Communities and Justice


OOHC placement

Arranging a placement

The Department determines what type of placement is to be arranged for a child in OOHC, guided by:

  • Permanent placement principles for all children (section 10A)
  • Placement principles for Aboriginal children (section 13)
  • The principles for administration of the Care Act, including the culture, disability, language, religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity, of the child to be:
    • protected and preserved and
    • taken into account in all actions and decisions (section 9(2)).

Placements may be arranged by local districts, other parts of the department or PSP providers – which are accredited to provide foster care, residential care and/or adoption services by the Office of the Children’s Guardian.

However, under PSP, all placements are arranged and supervised by PSP providers.

Paying the carer allowance

PSP providers pay their carers an allowance to provide foster care placements for children in OOHC. 

Each PSP provider determines the allowance paid to their carers. However, the minimum allowance paid is the  standard rate published annually by the Department.

PSP providers consider paying an establishment payment to carers for new placements where needed.

Aboriginal cultural considerations in placement

The Department and PSP providers seek to arrange placement of Aboriginal children within their family/kin, community and culture, consistent with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Principles. This means practitioners:

  • Facilitate partnership and participation of Aboriginal people in the care and protection of their children with as much self-determination as is possible (section 11)
  • ensure decisions made about Aboriginal children are family-led, and involve the child, parents, family/kin and community in decision making concerning placement of their children and in other significant decisions (section 12) 
  • undertake work to find family and conduct genealogy to identify potential relative/kin immediately after entry into OOHC
  • determine the child’s Aboriginality or cultural heritage as soon as practicable 
  • ensure the placement arranged is consistent with Aboriginal child placement principles (section 13).

Placement with an Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation

The placement of an Aboriginal child is with an Aboriginal PSP provider that is an Aboriginal Community Controlled organisation (ACCO). If this is not possible:

  • the placement may be made with another PSP provider (not an ACCO), in partnership with the child’s local Aboriginal community
  • case planning sets out a strategy to transition case responsibility for the child to a PSP provider that is an ACCO (if available).

Placement with an Aboriginal carer

The placement of an Aboriginal child is with an Aboriginal carer. If this is not possible, case planning includes goals and tasks to support the non-Aboriginal carer to:

  • develop an understanding of the children’s Aboriginal nation, lands, mob, totem, spiritual and cultural practices (lore, rites and rituals), language and other cultural connections and
  • demonstrate commitment to maintaining the child’s cultural identity, belonging and meaningful connections to family/kin, community and culture.
  • receive appropriate support to ensure the child’s needs are met in a culturally rich environment
  • receive support as needed to achieve improved lifelong wellbeing outcomes for the child, including, cognitive functioning, physical health and development, mental health, social functioning and cultural and spiritual identity.

Non-Aboriginal carers of Aboriginal children and young people are made aware they will be transferred over time to ACCOs .

Placement with siblings

The placement of an Aboriginal child is with their siblings. If this is not possible, case planning supports lifelong connections by setting out arrangements which enable the child and their siblings to participate in family time and cultural activities as a sibling group.

Also see Case Planning for siblings in OOHC.

Placement on Country

The placement of an Aboriginal child is on Country of their family’s Aboriginal nation, lands or mob; or a placement located in the child’s Aboriginal community of belonging. If this is not possible, case planning sets out:

  • a strategy for developing and maintaining the child’s positive sense of identity, belonging and connection to family/kin, community and culture
  • arrangements to help the child develop an understanding of their Aboriginal nation, lands, mob, totem, spiritual and cultural practices (lore, rites and rituals), language and other cultural connections
  • arrangements, led and driven by family/kin, for cultural connections and experiences through participation in cultural activities, events and programs.

Also see Aboriginal child safetyAboriginal family-led decision making (glossary) and Placement decision making.

Also see Understanding and Applying the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle.

Relative/kin care placement

In most circumstances, placement with family/kin who are safe is the best possible placement for the child as:

  • they are with people who already know, love and understand them 
  • it preserves their identity, language, cultural and religious ties
  • it maintains relationships with people significant in their lives, including parents, siblings, extended family, peers, family friends and community
  • it provides them with security and stability while in OOHC
  • it aligns with the permanent placement principles (section 10A) and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principles (section 13).
  • permanency is more likely to be achieved.

