Communities and Justice

Roles and responsibilities

Statutory powers exercised by the Department

The Department is a statutory agency with powers conferred upon it by the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 (the Care Act), allowing it to:

  • respond to child protection reports meeting the risk of significant harm (ROSH) threshold or that are otherwise screened in for assessment
  • exercise functions of parental responsibility for children in out-of-home care (OOHC), allocated to the Minister
  • enact statutory duties in relation to all orders made under the Care Act, whether or not they involve the re-allocation of parental responsibility
  • initiates or consents to adoption or guardianship proceedings.

Also see PCMP Resources – List: statutory powers exercised by the Department.

Powers and functions of parental responsibility

The powers of parental responsibility exercised by the Department include all the powers, duties, responsibilities and authority, which by law, parents have in relation to their children. This means making all the decisions parents would normally make in relation to children, when they are in statutory OOHC.

The Minister delegates particular functions of parental responsibility to the Secretary of the department (section 249 and section 250). In turn, the Secretary delegates particular functions to various positions in the Department via an internal delegations schedule. 

Currently through a deed of agreement (PDF, 360.3 KB), the Minister has delegated powers to Barnados Australia to exercise particular, but not all, functions of parental responsibility. All other PSP providers are not delegated functions of parental responsibility. 

PSP providers are commissioned by the Department to provide PSP services, including preservation and statutory OOHC, under a PSP Program Level Agreement. PSP providers are funded via the PSP Packaged Service Model.  (PDF, 688.7 KB)

Also see PCMP Resources – List: Functions of parental responsibility exercised by the Department.

Case management / case responsibility

Case management is comprised of two types of case responsibility, primary case responsibility and secondary case responsibility. On ChildStory, secondary case responsibility, exercised by a nominated unit, is called ‘internal primary case responsibility’.

Primary case responsibility

When a PSP provider has primary case responsibility, the primary casework relationship is between the provider and the child, their carer, parents and family/kin.

Primary case responsibility includes:

  • delivering individualised casework support, planning and review – with the child, their carers, parents, siblings and family/kin
  • recognising, engaging and developing the unique strengths and capabilities of the child, their parents and family/kin
  • using evidence-based models of practice to:
    • provide practical assistance and flexible wrap around services to meet the child’s identified needs and support their family
    • achieve the child’s case plan goal as soon as possible, or within two years, as described in the PSP Program Level Agreement (PLA)
  • providing information and data regarding each child’s progress towards achieving their case plan goal through:

For children in statutory OOHC, primary case responsibility includes:

  • accepting responsibility for expenditure in relation to its exercise of primary case responsibility
  • providing residential care and control (section 135), supervision of the placement (section 138) and supporting their carers to exercise care responsibility (section 157)
  • making decisions including consenting to some general or emergency medical/dental treatment, managing behaviour, giving permission to participate in activities and decisions about education and training *
  • working collaboratively with the department, the child, their carers, parents, family/kin and community, and the services working with them, to achieve a child’s permanency goal.

* The decision to enrol a child or young person in a school or change schools, regardless of whether the school is government or private, is exercised by the PSP provider. The PSP provider is responsible (with the carer) for any costs associated with school attendance. 

Limitations to primary case responsibility

For children who have achieved their case plan goal of restoration, adoption and guardianship, primary case responsibility is limited to:

For young persons who have attained the age of 18 years and exited long term OOHC, primary case responsibility is limited to:

  • a period expiring upon the young person attaining the age of 25 years and
  • the provision of aftercare support, during this period.

Secondary case responsibility

Secondary case responsibility,* when exercised by the Department, is responsibility for:

  • carrying out the Department’s statutory role, for example:
    • conducting risk re-assessment in relation to a child subject to an existing child protection report or following restoration of a child in OOHC
    • responding to a new child protection report or
    • conducting an Alternate Assessment
  • exercising the residential aspect of parental responsibility on behalf of the Minister for children in OOHC, including making decisions in relation to:
    • providing consent to some medical/dental treatment
    • birth registration/certificates, name change, passports, residence, and citizenship
    • marriage requests, death certificates and registration of deaths
    • inheritance, wills and trust accounts
    • interstate travel and interstate moves
    • overseas travel or movement
    • publication of identifying information
  • working collaboratively with the PSP provider to:
    • set the child’s case plan goal
    • approve changes to the child’s case plan goal when this is in the child’s best interest.

