Communities and Justice

Family time for children in OOHC

Family time with parents, siblings and family/kin can:

  • strengthen the child’s relationship with their parents, siblings and family/kin
  • help a child feel more connected to their family/kin and show them they are still part of their parents’ lives
  • help a child to understand where they come from, their culture, and where they fit within their family and community structure
  • help a child to understand their story from their family’s perspective, not just from the view of the PSP provider, Department, or carer
  • help a child and their parents with a difficult relationship, to learn new ways of behaving
  • support restoration by maintaining and improving the parent-child relationship.

PSP providers support children and their family to participate in family time as much as possible, and at a minimum, at the frequency specified by the Court. The views and needs of children, their parents, family/kin, and carers are considered when planning family time. PSP providers create family time schedules, so families and children have predicable time.

PSP providers use evidence-based tools to support children, their parents and family/kin during family time. The Department’s preferred tool to plan family time is the Safe Contact Tool. However, PSP providers may use different evidence-based tools at their discretion.

Finding family connections and networks

The single factor most connected with positive outcomes for children is meaningful, lifelong connections with family and kin. Children have a right to know and stay connected to family/kin members and other important people in their lives.

PSP providers work with a child, their carer, and family/kin to ensure these connections are continuously developed, maintained and supported, regardless of the child’s permanency goal. This works begins as soon as a child enters care and continues the entire time the child is in care.  

Caseworkers use a range of models and tools to help them find family/kin and other people important to the child, for example, Family Finding©, genograms, and the circle of safety resource.

Family Finding©  the department’s preferred model, aims to locate, connect and engage parents, siblings, family/kin or other supportive persons to build a child’s lifetime support network and enhance placement permanency, whether through restoration, guardianship or long term care.

Engaging carers in family time

The PSP provider and their carers have complementary roles in relation to family time between a child and their family:

  • A PSP provider involves a child’s carers in planning arrangements for family time.
  • A PSP provider helps their carers to develop or support maintenance of connections between a child and their parents, siblings and family/kin. This includes:
    • involving, and when appropriate, facilitating family and sibling time
    • providing empathetic support to help carers ‘understand the child’s family and explain parent behaviour in the context of trauma and grief’
    • listening to the carer’s concerns and developing strategies with carers to support family time including understanding and supporting the child’s emotional needs before and after family time
    • helping the carer understand why family time is important, and the positive role they can play in supporting children to stay connected to their family.
  • Carers encourage and support a child in their care to spend time with parents, siblings and family/kin by:
    • preparing them for family and sibling time
    • supporting the child through loss and grief they may experience with family time
    • keeping a record of, and providing information about, their experiences in care
    • taking the child to and from family and sibling time (if assessed as safe and practical to do so)
    • supporting planned and flexible planning for family and sibling time
    • participating in family or sibling time with the child (if assessed as safe and appropriate by the PSP provider), except prior to final orders and
    • facilitating family or sibling time with the child (if assessed as safe and appropriate by the PSP provider), this is critical when the case plan goal is guardianship and adoption and
    • developing a positive relationship with the child’s parents, siblings and family.
Considering the need for supervision of family time

Wherever possible, children should have time with their parents without it being supervised. Just because a parent cannot care safely for their children, does not mean that family time should be supervised.

In planning family time, a PSP provider considers the purpose of supervision to:

  • take actions to promote safety
  • make observations, that can be filed as evidence in court proceedings or to inform an assessment
  • to provide coaching and guidance to the parents.

The following factors are considered by the PSP provider to promote safety:

  • the arrangements set out in the child’s court-approved care plan
  • the history of family time arrangements
  • the child’s development stage and changing needs as they grow up
  • assessment of the history of the parent’s and child’s engagement in family time
  • any evidence a person participating in family time is likely to jeopardise a child’s safety
  • concerns the child may be emotionally or physically harmed during family time, or abducted
  • recommendations of another professional working with the child or their family that family time be supervised.

Unsupervised family time is not permitted if any court orders in place require supervision.

When family time is supervised, the supervisor:

interacts positively with the child, their parents, siblings and family/kin

  • provides parents with coaching and guidance
  • reinforces positive behaviours and interactions
  • enhances trust and builds engagement with the child and their family
  • helps the child to relax and enjoy visits without concerns about their safety
  • supports the parents to build and demonstrate their skills and capacity
  • observes and document interactions, including the parents demonstrated ability to meet the child’s care and safety needs. (Demonstration of parenting capacity is a key measure of the SDM© Restoration Assessment).

If some family time is not supervised by their caseworker, the PSP provider ensures the child is not exposed to multiple changes in contact supervisor. The engagement of a single or small number of contact supervisors who get to know the child, their parents and family/kin and regularly supervise family time promotes safety, consistency and stability of the arrangements.

When court proceedings are underway, the child’s caseworker participates directly in family time visits. This is to ensure the caseworker is able to provide adequate first hand evidence during court proceedings.

Before implementing family time arrangements, the PSP provider requests a permanency consultation if:

  • court ordered arrangements (frequency, duration or supervision) are considered to not be in the child’s best interests or would place the child at risk
  • the proposed arrangements significantly depart from the child’s care plan
  • the proposed arrangements are anticipated to support a proposal to change a child’s case plan goal or contact orders.

Also see Caring for Kids, PCMP Resources - List: Frameworks, Standards, Guidelines & Assessment Tools , sibling time and respite for siblings

Aboriginal cultural considerations in family time

In maintaining an Aboriginal child’s sense of identity and connection with their parents, family/kin, community and culture is key:

  • Family time may include culturally and family-based experiences when they are able to participate in a safe environment chosen by the child, their parents or family/kin.
  • Aboriginal practitioners supervise family visits (if possible).

Also see Preserving an Aboriginal child’s relationships and connections

Last updated:

28 Mar 2023