PSP providers work with urgency and persistence to identify family/kin that can care for the child, in consultation with the child, their parents and family/kin. There are a number of resources and tools to support caseworkers with this work, including Family Finding© , genograms and the circle of safety resource.

Where appropriate, provisional or full assessment and authorisation is carried out in a timely manner to ensure placement options are available when required, and to meet court requirements. 

PSP providers receive a baseline service package  including funding for recruitment, assessment and authorisation of relative/kin carers (in addition to foster carers). 

(Note: 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.)

Foster care placement

PSP providers have a critical role to play in sustainably growing the capacity of the OOHC sector to provide foster care placements. Provider’s recruit, assess, authorise and maintain a pool of foster carers, including carers who can accept immediate placements, based on local demand and supply of foster carers.

Foster carers are supported to provide:

  • immediate placements regardless of a child’s need level, case plan goal, age, gender or other characteristics
  • short term care, restoration supports, or to become guardians or prospective adoptive parents
  • care to children with complex needs who are stepping down from Intensive Therapeutic Care (or an Alternative Care Arrangement) to family based placements .

Prospective foster carers are provided information about permanent placement principles (section 10A). Providers explain at the recruitment stage, that assessment and authorisation of foster carers to support restoration, guardianship and adoption is prioritised in preference to long term care.

PSP providers conduct recruitment campaigns to attract prospective foster carers capable of supporting the full range of permanency goals under PSP as well as short-term, emergency and respite care. PSP providers also recruit carers, including potential respite carers from a child’s family and kinship network.

Foster carers are recruited, trained, and supported to:

  • provide emergency and short term care to a child 
  • participate in permanency case planning 
  • work with a child’s practitioner, therapeutic services, and family/kin, to achieve restoration, become a legal guardian, or become an adoptive parent 
  • support a child’s time with their family
  • understand and appropriately respond to any trauma or pain-based behaviour a child is experiencing
  • create a safe, nurturing and positive environment that meets the cultural needs of the child.

Providers also recruit, train, and support Aboriginal foster carers to:

  • support implementation of the Aboriginal child placement principles (section 13)
  • enable Aboriginal children to maintain meaningful connections to culture and country, for lifelong wellbeing
  • provide emergency and short-term Aboriginal foster care
  • contribute to an Aboriginal respite carer network.

This includes, where possible, recruitment of Aboriginal foster carers who are recognised as members of the same local Aboriginal community as the child, and are custodians of the land where the child resides. Otherwise, providers recruit Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander foster carers from other communities or lands, who are residing locally. 

Arranging an OOHC placement

Collaborating in arranging immediate placement

The Department and the PSP provider have complementary roles in arranging immediate placements. 

PSP providers recruit and maintain a pool of foster carers, enabling the arrangement of immediate placements (sometimes referred to as ‘emergency placements’). 

When a PSP provider arranges an immediate placement, they commence primary case responsibility.  Also see Transfer of primary case responsibility.

An immediate placement is arranged when:

  • the Department broadcasts a Placement Referral through ChildStory, seeking a foster care placement
  • a PSP provider submits a Placement Referral Acceptance (accepted by the Department).

Also see Collaborating in arranging foster care placements.

Transition from an immediate placement

At the conclusion of an immediate placement:

  • a child may be returned to their parents or placed with a relative/kin carer or
  • a child may be placed with a foster carer, if a suitable member of a child’s family/kin cannot be identified.

Where possible, any potential relative/kin carer should be authorised by the PSP provider that provided the immediate placement. If a new relative/kin carer or foster carer is authorised by another PSP provider, the existing provider:

  • develops a transition plan in consultation with the child’s parents and family/kin, the Department, and the new PSP provider
  • provides necessary casework to support transition of the child to the primary case responsibility of the new PSP provider.

Conversion to permanent placement

In some cases, a child’s emergency carer may become their permanent carer when:

  • all efforts have been explored, and a member of the child’s family/kin can still not be identified and authorised as a relative/kin carer 
  • the conversion of the immediate placement to a permanent placement is agreed to by the carer and PSP provider and is in the best interest of the child.

Also see resolving disputes.