* On ChildStory, secondary case responsibility (exercised by a nominated unit) is referred to as ‘internal primary case responsibility’.

The Department's role

Nominated unit

When a PSP provider exercises primary case responsibility, the Department nominates which of their units will exercise secondary case responsibility. In most cases this is the Child and Family District Unit (CFDU) for children on final orders. For a child on interim orders, the nominated unit is usually the Community Services Centre (CSC).

The DCJ unit (usually the CSC) arranging case management transfer:

  • notifies the PSP provider of the departmental unit that will be the nominated unit to exercise secondary case responsibility, no later than the transfer date
  • arranges internal transfer of secondary responsibility to the nominated unit.

Commissioning and planning

Commissioning and Planning teams in each local district work to improve the capability of the service system. They do this by:

  • identifying gaps and building service system capacity 
  • responding to systemic, operational or governance issues and
  • monitoring and reporting on the performance of the service system.

Contract Managers also work closely with specific PSP providers, using a strengths based approach, to ensure:

  • PSP contracts are achieving better outcomes for children and families
  • PSP providers have capacity and capability to deliver the outcomes agreed in contracts
  • issues and risks are being managed to ensure effective service delivery 
  • clarity and accountability as to how funds are being used to meet client needs.

Contract Managers collaborate with Permanency Coordinators to:

  • support PSP providers to achieve better outcomes for children and their parents
  • ensure PSP providers are receiving the correct PSP packages to achieve children’s case plan goals
  • ensure PSP providers are working towards permanency and there is a pattern of achieving children’s case plan goals within two years.

Contract Managers collaborate with CFDUs to:

  • ensure PSP providers are receiving the correct funding packages
  • identify issues and risks impacting effective service delivery.

See PSP Packages: Eligibility Rules and inclusions (PDF, 640.7 KB) and DCJ website: Funding and Financial Support.

Permanency Coordinators

Permanency Coordinators (PCs) are permanency consultants, advocates and advisors to the Department and PSP providers. They help embed a culture that values and prioritises relational, physical, cultural and legal permanency for children and young people. They provide consultation and support to casework teams when considering different permanency pathways and how they can be achieved. 

Permanency Coordinators monitor progress towards permanency outcomes within required timeframes. See permanency progress reviews.

Permanency Coordinators adopt an approach that:

  • regularly reviews permanency decisions based on the changing circumstances of children, young people, parents and carers
  • focuses on permanency for children and young people when providing advice and supporting decision making
  • focuses on permanency pathways of preservation, restoration, guardianship and adoption
  • provides direction, guidance and supports skill development in permanency work for PSP provider staff
  • negotiates the complexity of permanency with sensitivity, empathy and a sound knowledge of relevant legislation, policy and contractual requirements
  • advocates for collaborative decision-making between DCJ and PSP providers, children, young people, families and carers.

Also see Permanency Coordinator role scope (PDF, 453.4 KB)

Child and Family District Units (CFDUs)

Child and Family District Units (CFDUs) act as the key interface between PSP provider practitioners and the Department. CFDUs exercise secondary case responsibility as the nominated unit.

Responsibilities include:

  • providing advice about this policy and local district operating arrangements 
  • finding placements for children including making placement broadcasts to PSP providers
  • collating, approving, and filing court evidence and other documentation provided by PSP providers with the Children's Court for children in long-term care
  • decision making in relation to the Minister's exercise of parental responsibility for children in statutory OOHC*
  • decision making in relation to setting or changing a child's case plan goal**
  • decision making in relation to approval of PSP service packages (subject to delegations).

CFDUs are also the point of contact for PSP providers, especially when there has been a significant change in relevant circumstances for the child, their parents, siblings or family/kin requiring review by the Department. A PSP provider may:

See DCJ CFDU contact list.

* Barnardos Australia have been delegated aspects of parental responsibility, to exercise some, but not all, functions of parental responsibility.  

