A South Australian foster parent of a three month old baby that passed away was devastated to learn that she was not permitted to organise a funeral or to be listed on the child’s death certificate. The foster parent had been primary care giver for the majority of the child’s life and was also his paternal aunt. Her story has generated significant public interest. This situation raises the issue of the entitlements and responsibilities of foster parents in WA and of course, the very significant difference between foster parents and permanent carers (the Home 4 Life program in WA).
Responsibilities and Entitlements of Foster Parents in WA
Foster parents in WA are entitled to the following:
· A basic fortnightly subsidy
· A pocket money subsidy for the fostered children
· Five days respite per month, calculated on a daily rate basis according to age
· A clothing allowance
· Where relevant, a special needs loading.
Responsibilities and Obligations
Foster care usually begins as a temporary arrangement, while the Department works with the child’s birth family to determine if there is any likelihood the child can be returned to their care. Unfortunately, some families are unable to create a safe and stable environment for children. The Department of Child Protection will then seek a permanent care arrangement for the child in foster care (this is called “Home 4 Life” in WA).
Foster children are under the guardianship of the Minister and because of this; birth parents retain primary rights over the child.
Foster parents are under a general duty of care to ensure that foster children are safe, that that they receive quality care and that, where appropriate, they return home as soon as possible. This duty of care is a responsibility shared by families, foster parents, case workers, departments and placement agencies. The provision of good quality care is not limited to the qualities, skills and care provided by the foster parent, but equally depends on the quality of casework and support of the child and family.
For foster parents this duty of care involves a responsibility and obligation to ensure that the child or young person in their care is looked after appropriately and in accordance with agency standards. At the most fundamental level this means that foster parents in the provision of day to day care to children and young people placed with them must promote their rights to:
· adequate food, clothing and shelter;
· medical, dental and like treatment necessary to promote and maintain their health;
· receive education, training, recreation and employment opportunities according to their age, developmental needs and interests;
· maintain contact with family and other significant persons and to have them actively involved in their lives;
· be safe from exploitation and maltreatment.
Foster parents also assume a number of obligations which they agree to fulfil in respect to the child/young person; the family; the case worker and the department/agency with whom they are registered to foster. In terms of the department or agency, foster parents must agree to act in accordance with specific departmental or agency standards, guidelines and policies relating to how care is provided and include obligations to:
· support contact between the child/young person and their case worker
· discuss with the case worker the progress of the placement and to write reports, and in some cases attend planning meetings, about the child or young person
· respect the privacy of the child/young person and their family, to treat confidentially any information provided about them and not disclose that information to another party without prior consent
· advise the case worker or agency if the child/young person is not coping with, or not attending, their schooling
· seeking approval in advance for serious matters such as operatic procedures and the use of anaesthetics
· ensure the child or young person’s whereabouts are known at all times, including reporting any changes of address, plans to holiday away (interstate or in another locality within the state) and episodes of running away.
· comply with foster parent licensing and review requirements and advise of any changes in circumstances
· participate in foster parent training opportunities
· immediately report to the case worker or agency any critical incidents such as injuries (accidental or non-accidental), instances of alleged abuse by any person and any criminal or self harming behaviours committed by the child/young person
Permanent Care – Home 4 Life (WA)
Home 4 Life is another way of describing ‘permanent foster caring’ – where a child is placed permanently with the same foster carer until the child turns 18 (please see our brochure on Permanent Care – forthcoming). In summary, tobecome a long term, permanent foster carer or ‘home 4 life’ carer, you need to apply and be assessed by the Department’s Fostering and Adoption Services. Long term foster care may lead to a Special Guardianship Order or a Carer Adoption – both provide a child with a home for life.
This is general information only, and does not constitute specific legal advice. If you would like further information in relation to this matter or other legal matters please contact our office at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 1800 609 945.