Collaborating in arranging relative/kin placement

The Department has the primary role in assessing and authorising relative and kin carers and providing ongoing case responsibility to the children of those carers. In limited circumstances, when this does not occur, the Department and a PSP provider have complementary roles in arranging relative/kin placements. PSP providers assist the Department to recruit, assess and authorise a relative/kin carers (in the first instance).

When arranging a relative/kin placement, the Department:

  • complies with the permanent placement (section 10A) and Aboriginal child placement principles (section 13)
  • identifies family/kin of the child who are appropriate to be assessed and authorised by the service provider, as a relative/kin carer for the child
  • if multiple potential relative/kin carers are identified, works with all the family to help determine which family members are best placed to undertake provisional relative/kin carer assessment, before requesting the PSP provider conduct full relative/kin carer assessment
  • requests a PSP provider conduct provisional or full relative/kin carer assessment of the relative/kin considered best placed to care for the child from the options identified through finding family work, Aboriginal family-led decision making, family group conferencing or other family led processes 
  • advises the Children’s Court about the timeframes for a PSP provider to reasonably be able to conduct a relative/kin carer assessment when court proceedings are underway.

When arranging a relative/kin placement in response to a request by the Department, a PSP provider:

  • assesses and authorises an identified relative/kin carer applicant
  • is responsible for incurring expenditure in relation to relative/kin carer assessment
  • may arrange more than one relative/kin carer assessment identified through efforts to find family, subject to the needs of the child
  • if more than one family member has been identified, makes decisions about which assessments to prioritise with the family through Family Group Conferencing or Aboriginal family-led decision making, subject to operational capacity and court timeframes 
  • assesses and authorises relative/kin carers in a timely manner, in response to the administrative directions of the Children’s Court, when court proceedings are underway: 
    • making best endeavours to complete assessments within court-imposed timeframes  
    • requesting the Department to seek leave of the court to extend timeframes for assessment (if necessary).
Collaborating in arranging foster care placements

The Department and the PSP provider have complementary roles in arranging foster care placements if a member of a child’s family/kin cannot be identified. 

Arranging foster care placements occurs through the ChildStory placement broadcast system. This does not prevent the Department and PSP providers using telephone calls and emails to facilitate good relationships, information sharing and placement matching. 

When requesting a foster care placement, the Department broadcasts a Placement Referral through ChildStory, seeking a placement arranged by a PSP provider . 

PSP providers, following receipt of a Placement Referral (broadcast), reply to the Department confirming Placement Referral Acceptance or Placement Referral Decline. 

PSP providers consider all measures that can be put in place to mitigate risk, help the carer to care for the child and support Placement Referral Acceptance. Providers provide a clear rationale and evidence for declining a Placement Referral. See PLA Schedule 1 for examples of when a Placement Referral may be declined. 

When broadcast of a placement request occurs:

  • the practitioner requesting the placement completes a Placement Needs Assessment (PNA), which creates a Client Information Form (part A and part B) that supports placement matching
  • the CFDU contacts the practitioner who completed the PNA for further information, as required
  • the CFDU applies the Child Assessment Tool (CAT) within 14 days of placement to determine:
    • the level of the child's needs in the placement and the corresponding 'child needs package' tailored to the child’s needs (low, medium or high)
    • whether a child is referred to the CAU for ITC placement (CAT score 5/6)
  • the CFDU conducts a CAT review within 30 days of placement, if requested by the PSP provider.

When arranging a foster care placement, a PSP provider:

  • proposes a foster care placement in response to a Placement Referral (broadcast) by the Department
  • matches a child to a foster care placement, informed by the placement needs assessment (PNA) and Child Assessment Tool (CAT) outcome.

Placement matching

Placement matching is the process of matching a child with suitable foster carers to promote the successful establishment of the placement and achievement of the child’s case plan goal. PSP providers support carers to provide care to a range of children with different characteristics, including, age, behaviour, disability and interests. 

Placement matching relies on the placement needs assessment (PNA) and client information forms (CIF) Part A & B. Neither the PNA nor the CIF forms replace professional judgement regarding placement matching. Rather, they help the Department and PSP providers make informed decisions based on a structured assessment of the child’s needs. 

