Changes to Queensland's child protection laws
In May 2022, the Child Protection Reform and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2022 was passed to amend the Child Protection Act 1999 (the Act).
The amendments to the Act aim to:
- reinforce children’s rights
- strengthen children’s voices in decisions that affect them
- improve how Child Safety works with First Nations children and families
- streamline, clarify and improve the regulation of care.
These amendments come into effect in 2 tranches:
- Tranche 1 commenced on 31 October 2022.
- Tranche 2 will commence on 21 May 2023.
Amendments commencing on 21 May 2023
For foster and kinship carers, the amendments will:
- clarify the definition of kin to reflect Aboriginal tradition, Island custom and to be inclusive of people with a cultural connection to First Nations children
- embed Child Safety’s existing commitment to ensuring carers have access to support and training
- establish a carers’ register
- provide examples of the type of information carers and licensed care services can receive to enable them to make informed decisions.
For more information, download Let's Get ready information for carers and care service providers.
Clarifying the definition of kin
Currently, the Act defines kin in relation to a child as:
- any of the child’s relatives who are persons of significance to the child
- anyone else who is a person of significance to the child.
Child Safety policy also currently provides for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person who is not a member of, or compatible with the child’s community or language group, to be regarded as ‘kin’ to a child regardless of whether the person is part of the child’s family group and of significance to the child or recognised as kin under Aboriginal tradition or Island custom.
From 21 May 2023, the Act will define kin in relation to a child as:
- a member of the child’s family group who is a person of significance to the child
- if the child is an Aboriginal child, a person who, under Aboriginal tradition, is regarded as kin of the child
- if the child is a Torres Strait Islander child, a person who under Island custom, is regarded as kin of the child
- another person:
- who is recognised by the child, or the child’s family group as a person of significance to the child
- if the child is an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child, with whom the child has a cultural connection.
The changed definition is necessary to ensure the Act is administered in a way that upholds Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s right to self-determination. It ensures that decisions about who is kin to an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child is consistent with Aboriginal tradition and Island custom and are made by the child and their family.
When the definition changes, there will be some existing kinship carers who do not fall within the definition of kin for children in their care. This may be where an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child has a meaningful connection with their carer but does not have a cultural connection with them. In these circumstances, carers will continue as kinship carers until their existing certificate of approval expires. At that time, Child Safety will work together with the carers to consider the most appropriate way to continue the care arrangement and support the carers to transition to become an approved foster carer for the specific child.
Strengthening carer support and training
Child Safety has had a long-standing commitment to providing support and training to assist carers to provide care consistent with the statement of standards. The amendments embed this existing commitment in the Act.
- clarify Child Safety’s responsibility to provide support and training to approved carers or to ensure approved carers have access to support and training
- require Child Safety to provide or ensure that carers have access to support to assist them to meet the needs of a child in their care. This support may include information about financial assistance, providing care for children, respite care and access to support persons
- require Child Safety to provide or ensure carers have access to training to maintain or develop the carer’s ability to care for children
- require Child Safety to provide or ensure carers have access to support and training to the extent it is practicable and appropriate in the circumstances
- recognise the key role carers play in protecting children and reinforces the need to give carers the information they need and appropriate support to provide care.
Establishing a carers’ register
The amendment requiring Child Safety to maintain a carers’ register is the first step in implementing Royal Commission recommendations about having nationally consistent carers’ registers.
From 21 May 2023, a Queensland carers’ register will be established from existing information provided by carers in carer applications and through the blue card process.
This includes information Child Safety holds about people who have applied to be carers, are approved carers, have previously been approved carers and people who are associated with an application for a licence, an approved licence or a former licence.
Carers will not be required to provide additional information. There is also no change to the way Child Safety uses or shares information about carers.
Enabling informed decision-making
The Act currently requires Child Safety to give a proposed carer information that the carer reasonably needs about a child to make an informed decision about caring for the child.
The amendment provides examples to help clarify the information a proposed carer may reasonably need, including:
- why the child has come into care
- the child’s medical or disability needs
- the proposed length of time of the care arrangement
- information to ensure the safety of the child, themselves and other members of their household.
When a carer commences caring for a child, Child Safety must continue to provide current information about the child that the carer reasonably needs to provide care. The amendments provide examples to clarify the information a carer may reasonably need, including:
- updates or corrections to information previously provided
- a copy of the child’s case plan
- the child’s goals, personality preferences and behaviours
- any special behaviour management needs of the child
- the child’s family, culture and background
- arrangements for contact between the child and the child’s family group
- the child’s cultural needs.
The amendments also clarify that comprehensive information is to be provided in a way that will be easily understood by the carer.
When deciding what information to provide to a carer, Child Safety will be required to consider the child’s views and wishes (having regard to the child’s age and ability to understand), the proposed length of time of the care arrangement and the child’s right to privacy under the Charter of rights for a child in care.
Before the information is provided to the carer, Child Safety will continue to have an obligation to tell the child what information is being provided and why.
The amendment recognises that sharing this information allows people caring for children to make informed decisions about providing care. It also helps uphold a child’s rights in the Charter of rights for a child in care.
Amendments which commenced on 31 October 2022
Renewal of carer certificates extended to 3 years
In the past, carers were required to renew their certificate of approval every 2 years. This has been extended to every 3 years.
A carer’s initial approval period continues to be 12 months.
A foster or kinship carer’s certificate of approval will need to be renewed 12 months from the date of their initial approval, and every 3 years after that.
Extending the renewal term to 3 years will:
- reduce the administrative burden on carers
- reduce the time carers spend being reassessed
- enable foster and kinship care service providers and Child Safety to provide additional support to carers.
Although the renewal term is now 3 years, the Act will continue to enable an earlier review of a carer’s suitability if there is a change in circumstances.
Assessment process for existing kinship carers streamlined
The amendments streamline the assessment process where an additional child is placed with an existing kinship carer.
This means that the assessment no longer needs to reconsider factors that were necessary for a person’s initial approval to become a kinship carer (suitability to be a kinship carer, blue card status, and whether the person can meet the standards of care required).
The assessment still needs to establish whether there is a kinship relationship between the additional child and the carer, and the carer’s ability (which includes support that may be required) to keep the child safe.
Mandatory reporting requirements
The amendments made it mandatory under the Act for foster and kinship carers to report to Child Safety if they reasonably suspect a child in care has suffered, is suffering, or is at unacceptable risk of suffering significant harm caused by physical or sexual abuse.
This means that carers have the same legal obligation as employees of family-based care services, employees of non-family-based care services (including staff who directly care for children), and Child Safety staff to report a reasonable suspicion about a child in care.
The new mandatory reporting requirement does not duplicate the requirement under the Criminal Code Act 1899 for all adults in Queensland to report sexual offending against a child by another adult to the police. Carers with a reasonable suspicion about a sexual offence involving a child in care can make a report to Child Safety.
To make a report, contact:
- the Child Safety Officer with case responsibility for the child
- the relevant child safety service centre
- the Child Safety Regional Intake Service
- the Child Safety After Hours Service Centre if there is a need to report a reasonable suspicion outside business hours.