Amendments to the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 allow for the authorisation of carers to make certain decisions have commenced.
New section 175A of the Children, Youth and Families Act enables the Secretary to specify issues relating to a child in out-of-home care, about which a person who has care of the child may be authorised to make decisions. Issues may be specified in relation to a particular child, a child subject to a particular type of order, or a person who provides a certain category of care under the Act. Section 175B of the Act enables the Secretary to authorise a person who has care of the child to make a decision in relation to the child on a specified issue without consulting the department.
Where a parent retains guardianship, major long-term issues cannot be specified. A major long-term issue is now defined in section 3(1) as an issue about the care, wellbeing and development of the child, which is of a long-term nature. This includes issues about the child’s education (both current and future), religious and cultural upbringing, health or name of a long-term nature.
Case planners will be able to authorise carers, and delegations are in place so this practice can gradually be implemented from 17 November 2014. Current carers will receive their authorisation over coming months, to be in place for the beginning of the 2015 school year.
Materials have been developed to assist with authorising carers. These include practice advice and a checklist, authorisation instrument templates, templates of letters to carers and parents, and information sheets for carers, young people, parents and case workers. All materials are available on the Child Protection Practice Manual website: http://www.dhs.vic.gov.au/cpmanual. An information sheet for early childhood and education staff is also being prepared.