Placement matching also addresses other factors such as:

  • whether the proposed placement is consistent with the permanent placement principles (section 10A) and Aboriginal child placement principles (section 13)
  • other information exchanged between the Department and PSP provider
  • the placement type, that is, whether it is an immediate, shorter term, or long term foster care placement
  • the needs and stability of other children in the placement.

Placement needs assessment (PNA)

A placement needs assessment (PNA) supports placement matching and results in a Client Information Form (part A and part B). It is an assessment compiling known information about a child across the domains of:

  • daily living skills
  • communication, emotional and behavioural functioning
  • social relationships
  • challenging or harmful behaviours
  • interests and recreation
  • identity, extended family and significant relationships
  • education/vocational training and 
  • child protection history. 
Child Assessment Tool (CAT)

The CAT supports placement matching. It is informed by the information contained in the PNA (Client Information Form, part A and part B). The CAT:

  • helps determine the service type and level of support to best meet the needs of a child (Child Needs package)
  • enhances the transparency and consistency of placement decisions (foster care, residential care or ITC)
  • creates a common framework for placement decisions between the Department and the PSP provider
  • considers the impact of certain behavioural issues and health and development issues on both the placements and carers, with the goal of minimising unplanned placement changes.

Also see PCMP Resources - List: Frameworks, Standards, Guidelines & Assessment Tools.

Review of a child’s assessed level of need

A PSP provider can request a review of the CAT outcome if:

  • there is new information about the child’s behaviours, health or developmental issues
  • if a child’s circumstances have changed significantly, impacting the child’s behaviour, the level of care they require, or the stability of the placement.

A CAT review is completed by the nominated unit* in collaboration with the PSP provider:

  • The nominated unit completes the CAT (review) in ChildStory.
  • The PSP provider provides all relevant information about the child and their placement to the nominated unit, to support the CAT Review.

(* Barnardos is delegated certain aspects of parental responsibility under a deed entered into by the Minister and Barnardos. This delegation allows Barnardos to conduct its own CAT reviews.)

Ensuring a placement is safe

Practitioners ensure a placement is physically safe when placing a child with carers for the first time.

The PSP provider arranging the placement (‘authorising provider’) provides a copy of the latest OOHC Home Inspection Checklist** (if practicable) to the caseworker responsible for placing the child (‘placing caseworker’).

The placing caseworker:

  • uses the checklist to confirm any outstanding issues have been addressed in the placement and that no new issues have arisen
  • seeks the carer’s permission to walk around the placement home including the front and back yards to check if a placement is physically safe or not
  • explains the reasons for walking around the home to the carers, and works with them to understand the cause of, and address, specific dangers.

If there are any immediate or ongoing safety issues identified, the placing caseworker:

  • alerts the authorising PSP provider immediately
  • does not leave the child at the placement if assessed as unsafe.

For example, if a swimming pool at the placement was without secure fencing and a working gate, the child would be assessed as unsafe (as well as any other children in the placement) by the placing caseworker.

At the case transfer meeting, the placing caseworker raises any immediate or ongoing safety issues with the authorising provider, including outstanding issues from the last home inspection.

The authorising provider considers a joint home inspection with the placing caseworker to ensure the child is safe in the placement. This recognises:

  • a foster carer’s circumstances and household may change at any time after their initial assessment or between annual reviews
  • that we work collaboratively to uphold the rights of every child to a safe placement.

(** Practitioners are not required to conduct a new Home Inspection Checklist however they check for non-compliance based on their awareness of the standards.) 

Changing a child’s OOHC placement

For changes in placement involving a change in primary case responsibility from one PSP provider to another, see transfer of primary case responsibility.

PSP providers advise the nominated unit of internal changes to primary placements (excluding respite placements) between their carers within five business days. 

PSP providers immediately advise the nominated unit of:

Restoration placement

What is a restoration placement?

A restoration placement occurs when a child:

  • exits OOHC, but remains in the parental responsibility of the Minister and
  • goes home to live with their parents (if safe to do so) under a restoration plan accepted by the court.

