Working with Children Clearances for kinship carers and usual adult household members - advice

2137
This document provides additional information regarding kinship carers, usual adult household members and the requirement for working with children clearances (WWCC).
Document ID number 2137, version 4, 5 February 2024.
Introduction

See Working with Children Clearance prohibition, suspension, revocation, interim exclusion notice or exclusion notice for tasks that must be undertaken.

A Working with Children Clearance (WWCC), previously known as a working with children check, is a critical safety check and ongoing monitoring tool for children in out-of-home care. The WWCC assists in protecting children from harm by assessing and monitoring a person’s suitability to work with or care for children. The WWCC process assesses and monitors a person’s criminal record so that those people charged with, or convicted of certain serious offences, are unable to work with children. The WWCC also assesses and monitors findings of certain professional bodies which will also inform whether they are suitable to hold, or continue to hold, a Clearance. The WWCC is renewed every five years.

The National Standards for WWCC were developed by the Commonwealth, states and territories, in response to recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Standard Four requires all adult members of a kinship carer household to hold a WWCC. This advice provides policy and practice information and clarifies the department’s legislative responsibilities under the Worker Screening Act 2020 (the WS Act).

The WS Act provides (under s7(6)(a) and (b)) that a person is engaged in ‘child related work’ if the person is a kinship carer and a child is placed in the out-of-home care of that person under the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 (CYFA). A kinship carer is defined by the WS Act as a family member or other person of significance to a child other than a parent. All kinship carers must hold a current WWCC. It is an offence under the Act to engage in or to engage a person in, child related work who does not hold a current WWCC. 

Kinship carers

Kinship carers are defined as adults acting in a parental capacity and providing kinship care to a child in a kinship placement. The WS Act does not distinguish between a ‘primary’ or ‘secondary’ carer. Irrespective of whether one carer performs the majority of caring tasks or caring responsibilities are more equally shared. Where adults are living in a domestic arrangement both adults are deemed to be providing care and both are required to hold a WWCC to meet their and the department’s obligations under the WS Act. 

The legislation and policy apply to all kinship carers to hold a WWCC where a child is ‘placed’ in their care under the CYFA. This includes court ordered placements as well as situations where the department exercises its statutory powers in engaging with a family and facilitates, or alternatively endorses a pre-existing kinship arrangement, by undertaking a kinship assessment of the arrangement. 

This includes:

  • respite placements  
  • voluntary placements 
  • new reports in respect of closed Child Protection cases with open kinship placements and the report is classified as a protective intervention report at intake and proceeds to investigation; and 
  • circumstances where a report is received after an agreement was arranged by the family, the matter proceeds to investigation and the placement is subsequently assessed and confirmed. 

At the point of initiating kinship discussions, potential kinship carers and household members must be advised of the legal requirement for kinship carers to hold a WWCC and the policy requirement for all usual adult household members to also hold a WWCC. 

If a kinship carer already holds a WWCC, they must update their WWCC details to add the department as an employer with kinship care code 80 listed as their occupation.

A kinship carer who has a disclosable category A offence, or offences against children, will not be issued with a WWCC and cannot be endorsed as a kinship carer. In these instances, the placement cannot proceed or continue. A kinship carer cannot have their role revised to be classified as a usual household member to circumvent the requirement to hold a WWCC. 

A WWCC is not required prior to the placement being made. Kinship carers and adult household members must apply for their WWCC within 21 days of a child first being placed in their care, not from the date that the placement is entered on CRIS, for the placement to continue. Any application lodged beyond the first 21 days of placement, or a WWCC that is not renewed before it expires, will remain non-compliant until such time as the WWCC is granted or renewed.

The WWCC requirement does not apply to kinship care arrangements where Child Protection is not involved. 

Kinship carers are not permitted to continue caring for children when they are issued a prohibition, suspension, or interim exclusion notice.

If a kinship carer is issued with a prohibition, suspension, exclusion or interim exclusion notice, Child Protection must take prompt action to ensure the child(ren’s) safety. See procedure Working with Children Clearance prohibition, suspension or interim exclusion for tasks that must be undertaken, including an immediate case plan review. 

