Placing Aboriginal children in out-of-home care - advice

This advice provides information regarding placement of Aboriginal children in out-of-home care (also known as care) including the operation of the Aboriginal child placement principle.

Document ID number 2118, version 4, 1 July 2024.

See policy 1400 Aboriginal children policy, 1107 Placing a child in out-of-home care and procedure 1402 Case planning for Aboriginal children for tasks that must be undertaken.

Child protection practitioners must have regard and give effect to the recognition principles (s. 7E) when making decisions and taking action (where relevant) when working with Aboriginal children and families. Practitioners should particularly note the Statement of Acknowledgement under section 7AA of the Children Youth and Families Act 2005 (CYFA): 

The Victorian Parliament acknowledges that removing an Aboriginal child from the care of a parent may—  

(a) disrupt the child's connection to their culture; and 

(b) cause harm to the child, including serious harm. 

It is important child protection practitioners understand that acknowledgement, and the historic and ongoing systemic impacts described in the Statement of Recognition.  

Aboriginal Child Placement Principle

Aboriginal children are significantly over-represented in Child Protection and care client population. The Aboriginal Child Placement Principle (ACPP) is a nationally agreed standard used in determining the placement of Aboriginal children in 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 Aboriginal Child Placement Principle (ACPP) (s. 13) must be considered for all decisions and actions taken for all Aboriginal children in court ordered care. The ACPP must be considered subject to the best interest principles (s.10) and in conjunction with decision-making principles (s.11), additional decision-making principles for Aboriginal children (s.12), recognition principles (s.7E), and further principles for placement of Aboriginal child (s.14). 

The five elements of the ACPP used by the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC) are enshrined in section 14 of the CYFA. Further principles for placement of Aboriginal child (s. 14) must be considered in conjunction with the ACPP (s. 13) and all decision making principles (ss.11-14).  

The ACPP and Further principles:  

  • emphasise the importance of preserving Aboriginal families so that Aboriginal children remain connected to family, culture and community 
  • require child protection practitioners consult with the Aboriginal Child Specialist Advice and Support Service (ACSASS) prior to making a decision to place an Aboriginal child in care
  • require ACSASS consultation about all significant Child Protection decisions 
  • specify the order of priority in which types of placement are to be considered 
  • require that any non-Aboriginal placement must ensure the child's connection to their culture and community 
  • require the Aboriginal community to which the child belongs to have the right to participate in decisions regarding the child 
  • specify the right of the Aboriginal child to be brought up within community and family
  • specify the right of the extended family of an Aboriginal child to participate and enable participation in administrative and judicial decision-making process relating to the child, and 
  • specify the right of the child to develop and maintain a connection to family, community, culture, language and Country.  

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 (s. 10, CYFA).  

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. 

Aboriginal Child Specialist Advice and Support Service

The CYFA uses the term ‘Aboriginal agency’ when it requires consultation about placement and other decisions. In practice, 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 and Community Agency (VACCA) in all locations except the Mallee and Loddon areas (and is also referred to as 'Lakidjeka'). 

In the Mallee area, ACSASS is delivered by Mallee District Aboriginal Services (MDAS). In the Loddon area, it is provided by Njernda Aboriginal Corporation and Bendigo & District Aboriginal Co-operatives (BDAC). 

Consulting with ACSASS is one way child protection practitioners can demonstrate adherence to the recognition principles (s. 7E) in decision-making. 

Consideration of the recognition principles (s.7E) must be recorded on CRIS for all key decisions and actions undertaken for Aboriginal children. The ‘Statement of Recognition’ case note category should be used for recording at all points of child protection involvement. 

Aboriginal Family Led Decision Making

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 and Elders to make decisions and develop a case plan for a child, including those placed in 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. 

AFLDM is Child Protection’s preferred case planning process for all Aboriginal children. It empowers families to make decisions themselves and that they endorse. Bringing families together also maximises the collective strength of the family to address concerns. 

Kinship care placements

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.

Placement by a Community Service Organisation (CSO)

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. 

Cultural plans

The cultural plan is a significant component of an Aboriginal child’s case plan and key mechanism to maintain the Aboriginal child’s connections with culture, family, community, Elders and Country (s. 7E(3)). 

The case plan for an Aboriginal child in care must address their cultural 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 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. 

AFLDM meetings can assist with developing an Aboriginal child’s cultural plan. The child’s family, community, Elders and any Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation (ACCO) with responsibility for provision of services to the child, must be given opportunity to contribute to determining the cultural plan objectives and actions (s. 7E(7)). 

See Cultural plans - advice and Cultural plan - procedure for tasks that must be undertaken.