A restoration plan is considered to be approved when:

  • A care plan has been filed in Children’s Court proceedings with a goal of restoration (section 78 and section 83)
  • the Children’s Court accepts the care plan and has made a Shorter Term Court Order (STCO) to support achievement of the case plan goal
  • a family action plan for change has been developed, to support the child’s family to make meaningful change
  • an OOHC case plan has been prepared, to address the needs of the child, with a case plan goal of restoration (set by the Department).

Under a restoration plan accepted by the court, a child may go home for short periods or longer periods at any time up to 12 months before the date of  restoration (section 136).

A restoration placement before the expiry of the STCO allows the child’s parent:

  • to demonstrate the change in their behaviour and actions
  • prepare for changes in their child's developmental need, behaviour and routine
  • begin to utilise a strengthened family and social network to increase the likelihood of successful restoration.

The date restoration is legally achieved is the date parental responsibility returns to the parents. This occurs when an STCO expires. It may also occur when the court rescinds a long term care order previously allocating parental responsibility to the Minister.

Collaborating in restoration placement

The Department and PSP provider have complementary roles in restoration as part of a restoration plan accepted by the court.

  • Prior to commencement of a restoration the PSP provider:
    • requests a permanency consultation  
    • presents information to the DCJ nominated unit supporting the proposal to place the child with their parents
    • presents a transition plan spanning the period from the proposed day the child returns home until expiry of the STCO.
  • PSP providers use evidence-based assessment to inform decision making about the commencement of a restoration placement . The Department’s preferred evidence-based assessment tool is the SDM© Restoration Assessment and may be used by PSP providers (under licence to the Department). 
  • The PSP provider does not proceed with the restoration and return the child home until approved by the nominated unit.
  • Subject to local district operating arrangements, the nominated unit considers any recommendation made by a Permanency Coordinator, following permanency consultation or group supervision.
  • The nominated unit considers evidence provided by the PSP provider, including previous permanency progress reviews. If appropriate, the nominated unit approves the restoration placement and informs the PSP provider of this decision.
  • The nominated unit informs the PSP provider of the decision regarding approval of the restoration placement.
  • During the period of a restoration placement, and prior to the STCO expiring (or a long term care order being rescinded by the court), the nominated unit conducts assessment using: 
    • a review safety assessment if subsequent information is received to change any dangers, protective capacities, or the prior safety decision
    • a risk re-assessment to demonstrate risk level has dropped to low or moderate
    • a closing safety assessment to demonstrate there are no unresolved dangers.

Also see changing the case plan goal.

Away from placement

The PSP Away from Placement Policy forms part of the PCMP. It provides rules and practice guidance for responding to an away from placement event when:

  • a child or young person is away from their primary placement for a temporary period, or 
  • a child is not in a placement, after their primary placement has closed. 

The policy supports collaborative case management by PSP providers and the Department in reporting, responding and managing a child or young person that experiences an away from placement event. 

PSP providers refer to the PSP Away from Placement Policy when responding to an away from placement event. 

Occasionally a child in the parental responsibility of the Minister may present at a Specialist Homelessness Service. For the process followed by the Specialist Homelessness Service, Department and PSP provider see: Unaccompanied Children 12–15 Years Accessing Specialist Homelessness Services Policy.

Temporary Care Arrangement (TCA)

What is a Temporary Care Arrangement (TCA)?

A TCA may arise when:

  • the Department assesses a child to be in need of care and protection arising from a safety assessment (SARA)
  • the child’s parents consent to a TCA Agreement or are assessed as ‘incapable of consenting’
  • there is a permanency plan involving restoration of the child to their parents at the end of the TCA period (section 151(3)).

TCAs are supported OOHC, not statutory OOHC, arrangements. Restoration from a TCA is different from restoration from Statutory OOHC because there are no court proceedings and no court order. 

When considering entering into a TCA, the Department:

  • recognises the parents are able to end a TCA at any time
  • considers how the child’s safety needs may be met if the parents withdraw their consent and the child to returns to their care
  • weighs up the suitability of other options such as removal of the child without the parents’ consent (assumption/removal).

Under a TCA, the child is placed with carers, in the care responsibility of the Secretary (section 151). Parental responsibility remains with the parents.

The period of a TCA is up to three months (section 152) and may extend for a further period of up to three months (in same 12 month period). The maximum period for a single or multiple TCAs is six months in any 12 month period (section 152(4)(a)).