For tasks to be undertaken when a usual adult household member is issued with a prohibition, suspension, exclusion or interim exclusion notice, including review of the placement within 24 hours, see procedure Working with Children Clearance prohibition, suspension or interim exclusion and Discretionary endorsement for usual adult household members unable to hold a working with children clearance policy and Procedure to seek endorsement for a household member unable to hold a working with children clearance.

Usual adult household members

It is the policy of the department that each usual adult household member of a kinship placement is also required to apply and hold a WWCC. This policy implements the National Standards for Working with Children Checks requirement that adults residing in the homes of people providing formal out-of-home care (including foster and kinship carers) hold a WWCC. 

Usual adult household members are defined as persons:

  • Aged 18 years and older and is not a kinship carer, parent, biological sibling or biological half-sibling of the child; 

AND

  • Resides in the household or on the property such that they have access to the home where the child/young person resides including an on-site bungalow or caravan, and any tenant(s), lodger(s) or boarder(s).

OR

  • Regularly stays overnight at the property with ‘regularly’ defined as one or more night/s per week.

OR

  • Has a relationship with the carer/s or another member of the household such that they can be expected to spend significant periods of time at the residence. ‘Significant’ is defined as five hours or more on two or more occasions per week at the home irrespective of the time of day.

OR

  • Temporarily resides in the home. This is defined as a period of 14 days or more in any 12-month period, either consecutively or cumulatively.

Where the above criteria is not met, it is still open to a practitioner, in the exercise of professional judgement, to request an adult associated with a kinship household to obtain a WWCC.

If a household member already holds a WWCC, they must update their WWCC details to add DFFH as an employer with kinship care code 80 listed as their occupation. 

It is recognised that a policy requiring usual household members within kinship placements to hold a WWCC is at risk of having a disproportionate negative impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, families, and carers due to ongoing systemic bias resulting in over-representation in the Child Protection and criminal justice systems. Additional cultural considerations must be applied when assessing a placement for an Aboriginal child together with mandatory ACSASS consultation which is to be documented.

At the point of kinship discussions, potential kinship carers and usual adult household members must be advised of the legal requirement for kinship carers to hold a WWCC and the policy requirement for all usual adult household members to hold a WWCC. At this time, identify any issues that might arise for individuals, in particular kinship carers, that may result in an inability to hold a WWCC and consider this in placement planning to minimise placement disruption.

It is the policy of the department that registered teachers and police officers, including sworn Victorian Police members and Federal Police, are required to hold a WWCC when engaged as kinship carers or as usual adult household members. The department’s policy position recognises the importance of having robust systems and processes in place that provide for the safety and protection of children in kinship placements. While criminal history checks provide a point in time snapshot, WWCC provide weekly monitoring. WWCC also include monitoring of criminal charges as well as findings of relevant professional bodies which isn’t included in a criminal history check.

Household member ineligible for a WWCC

Where a usual household member is unable to hold a WWCC, an additional endorsement process can be considered to enable the placement to continue if the placement is assessed as being safe and in the best interests of the child.

This process is in addition to the endorsement of an adverse national police history outcome that may have occurred at the point of the placement being established.

Prior to seeking an endorsement, a comprehensive assessment of the household member must occur to inform the brief for endorsement. 

For guidance on factors to consider when undertaking an assessment of the household member see Template for use when seeking endorsement for a usual adult household member unable to hold a WWCC.

Interstate carers and usual adult household members

Approved interstate kinship carers of children who are subject to a Victorian Children’s Court order, are required to hold a Victorian WWCC. This policy also applies to usual adult household members residing within those placements. 

Interstate carers and household members must apply for a WWCC via a paper form obtained from the Department of Government Services (DGS). Please speak with your divisional WWCC Kinship team for assistance with this process. 

For further information see Cross Border Placements - advice.

