The WS Act requires kinship carers to hold a working with children clearance (WWCC), previously known as a working with children check.
Where a kinship carer/s is unable to obtain a WWCC, alternative arrangements are to be made for the children in those placements, discretionary endorsement cannot be applied. 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.
A kinship carer cannot be reclassified as a household member to allow for discretionary endorsement. Discretionary endorsement may only be applied when a usual adult household member is unable to hold a WWCC (excluded from child related work).
For further information about requirements related to kinship carers, refer to policy Working with Children Clearance, prohibition, suspension or, revocation, interim negative, exclusion, and exclusion notice.
There is no legislative requirement under the WS Act for usual adult household members to have a WWCC. However, it is the policy of the department that all usual adult household members must hold a WWCC.
The policy brings Victoria into compliance with the National Standards for Working with Children Checks (National Standards) developed in response to recommendations made by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
This policy for usual adult household members to obtain a WWCC also provides increased oversight of persons associating and residing with children and young people to increase their safety whilst residing in kinship care.
In exceptional circumstances, where all other assessments of the placement are positive, when sufficient safety has been demonstrated, and there is a compelling ‘best interests’ argument for the placement continuing, a request for discretionary endorsement of a placement where a usual adult household member cannot obtain a WWCC, or has been excluded from child-related work, may be considered.
The process is outlined in the discretionary endorsement procedure, which outlines all tasks child protection practitioners have to undertake.
For a complete definition of a usual adult household member see Working with Children Clearances for kinship carers and usual adult household members - advice.
It is recognised that a policy requiring usual adult 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. Applying a culturally informed lens must occur when assessing a placement for an Aboriginal child. This includes understanding the importance of Aboriginal culture, family relationships and parenting arrangements, in addition to acknowledging the structural past colonial practices and ongoing systemic bias that continue to lead to significant over-representation of Aboriginal children in the Child Protection and Youth Justice systems.
It is a requirement that all decision making is culturally informed and meets the department’s legislative and policy obligations including: the Aboriginal Child Placement Principles, cultural plans, Aboriginal family-led decision-making principles, and consultations with ACSASS.
Connection to culture and community is an intrinsic strength and protection for Aboriginal children as it builds strength and resilience. Integrating this knowledge, including how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kinship systems work, and their connection to spiritual traditions, ancestry and country ensures decision-making is culturally informed.
The case plan for an Aboriginal child in out-of-home care is required to address the child’s cultural support needs and reflect and be consistent with those needs. The case plan should be consistent with the child’s cultural plan.
In applying discretion for an Aboriginal child to reside in a placement where a household member is unable to obtain a WWCC, Child Protection, community services organisations (CSOs) and Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCOS) are required to consult with ACSASS to inform the decision-making process. They must also consider protective factors that may be unique to an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander carer as distinct from protective factors that could be relevant to carers from other cultural backgrounds.
These considerations must be factored into decision-making when a child is to be placed in a kinship placement where a usual household member is not eligible to hold a WWCC.
Also refer to Assessing kinship care for Aboriginal children for additional information.
- Working with children clearance prohibition, suspension, revocation, interim exclusion and exclusion notice - policy
- Working with children clearances for kinship carers and usual adult household members - advice
- Template for use when seeking endorsement for a usual adult household member unable to hold a WWCC
- Assessing kinship care for Aboriginal children - advice