapeutic Care practice. This is necessary to address the complexities of trauma, adversity, attachment and developmental needs; and improve outcomes for children and young people in care.

The TCF is not prescriptive, but rather outlines a consistent framework for delivering evidence-informed Therapeutic Care programs and practice in NSW that can lead to change, growth and healing.

The TCF will guide quality practice by encouraging:

  • a consistent understanding of Therapeutic Care for the OOHC sector (definition)
  • NSW Therapeutic Care Framework core principles defining requirements across the domains of children and young people, organisations, environment, and system.

Supporting activities such as training and education across the OOHC sector (i.e. carers, caseworkers, practitioners, service providers and stakeholders) will be considered as reform work continues. The TCF will drive best practice and supports the reforms underway as part of the Permanency Support Program.

Will the NSW TCF result in training for carers, caseworkers, practitioners and OOHC service providers?

Building sector capacity is essential to delivering quality Therapeutic Care to children and young people in OOHC in NSW. Training, support and supervision are integral to good outcomes and are being considered in the development of an overall sector change strategy.

Activities to support practice and culture change in Family and Community Services (FACS) and the sector are being developed as part of work on the new Intensive Therapeutic Care service system.

How will the NSW TCF impact children and young people from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds and those from culturally diverse communities?

In taking a holistic approach to Therapeutic Care, consideration of the cultural context of children and young people is extremely important. A culturally informed perspective affects how we understand underlying issues such as attachment, and recognises that cultural connection is critical to identity and wellbeing. The TCF highlights the importance of promoting safe, healing relationships between children and young people and their family, kin and community, noting that these relationships are important for family, social, community and cultural connections.

The TCF recognises culture as an integral aspect of a child or young person’s wellbeing. Children and young people will be active participants (where appropriate) in the development of their care and case plans, and this includes cultural plans.

How will success of the NSW TCF be measured?

The capacity to measure outcomes will support efforts to ensure relevant agencies and individuals are held accountable for improving outcomes for children and young people in OOHC in NSW. By collecting more consistent data and information for each child, caseworkers will be able to use a more targeted approach to casework, including the provision of services and supports.

Going forward, these outcomes will be measurable through the Quality Assurance Framework (QAF). The QAF will capture information across the 3 key outcome domains of: Safety, Permanency and Wellbeing. The QAF is one element of the broader Human Services Outcomes Framework.

The QAF will provide OOHC caseworkers with access to reliable and comprehensive information about the safety, permanency and wellbeing of children in statutory OOHC. This information will be collected from various sources including: FACS, Non Government Organisations (NGOs), Health, Education, carers and young people. The QAF will also provide a central point where information and data will be held.

The QAF will support caseworkers by providing them with a more comprehensive picture of what is happening in a child or young person’s life. It will ultimately be integrated into ChildStory, a new IT eco-system which will be accessible to both FACS and  NGO caseworkers.

How can I find out more?

Information about the TCF is available on this website and will be updated as required.

Framework and publications

The NSW Therapeutic Care Framework (TCF) documents comprise of two versions. A two page (snapshot), and a wider document (detailed), as below:


Read about the Therapeutic Care Framework for NSW and how it was developed:

Submissions were sought on the Framework and closed on Tuesday 6 December 2016.

Submissions and comments received during the three week public consultation period were reviewed to inform the final framework for NSW.

Thank you to all, both individuals and organisations, who took the time to provide valuable feedback and submissions.

Last updated:

10 Feb 2023