Exemptions

Biological parents, adoptive parents, permanent carers, and adult biological siblings or biological half-siblings are exempt from the requirement to hold a WWCC as a household member. Biological siblings or half-siblings who become kinship carers will require a WWCC due to legislative requirements.  

Persons formally recognised by the Children’s Court of Victoria and/or the Family Court as ‘psychological parents’ (see below) are also exempt from the requirement.

The term ‘psychological parent’ has been accepted by the High Court of Australia in the context of the Family Law Act 1975 (see Mason v Parsons [2019]) as describing a situation where the quality of the relationship between the child and adult in question is such that it warrants that adult’s recognition as a parent.  The assessment as to whether a person is a ‘psychological parent’ may vary over time and is determined by the Court, not by the ‘psychological parent’, Child Protection, or other services who may be involved with the family.

In circumstances where a non-biological parent by marriage/defacto resides in a kinship placement in a relationship with the biological parent (for example they reside in the home of the grandparents who are caring for the child) they are not required to hold a WWCC, however once a non-biological spouse or defacto ceases to be in a relationship with that biological parent, the spouse/de facto is no longer recognised as a parent until and unless a court finds that they are a psychological parent. Unless that occurs, a spouse/de facto who is separated from the biological parent requires a WWCC to act as a kinship carer or to reside in the kinship household as a usual adult household member.

Prohibition, suspension, exclusion or interim exclusion notices

DGS may issue a prohibition, suspension, exclusion, or interim exclusion notice, when the preliminary assessment of a person’s criminal record or professional conduct matters indicates a more comprehensive assessment is required. DGS may also issue a notice when a reassessment of an individual’s suitability to hold a WWCC is triggered by new charges, convictions or findings by regulatory bodies. 

For more detailed information on notices issued by DGS see Working with Children Clearance prohibition, suspension, revocation or interim exclusion – policy and Working with Children Clearance prohibition, suspension, revocation or exclusion – procedure.

How to apply

A WWCC is applied for online via the Services Victoria website Working with Children Check | Working and Volunteering | Service Victoria. An online application form is required to be completed for each carer and household member. 

In most circumstances, individuals with a smartphone will be able to complete the application, including the provision of necessary documents and confirmation of identify, via the online application process using their smartphone. Details on the application process, including the required documents, is available online at The Working with Children Check application process | Victorian Government (www.vic.gov.au)

For applicants that do not have access to a smartphone to complete their application online, and/or lack the required documents, they can complete an application online and then attend at an Australia Post outlet to complete document verification. Further details are available at In-person applications for Working with Children Checks | Victorian Government (www.vic.gov.au)

All carers must populate the full Department of Families, Fairness and Housing address and phone number in the organisational field as seen in the guide and select ‘80 – Kinship carer – caring for a child placed by Child Protection under the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005’ in the drop-down box in the Occupational field and select ‘Volunteer’ next to the occupational type. 

Once the application process has been completed, the WWCC will be sent to the applicant within 4-8 weeks. Individuals can check the status of their application online at any time.

If a kinship carer holds a Working with Children Clearance for other employment, they do not need to apply for a new card. They can update their existing WWCC status as a kinship carer via the Services Victoria website under ‘update my details’; they do not need to apply for a new Clearance. Further information is available at Update your Working with Children Check details online | Service Victoria.

Kinship carers or household members may require assistance to apply for the WWCC online or with getting to an Australia Post outlet to have their photo taken. Carers and household members may also require assistance if they do not hold sufficient identification. If carers do not have a computer, practitioners can assist by using their Ultrabook. For difficulties such as insufficient identification, practitioners can contact their divisional WWCC Coordinator or Project Officer for assistance.  

Further information on the application process is contained in the Working with children clearance for kinship carers and household members – information sheet.

Failure to apply 

A failure to apply for, or hold a current WWCC, or if a carer fails to update their status as a kinship carer, constitutes a breach of the WS Act. A child would need to be removed from the placement if the kinship carer has not complied with the requirements of the Act. 

Cost

In Victoria, there is no cost for a kinship carer or usual adult household member to apply for a WWCC as they are deemed to be a ‘volunteer’.

