Support of kinship carers - advice

This advice provides additional information regarding the support available to kinship carers.

Document ID number 2121, version 3, 16 October 2018.

Introduction

Refer to the procedure Kinship care for action that must be undertaken.

Kinship care is the preferred home-based placement type. It involves relatives or members of a child's social network being approved to provide accommodation and care. In kinship care, case management of the placement can remain with the child protection practitioner or be contracted to a CSO.

Supervision and support

Supervision and support in kinship care placements is different from that in other home-based care placements where care managers are allocated. Where kinship care placements have been made and case management remains with child protection, child protection practitioners are responsible for supervision and support of the placement to make sure that:

  • case plan decisions and the goals and tasks identified in the actions table are implemented
  • new issues in the placement or child's family are identified and addressed
  • changes in circumstances are acknowledged and the case plan reviewed if there is a significant change and actions table is updated as required
  • the carer and the placement are adequately resourced.

The child protection practitioner and supervisor will determine the supervision and support given to placements. This will be case specific and depend on the permanency objective, any court order, the particular needs of the child and the stability of the placement.

Kinship carers do not automatically participate in training or support groups; therefore they may initially require support from the child protection practitioner to assist them to provide appropriate care. It is the responsibility of the child protection practitioner, in conjunction with the carer, to identify the supports and resources required for the placement.

Resources available include:

  • Financial support – care allowances, client support funding, brokerage for new kinship placements through First Supports.
  • Other support including respite care, child care, kinship care manual, information from booklets and websites, kinship carer support groups (in some areas), support services.

Kinship Carers Victoria is the peak body for kinship carers and provides resources and advocacy.

In many situations, the success of the placement is dependent on adequate and ongoing support. Practitioners need to make regular contact with carers and children in care to monitor and assist in providing changed support needs.

Financial support

Care allowances

Once a kinship carer has been approved by the department and placement is arranged, kinship carers are entitled to receive a fortnightly care allowance from the department. The allowance is a contribution towards the costs of care, that is, food, fuel, household provisions, clothing, gifts, pocket money and entertainment. Kinship carers may be eligible for a higher care allowance dependent on the needs and extraordinary costs in caring for the child or young person in their care. This involves an assessment by child protection of these needs and extraordinary costs. Any adjustment to the care allowance for kinship carers must be endorsed by an Assistant Director, Child Protection or Area Operations Manager where there is no Assistant Director through a memorandum. See Financial allowances and resources.

Caregiver allowances are paid from the day that the department agrees to the placement commencing and are made for each child in care.They continue for the period of time the child remains with the carer even when child protection closes the case.

Child protection practitioners must generate and submit Form A ‘Carer vendor registration’ and Form B 'Commence care allowance' in CRIS. Payments should commence (once carer’s bank details have been provided) from the date the placement is arranged by child protection or the date child protection have assessed the placement is required where the placement is already in existence at the time of report. The form should be submitted on CRIS within three days of the placement being made.

Child protection practitioners need to advise kinship carers that they must submit the Form D ‘Authorisation for direct deposit of care allowance’ with their bank account details to the Care Allowance Helpdesk so that they can receive the care allowance.  

Payment rates are not affected by any Centrelink or Commonwealth child support agency payments, or payments made by parents to the carer. Young people aged 16+ are entitled to apply for the Youth Allowance. Receipt of this allowance does not affect the care allowance.

Consideration should be given to client support funding if carers require immediate financial assistance.

Client support funding

Kinship carers are eligible for client support funding to help them buy items that are needed immediately (for example, bedding) and repeat exceptional costs (for example, therapy services). Approval of these requests is determined on a case by case basis and are subject to funding availability. Team managers or Service Advisors, Agency Performance and System Support can advise further regarding client support funding for kinship carers.

Additionally, kinship carers may be eligible for other allowances or payments. See links below for information on the range of government funding and supports.

Education and medical allowance

Carers of children placed by child protection in kinship care placements (regardless of whether the placement is subject to a Children's Court order or not) will receive these allowances for each child in care. The allowances are paid directly into the carer’s nominated bank account as specified on the ‘Authorisation for direct deposit of care allowance’ form D. The payments are included in the fortnightly care allowance and are activated when a child has been in kinship care for seven nights or more. These allowances are specifically to support educational and health needs of children.

Commonwealth funded support

Kinship carers are eligible through Centrelink to receive a wide range of payments and services to cover expenses associated with caring for a child or young person up to 18 years of age.

Kinship carers may be entitled to the following payments or services:

  • Family Tax Benefit to assist with the costs of raising children
  • Child care subsidy
  • Medicare benefits to assist with medical costs
  • Double Orphan Pension to help with the costs associated for those children in care who are orphaned or who cannot be cared for by their parents due to certain circumstances
  • Health Care Cards to assist with the costs of medical related expenses and prescriptions
  • Child Support which can be claimed by one or both parents.

Access to Grandparent Advisers is also available in some states of Australia, including Victoria, to assist grandparents and non parent carers who have ongoing care of children. Grandparent Advisors can provide information and support relating to payment types and services offered by Centrelink and are able to refer grandparents and non parent carers to other federal, state and community service providers for further assistance. For kinship related enquiries, Grandparent Advisors can be contacted on 1800 245 965 (freecall).

Family Assistance Officers are also able to provide advice in relation to services and payments families may be eligible to. They can be contacted on 13 61 50.

Advising Centrelink of change in a child’s care arrangements

Child protection practitioners and contracted case managers must communicate to Centrelink all circumstances where there has been a change of placement for a child in care, either foster or kinship, when the carer is in receipt of Commonwealth support. All communication occur using a standardised template letter available to child protection practitioners.

This template should be used for each individual child to ensure all required details are provided and applications for Commonwealth funded support are processed in a timely manner. It is advisable that child protection practitioners complete the template letter and provide it to the child’s carer who can present it to Centrelink alongside their application for payment as evidence of the child being placed in their care by the department. The template letter is located in Kinship care forms.

Considerations for good practice

A kinship carer is entitled to an allowance from the date the placement is arranged by child protection to commence, or the date child protection assesses that the placement is required (for pre-existing placements). Practitioners should consider whether a higher care allowance is required to support the individual needs of the child or young person. If so, a special negotiated adjustment to the care allowance should be progressed.

The child protection practitioner should become familiar with divisional processes that assist in the support of kinship care placements. This would include understanding the relationship between generating and submitting  the 'Commence and or cease  care allowance' form B on CRIS and how this form gets to the finance section.

Child protection practitioners should not assume that kinship carers are able to supervise contact visits with family members. Specific issues apply to kinship care:

  • placement of a child within the extended family may affect the relationship, loyalties and responsibilities in the family and these may need to be renegotiated.
  • pre-existing tensions and hostilities within the family network may impact on the child’s wellbeing.
  • the kinship carers may not have experience in coping with the particular needs of the child being placed with them, especially if the time prior to placement was stressful for the child.
  • meeting educational, developmental and health needs can present unforeseen challenges.

Child protection practitioners need to be cognisant of family relationships and support the kinship care in all facets of the placement.

Related procedures

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