During a TCA, a case plan (with a goal of restoration) is prepared within 30 days of the child entering supported OOHC. The case plan requires review if the period of the TCA exceeds three months (section 155).

The TCA ends when:

  • the period of the TCA expires without being extended
  • the child is restored by the Department in accordance with the TCA agreement or
  • the TCA agreement is terminated by:
    • The parents requesting return or resuming care of their child or
    • The department removing or assuming the child into care of the Secretary or filing a care application in the Children’s Court seeking care orders.

Also see PCMP Resources – List: case planning timeframes

What is a TCA placement?

The Department always considers whether placement of a child subject to a TCA, may be with a relative/kin carer. Only the Department arranges a relative/kin care placement necessary for a TCA. 

A foster care placement may be arranged by a PSP provider for a TCA, if a member of a child’s family/kin cannot be identified. When this occurs, the Department broadcasts a Placement Request seeking a foster care placement (TCA placement), arranged by a PSP provider. Case responsibility during the TCA is not transferred to the PSP provider and the Department continues to exercise case responsibility.

PSP provider supervision of a placement under a TCA

Supervision of a TCA placement is different to supervision of a statutory OOHC placement. 

  • Despite the Secretary’s powers of delegation (section 250), care responsibility (section 157(1)) cannot be delegated to a PSP provider. Care responsibility may only be delegated to a foster carer (section 151(2)(b)). 
  • Although the PSP provider does not exercise primary case responsibility, the PSP provider continues to supervise the placement.
  • The provisions and conditions of the PSP PLA (contract) and PCMP apply.
Collaborating in arranging a TCA

The Department clarifies what information will be reasonably required from the PSP provider to satisfy the Department the TCA is safe, nurturing, stable and secure (section 9(e))*. This includes information obtained by the PSP provider:

  • from carrying out home inspections and 
  • having conversations with the child and the foster carers about the child’s care . 

The Department and PSP provider clarify how decisions will be made during a TCA placement including: 

  • how parental responsibility decisions will be made, noting the parents continue to exercise parental responsibility (section 157(2)) (for example consenting to non-urgent medical and dental treatment involving surgery) 
  • how care responsibility decisions will be made by the Department and the foster carers (for example giving permission for the child to participate in activities such as school excursions)
  • how decisions will made be if an unplanned event occurs, for example if the parents terminate the TCA or there is a critical event.

* In circumstances when primary case responsibility is with a service provider as part of the PSP preservation service, the Preservation service provider also takes part and collaborates.

Collaborating during a TCA placement

The Department and PSP providers have complementary roles during a TCA placement.

During the entire period of the TCA, the Department facilitates a family-led process to achieve restoration. The Department:

  • visits a child, their parents, siblings and family/kin 
  • conducts ongoing conversations and makes observations in relation to parental actions and behaviours to increase the safety of their child 
  • conducts safety and risk re-assessment (SARA) and supports the family to address the identified dangers resulting in the TCA
  • liaises and collaborates with the PSP provider in relation to their ongoing assessment and in response to any issues arising in the TCA placement. 

During the entire period of the TCA, the Department:

  • convenes a meeting to develop a Family Action Plan for Change (including identifying referrals to suitable support services), and invites the PSP provider to attend
  • convenes a case conference to develop the child’s case plan (within 15 days of completing the SARA assessment) and invites the PSP provider to attend.

During the entire period of the TCA, the PSP provider is funded to supervise the TCA placement including: 

  • authorisation training, casework support of the foster or relative/kin carers, care allowance and child-related costs 
  • casework support of the child in relation to educational support, health services, mentoring, counselling, psychology and behaviour therapy
  • supports the foster carers to exercise care responsibility (section 157) on behalf of the Department, including decision making regarding medical/dental treatment, managing behaviour, permission to participate in education and other activities 
  • convening a case conference and reviewing the child’s case plan 
  • making and administering family time arrangements 
  • providing intensive family preservation and support services, including in-home support, counselling, coaching and brokerage to facilitate restoration
  • liaises with the Department in relation to supervision of the TCA placement
  • collaborates in case planning processes to identify family goals and outcomes, including monitoring and review of change/progress towards goals.
Last updated:

04 Apr 2023