** Barnardos Australia has been delegated aspects of parental responsibility, to exercise some, but not all, functions of parental responsibility. Barnardos Australia can approve changes to case plan goals for non-Aboriginal children with a final order, without proposing the change to DCJ. 

Open Adoption and Permanency Services, OOHC Adoption

OOHC Adoption and Permanency Services has oversight, preparation and management of applications for adoption in the Supreme Court.

OOHC Adoption offers PSP providers access to Adoption Caseworkers in local districts, who have extensive knowledge about adoption. Adoption Caseworkers are not contract managers or decision-makers. Rather, their role is to:

  • help the Department or PSP providers to identify children for whom adoption may be an appropriate permanency option
  • adoption advice in relation to legislation and practice
  • provide support, including consultation in complex adoption decision making
  • assist in preparing court documents and filing the adoption application in court.

PSP providers can email OOHC Adoption and Permanency Services at

Central Access Unit (CAU)

The CAU acts as a centralised referral pathway for children entering the Intensive Therapeutic Care (ITC) or being placed in residential care. It is responsible for suitability assessment, referral management and outcomes reporting.

ITC helps children over 12 years with high needs who are recovering from severe forms of trauma, neglect or abuse. These children:

  • are unable to be supported in foster care
  • require specialised services to maintain stability in their care arrangements
  • are provided with therapeutic services, allowing them to step down into less intensive placements as they heal.

ITC draws on the NSW Therapeutic Care Framework and provides a range of therapeutic placement types.

Joint Child Protection Response Program (JCPRP)

The Joint Child Protection Response Program (JCPRP) involves the Department, NSW Police Force and NSW Health working together in responding to child protection reports of serious child abuse which may constitute a criminal offence.

The coordination of a tri-agency JCPRP response (in relation to accepted referrals) is managed within the JCPRP Local Planning and Response Procedures.

When there is a JCPRP response, the PSP provider (with primary case responsibility):

  • acts to ensure the immediate safety of the victim child and other non-victim children
  • takes JCPRP direction regarding preservation of evidence and criminal proceedings
  • works collaboratively with JCPRP in relation to how decisions are made to enable a coordinated and effective response.

The PSP provider’s legal and contractual role does not change, that is the provider continues to supervise the child’s placement and have case responsibility for achieving the child’s case plan goal within two years.

The requirement to accept JCPRP direction is time-limited and only continues until the JCPRP SARA is completed.

Panel of Independent Assessors

The Department offers a Panel of Independent Assessors to help practitioners determine the best permanency option for a child, when objective independent advice is required to support decision making. The Department has taken this approach to:

  • provide a clear and transparent process for increasing the number of assessors
  • support more consistent, predictable and timely outcomes
  • describe departmental expectations of independent assessors.

Independent assessors are subcontracted by PSP providers to conduct assessments in relation to particular case plan goals, on a fee for service basis, including:

  • restoration viability assessment (often referred to as a parenting capacity assessment)
  • guardianship assessment
  • adoption assessment and adoption plans (including non-OOHC adoption)
  • permanency assessment.

PSP providers can access the NSW Police Force iASK database. As a prescribed body, a PSP provider can share relevant information from the iASK database with an independent assessor, under a contractual arrangement. Information may only be shared for the purpose of conducting an assessment, when it supports the safety, welfare and wellbeing of the child, under section 245F of the Care Act.

PSP providers are required to ensure each independent assessor deals with information from the iASK database in accordance with the information protection principles set out in the Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998. Also see key privacy obligations for DCJ contractor’s factsheet (PDF, 156.4 KB).

PSP providers contact their DCJ contract manager to request endorsement to obtain access to the iASK database. This requires endorsement from a DCJ contract manager (delegation level 5 or above).

The DCJ contract manager emails the iASK administrator to:

  • endorse the PSP provider to access the iASK database
  • confirm the provider is a prescribed body under section 245B of the Care Act.

When access has been granted by the iASK administrator, a PSP provider manager submits a New User Form for each casework practitioner requiring access.*

* PSP providers email the iASK administrator at to request the New User Form. 

Last updated:

13 Oct 2023