Increasing permanency for children in out-of-home care

Double the number of children in safe and permanent homes by 2023 for children in, or at risk of entering, out-of-home care.

Child hugging parent

Why is this important?

All children deserve a safe and stable home.

We are committed to the safety and wellbeing of children and young people and protecting them from risk of harm, abuse and neglect. In Australia, each state has laws to keep children safe and to make sure their needs are met. In NSW this law is the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998.

Our first priority is to work towards keeping families safely together. We want to support families with the services they need so that children and young people can stay safely at home or return home after a break. Where this is not possible, we will use the permanent placement principles to ensure that a child or young person has a safe, loving and permanent home.

How are we tracking?

We continue to work hard to ensure we find safe and permanent homes for vulnerable children. Between the beginning of the priority and June 2022, 3085 children exited out-of-home care into permanent arrangements. 

Through our focus on early intervention and targeted programs to keep children with their families, the number of children in out-of-home care in NSW has continued to decrease over the last 5 years and stands at 15,223 as of 30 June 2022. 

Download the Increasing permanency for children in out-of-home care data information sheet (PDF 229.54KB)

What are we doing? 

This challenging Premier's Priority balances supporting families to remain safely together and ensuring a child’s safety and wellbeing. Family-led and evidence-based decision making takes time to ensure longer term sustainable and stable outcomes for children.

Casework involves working closely with families. This essential work continued throughout the lockdown periods resulting from COVID-19, however the way services were delivered was disrupted and subsequently altered to reduce transmission risk for families and staff. This has impacted the timeliness in which safe and sustainable decisions regarding permanent care arrangements have been made for some children and their families.  

We are currently rolling out new strategies, and reforming existing practices, to ensure we are providing children and young people with a safe place to call home. Some of the ways we are doing this include: 

Supporting children to remain safely at home

Improved practice and investment in evidence-based preservation programs has kept more children safely at home with their families, contributing to low entries of children into out-of-home care. We are evaluating existing preservation services with recontracting of services to follow.

Implementing a Permanency Taskforce

The 2021-22 NSW Budget included $12 million to scale up initiatives aimed at increasing the number of permanency orders made. One of these initiatives is the establishment of a Permanency Taskforce.

The Permanency Taskforce is providing additional support to achieve guardianship orders where that has been identified as the best option for a child. Additional legal officers are available to advance guardianship and open adoption matters waiting to be progressed through court. 

Making timely permanency decisions

We are improving permanency planning for children entering care through early decision-making, prioritised casework, reviewing legal processes and using data to drive greater accountability and performance.  

We are focused on permanency for children already in long-term care. Each year, every child in care has an annual case plan review, which includes determining whether permanency can be pursued if that is in their best interests. We are also focused on targeted permanency reviews for children that are more likely to benefit from permanency. 

Implementing the Permanency Support Program

Under the Permanency Support Program, introduced in 2018, the government is working in partnership with the non-government sector to identify the best permanency goal for children in out-of-home care, and to attain that goal within 2 years.

This program is one of the most significant changes made to the NSW child protection and out-of-home care systems in decades. The program brings together government and non-government partners as part of a new vision in child protection and out-of-home care.  
The Permanency Support Program has 3 goals: 

  • fewer entries into care by keeping families together
  • shorter time in care by returning children home or finding other permanent homes for more children
  • a better care experience by supporting children’s individual needs and their recovery from trauma. 
Delivering culturally appropriate permanency outcomes for Aboriginal communities  

Aboriginal children are over-represented in the out-of-home-care system. For the first time, operational guidelines for Aboriginal case management have been developed by Aboriginal communities, which helps drive culturally appropriate preservation and restoration for more children. We are working to set up improved mechanisms for family and community involvement in decision making for Aboriginal children.  

An Aboriginal Guardianship Support Model has been co-designed with Aboriginal children, young people, and community. A 2-year trial has begun in 2 geographical areas of NSW from 2021 through to December 2023 with an independent evaluation. The model aims to assist children and young people on guardianship orders with support and services they need to thrive in their families and community.

Enhancing sector uplift 

To better support the sector, the government has invested in the Permanency Support Learning Hub which was launched in November 2019. Through practice resources and training, the hub is helping to build the capacity of the sector to promote permanency.

All of these changes will help to ensure more children are in safe and loving homes. Find out how we are already making these changes in the lives of children.

Do you need help?

If you are a child, family or carer looking for support, you can access information online.

What can you do?

Could you provide a loving home for children who are unable to be cared for by their family? 

Apply to be a carer 

Pathways to permanency including guardianship and adoption

What guardianship is and how you could become a guardian

Permanency for Children
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