Children and Young People Legislation Amendment Act 2016 - Reform for Children in ACT

Tuesday 28 June 2016 @ 12.31 p.m. | Legal Research

On 22 June 2016, the ACT notified the Children and Young People Legislation Amendment Act 2016 (38 of 2016). The Act has as its aims to give effect to a number of important elements of A Step Up for Our Kids (Out-of-home care Strategy 2015-2020) (the Strategy) that was released by the ACT Government in January 2015.

Background to the Strategy

Officially launched on 22 January 2015, the five-year Strategy is:

  • An additional $16 million investment in the future of our most vulnerable children and young people. It is about breaking the intergenerational cycle of disadvantage and keeping children safe at home;
  • About reunifying children and young people with parents as quickly as possible or for those who cannot safely go home to their parents growing up secure and loved within another family because they only get one chance at childhood;
  • About creating a therapeutic, trauma-informed care system which responds more effectively to the needs of children and young people in care; and
  • About placing foster and kinship carers at the centre of the care system and providing them with the support needed to provide quality care. They are the child’s primary support and healer.

New Services under the Strategy will be rolled out in stages from early 2016.

The Strategy recognises that the rights and best interests of the child or young person are paramount. In doing so, an aim of the Strategy is to strengthen decision making around the child or young person and embed a culture of listening to the voices of children and young people. This will include a renewed focus on achieving permanent family placements as quickly as possible. There will also be a focus on gathering and provision of information by people who have a close relationship with a child or young person.

The Strategy seeks to ensure that high-risk families receive support to parent their children successfully and that the needs of children and young people who come to the attention of child protection services are identified and addressed as early as possible. Services and supports include placement prevention services, reunification services, a mother and baby unit, supported contact services and parent-child programs. This is a placement prevention response focused on keeping children and young people at home with their birth families when it is safe to do so.

The Strategy seeks to strengthen accountability and ensure a high functioning care system through the implementation of improved regulation and oversight, joint governance arrangements, strengthened contract management, performance based contracting and establishment of independent advocacy and engagement services. As implementation of the Strategy builds, government will work with community, statutory office holders and approved kinship and foster care organisations to establish a mature accountability environment.

Amendments in the Act

The Act gives effect to elements of the Strategy to improve the life outcomes for children and young people in care. In particular, the amendments will strengthen decision making around children and young people in care by increasing the autonomy of out of home care providers in managing care arrangements for children and young people on long term orders, through the delegation of decision making to those who know the child best.

The amendments will enable the Director-General to delegate two powers; the placement of children and young people with an out-of-home carer and parental responsibility. The amendments will allow the Director-General to delegate these powers to the responsible person for an approved kinship and foster care organisation (responsible person). The amendments then allow the responsible person to sub-delegate these responsibilities to specific kinship and foster carers. In addition the Director-General will be able to delegate the preparation, consultation and review of transition plans for young people.

There is also a focus on streamlining a young person/adult’s access to protected information about themselves and personal items directly through the people who have a close relationship with the young person/adult.

As stated in the Minister's Media Release:

“This work will transform how we support children and young people in care and ensure a high functioning care system. It will mean improved regulation and monitoring; joint governance arrangements between the government and non-government sectors; renewed focus on quality improvement and sector learning; and the establishment of new independent advocacy support services."

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Children and Young People Legislation Amendment Act 2016 (38 of 2016) [ACT] and Secondary materials as reproduced on TimeBase LawOne

Minister for Children and Young People Media Release

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