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Leaving Care Monitoring Program and Report 2020 (COVID-19)

Information for NSW Department of Communities and Justice designated agencies, including frequently asked questions

The Office of the Children’s Guardian is undertaking a monitoring program of care leavers and young people eligible to access aftercare assistance during 2020. This review is part of our monitoring function. We encourage all designated agencies to access the wide range of leaving and aftercare support options and resources that are available, including specific resources related to COVID-19.

The challenges posed by COVID-19 are unprecedented, leading to additional uncertainty and concern for young people leaving care. A comprehensive, individualised leaving care plan is even more critical at this time when the complexities of leaving care are significantly amplified.

The scope of this review will include monitoring focusing on individual young people leaving care plans and overall agency practice. The review will culminate in a final report that identifies sector systemic issues, with a view to further collaboration with Association of Children’s Welfare Agencies (ACWA), NSW Child and Family and Community Peak Aboriginal Corporation (AbSec) to build resources to support the sector to improve practice in this very important area.

We will be looking at the supports young people have been provided leading up to and after they have left care and expect agencies to provide us access to any documentation that demonstrates this information.

Frequently asked questions

What correspondence has been issued by the NSW Office of the Children’s Guardian to Department of Communities and Justice Principal Officers about the Leaving Care Monitoring Program?

  • 3 June 2020: Letter informing agencies of the monitoring program
  • 16 June 2020: Letter providing additional information about the monitoring 

What groups of young people are included in this monitoring program?

The program includes all young people in statutory out-of-home care case managed by your District or agency that have turned 18 or are turning 18 years of age between 23 March 2020 and 31 December 2020. While the monitoring program will review all young people within these parameters, there will be a focus on the following groups of young people:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people
  • young people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds
  • young people with disabilities
  • young people who are parents or are pregnant

and the following placement types:

  • refuges
  • non-home based emergency care
  • special Care
  • incarcerated in Youth Justice facilities (or with Youth Justice involvement)
  • Sherwood House
  • self-placed with family, friends or other members of the community (unauthorised placements)
  • restorations with the young person currently living with a parent but still under legal orders with Parental Responsibility to the Minister
  • current location unknown or reported as missing.

What does this mean for Department of Communities and Justice Districts and accreditation renewal?

The Leaving Care Monitoring Program forms part of our monitoring functions under the legislation. As the monitoring program progresses and renewal planning commences, will have a better idea of how the two processes will complement each other. The renewal assessment will take into consideration the review of young people during the monitoring program and the findings that come of it.

We have been provided with a list of young people in statutory out-of-home care who are turning 18 (between 23 March 2020 and 31 December 2020) and we are reviewing their ChildStory records. Any follow up will occur through our contacts in the Department’s Quality Assurance Practice Quality team.

What if the Department of Communities and Justice has approved the young person’s leaving care plan or financial plan before the declaration of COVID-19 as a pandemic on 11 March 2020?

If a young person leaving care in 2020 has a leaving care plan or financial plan approved prior to 11 March 2020 and it does not take into consideration additional difficulties of leaving care during the COVID-19 pandemic (nor include the COVID-19 specific leaving care and aftercare support options and resources), the plan should be amended to include these considerations and provisions, regardless of the reasons they were not included.

Does the OCG have the lawful right to access the records of a young person after they have turned 18? Is consent from a young person legally required for the OCG to access their records once they have turned 18?

To enable the Children’s Guardian the ability to exercise her principal functions, the legislative provisions in the Children’s Guardian Act 2019 (under section 84) empower the Children’s Guardian to exercise certain coercive information-gathering powers in the performance of certain functions. This includes agency records after a young person has turned 18. If the Children’s Guardian were not empowered with the lawful right to review the aftercare records, there would be no oversight of agency implementation of leaving care planning and aftercare for young adults on leaving statutory out-of-home care. These powers are set out at Schedule 2 to the Children’s Guardian Act 2019.

These powers authorise review of leaving care records (during performance of the Children’s Guardian’s monitoring function), without requiring the Children’s Guardian to obtain consent from the young person to authorise review of that information. The Children’s Guardian would be unable to assess whether an agency has implemented the leaving care plan in a satisfactory way after the young person has turned 18, if the young person refused consent for the Children’s Guardian to access that information.

Although a young person’s consent is not lawfully required for the Children’s Guardian to review these records, it is best practice for designated agencies to inform young people of the Leaving Care Monitoring Program (COVID-19), the information that will be reviewed and the purpose of the review. Leaving care planning and aftercare are consultative processes and young people should be empowered to participate and understand the actions and decisions made by an agency as part of that process.

What happens when the OCG has finished reviewing designated agency records?

The monitoring program is a review of direct evidence, agency records, policy and procedure. When the review of records is finalised, each designated agency will receive a monitoring report in relation to Standard 12 (Living independently) of the NSW Child Safe Standards for Permanent Care, including consideration of COVID-19 specific leaving care and aftercare support options and resources. The monitoring program is a very large piece of work sector-wide and will take a significant amount of time to complete.

Any urgent concerns identified for young people leaving care in 2020 will be raised at the time through the Department of Communities and Justice, Practice Quality team. The monitoring program will culminate in a final report that identifies sector systemic issues. It is anticipated the final report will be finalised early 2021.

Thank you for your ongoing support and commitment to care leavers and young people eligible to access aftercare assistance, particularly during COVID-19. If you have any questions or require further information, please email the monitoring program team at oohcmonitoring@kidsguardian.nsw.gov.au 

If you would like to speak with a staff member working on this monitoring program, please send an email to this address and a member of the team will return your call.