See procedure Case planning for Aboriginal children for tasks that must be undertaken.
Aboriginal children are significantly over-represented in child protection and out-of-home care client groups. The Aboriginal child placement principle is a nationally agreed standard used in determining the placement of Aboriginal children in out-of-home care. The principle aims to enhance and preserve Aboriginal children's sense of identity by ensuring they maintain strong connections with their family, community and culture.
The principle has been endorsed by the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care Agencies and governs the practice of child protection practitioners when placing Aboriginal children in out-of-home care. The principle defines the process for ensuring that Aboriginal representatives are consulted and involved in decision making regarding out-of-home care arrangements for Aboriginal children. Specific attention is paid to Aboriginal children who are separated or removed from their biological family.
The principle aims to ensure the rights of an Aboriginal child as an individual are always maintained, while acting in the best interests of the child. Equally in any proceedings regarding the placement of a child away from their parents, the opportunity must be given to the child, their parents, extended family and community to have their views heard.
In Victoria, the relevant Aboriginal agency with which to consult is the Aboriginal Child Specialist Advice and Support Service (ACSASS). ACSASS is delivered by the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA) in all locations except the Mallee area. In the Mallee area, ACSASS is delivered by Mallee District Aboriginal Services (MDAS).
The ACSASS service operated by VACCA is also referred to as 'Lakidjeka' and in the Mallee area is referred to as 'MDAS/ACSASS'.
Aboriginal family-led decision making (AFLDM) gives effect to case planning for Aboriginal children where protective concerns have been substantiated. AFLDM is a collaborative process, which involves the active participation of family, extended family and community members in decision making.
AFLDM meetings bring together family members, relevant organisations and Aboriginal community members to make decisions and develop a case plan for a child placed in out-of-home care. AFLDM is recognised as an effective method for ensuring all potential carers are considered. The views of the child must also be taken into account in the AFLDM process, and their participation, if it is not detrimental to their safety and wellbeing, should be encouraged.
Kinship care is the preferred home-based placement type and must be considered and investigated before any other placement option is considered.
In kinship care, relatives or members of a child's social network are assessed and approved, by the practitioner, for their capacity to care for a specific child who is already connected to them. Kinship care placements are supervised and supported according to the child's level of assessed need.
Within the Aboriginal community, kinship is more broadly defined and includes extended family and others who are considered to be family. A kinship connection more easily enables the maintenance of the child's family and community ties and cultural identity. See Assessing kinship care for Aboriginal children - advice.
If after consultation between child protection, the family and ACSASS it is decided that a suitable kinship care placement is not available then a placement through an Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation (ACCO) or other CSO can be sought.
The case plan for an Aboriginal child in out-of-home care must address their cultural support needs. It must reflect and be consistent with those needs, having regard to the child’s circumstances, to maintain and develop their Aboriginal identity and encourage their connection to their community and culture.
The Secretary must provide a cultural plan for each Aboriginal child in out-of-home care that is aligned to their case plan. The child’s cultural support needs may vary depending on the length of time they will be in care, their age, the extent of their contact with their Aboriginal family, and whether they are placed in their own or another Aboriginal community, or with a non-Aboriginal carer.