Permanency for children

Legislative changes came into effect on 1 March 2016 to address harmful delays in decision-making for children who cannot live with their families due to concerns about their safety and wellbeing.

The changes will make a significant difference for children, particularly those who are in out-of-home care and are not likely to be able to return safely to their parent’s care.

At the core of the changes is the need to give children greater permanency in their long-term care that provides them with stability and a sense of certainty about their future. For most children who come into contact with child protection, permanency is achieved through family preservation or reunification.

The key changes include:

  • Early intervention and case planning when abuse and neglect is first identified.
  • A reduced number of Children's Court orders that clarify the purpose of the intervention.
  • Child protection case plans aligned to Children’s Court orders. There will be an actions table, so parents know what they need to do to regain care of their children.
  • Set timeframes for parents to address protective concerns. Parents will have an initial 12 months to resolve issues so they can safely resume care of their child. An additional 12 months will be provided by the Children’s Court if reunification is likely to be achieved in that time, or a permanent alternative will be sought.
  • Cultural support planning will be required for all Aboriginal children in out-of-home care.

The changes respond to the findings and recommendations of the Protecting Victoria’s Vulnerable Children Inquiry (2012) which found that it took, on average, just over five years from a child protection report being received to a child being placed on a permanent care order – where this was required – and that this was too long.

An independent review of these legislative changes will begin in six months.

More support for families and carers

The Victorian Government has allocated $2 million for more individualised Family Preservation Packages that aim to provide at-risk families the support and programs they need to address protective concerns and provide children with improved care. The packages will also support reunification of children already in care with their parents.

A further $1 million has been provided recurrently to child protection programs across the state to support carers to meet the needs of children where the Children’s Court has determined they are unable to return to their parents’ care and require alternative permanent arrangements. A further $1 million will be made available recurrently to support existing permanent carers to better meet the needs of children in their care.

More information

If you would like to know more about how the changes affect your family, please speak with your case worker.

For more information about the permanency changes, please download the permanency fact sheet.

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