National police history checks

Mandatory kinship care assessments, including Kinship Assessment Part A and national criminal record checks must be carried out on all kinship carer(s) and other usual adult household members prior to a placement being made. Criminal record checks are required to be updated every three years. See National police history checks for further information.

National police history checks carried out by Child Protection do not always provide details of spent convictions for some jurisdictions such as Queensland. However, these spent convictions will be made available to the DGS when assessing a WWCC application. Where this information wasn’t available to Child Protection it could produce an unanticipated WWCC application outcome.

Working with children notice definitions and meanings

Prohibition notice 

A prohibition notice means the kinship carer cannot legally engage in child-related work while the applicant’s application is being assessed. DGS has the authority to prohibit an applicant from engaging in child-related work (including kinship care) as a result of a criminal records check that indicates the applicant has been charged with/found guilty of/convicted of specified offences (i.e. Category A or B). DGS therefore prohibits these applicants from engaging in child-related work until they have completed their assessment and are satisfied the applicant does not pose an unjustifiable risk to the safety of children.   

Interim exclusion notice 

DGS issues an interim WWCC exclusion when they determine the applicant/cardholder poses an unjustifiable risk to children. An interim WWCC exclusion notice is issued before a WWCC exclusion or revocation notice unless the applicant or cardholder can demonstrate why the WWCC Exclusion or Revocation notice should not occur.  The applicant/cardholder will receive a request to provide further information to DGS to further inform the assessment. 

Exclusion notice 

When an applicant fails a WWCC check then are issued a WWCC Exclusion. This means the applicant cannot engage in child-related work for a period of five years, effective from the date listed on the notice unless the applicant can demonstrate to DGS that their circumstances have changed.   

Suspension notice 

DGS must suspend a WWCC holder from engaging in child-related work when DGS is notified the cardholder has been charged with/found guilty of/convicted of specified offences or has been excluded from child-related work by another State or Territory.  

The cardholder is suspended from engaging in child-related work until DGS undertake their re-assessment and they are satisfied the Working with Children Clearance holder does not pose an unjustifiable risk to the safety of children.   

Revocation and exclusion notice (in response to re-assessment) 

If DGS have re-assessed a WWCC cardholder and determined they should not continue to hold a WWCC, then the WWCC is revoked, and the cardholder is excluded from holding a WWCC for five years.  

Revocation and exclusion notice (for failing to provide information) 

DGS may request a cardholder provide them with additional information during the re-assessment process. If the cardholder fails to respond to the request for information by the due date, the cardholder is sent a notice of intention to revoke and then issued with a Revocation and Exclusion notice seven days after the notice of the intention to revoke the WWCC.  

A cardholder can make a new application for a WWCC but cannot undertake child-related work until a WWCC is received.  

Notice of reissue 

A notice of a WWCC re-issue is received after a suspension of a cardholder’s WWCC where the subsequent reassessments conducted by DGS are finalised in the cardholder’s favour, allowing the cardholder to continue to hold a WWCC.   

Considerations for good practice

A criminal record check is likely to be the first indicator that a person is either unable, or unlikely to receive a WWCC. Where this is the case, the placement cannot proceed and therefore should not be established in the first place. In some circumstances, persons are prohibited from applying for a WWCC, for example registered sex offenders or serious offenders. 

 

If an individual has been issued with an exclusion (not an interim exclusion notice), they are excluded from engaging in child related work and are prohibited from reapplying for a WWCC for a period of five (5) years.

 

It is recognised a policy requiring usual adult household members within kinship placements to hold a WWCC is at risk of having a disproportionately negative impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, families, and carers due to ongoing systemic bias resulting in overrepresentation in the child protection and criminal justice systems. 

 

Additional cultural considerations must be applied when assessing a placement for an Aboriginal child together with mandatory ACSASS consultation which is to be documented. 

 

If a child protection practitioner requires assistance with WWCC requirements for a kinship carer or usual adult household member, please contact the Divisional WWCC Kinship team.