Allegations Against DoCS Authorised Carers (Foster Carers)
Being a foster carer can be very rewarding but also very challenging. DoCS recognises & appreciates the significant contribution of foster carers in supporting and nurturing children and young persons in their care. Allegations of inappropriate conduct or behaviour, however, can be made against foster carers. Training and good parenting practices can help prevent situations that could be construed as inappropriate but even the best carers can have allegations made against them. Whether true or false, allegations arise for a variety of reasons. Below is some brief information relating to allegations against carers.
When an allegation is made about you.
The Department of Community Services (DoCS) sometimes receives information about the way foster care is provided to children and or young people or an allegation is made about a foster carer. When this happens we are obliged by law to look into it as part of our responsibility to protect children and young persons in care. This does not mean that the information is accepted as true, but we will examine the circumstances and decide if a further investigation is necessary.
Sometimes the information that we receive indicates that you might need additional support to provide ongoing care. When this happens your DoCS caseworker will contact you to discuss any problems and what further support can be provided.
In some cases, the information will require us to conduct an investigation because it involves an allegation that you have mistreated a child. The law requires us to complete an investigation and report it to the NSW Ombudsman.
Less serious allegations will be investigated by trained officers in Regions and more serious matters will be investigated by the Allegations Against Employees Unit (AAE). If it relates to serious physical or sexual abuse the information will also be referred to a Police/DoCS Joint Investigation Response Team (JIRT).
What does DoCS do in an investigation? We examine all the circumstances of the allegation after collecting information from a variety of sources. Interviews are conducted with the child concerned, other children and any adults who might be able to provide relevant information.
You will be treated fairly and with respect during the investigation. You might be interviewed by DoCS Officers (possibly with a Police Officer if JIRT is involved). You will be given an opportunity to discuss your views on the matter. You will always be told what the allegations are and be given an opportunity to respond to them either in the interview or in writing. This might not occur when we first learn about an allegation but later in the investigation after information is collected.
When the interviews are completed and you have responded to the allegations, we will prepare a report that will outline the evidence and make a finding in relation to each allegation including, in some situations, recommendations. All documentation is sent to the NSW Ombudsman for review. You will be told of the outcome of the investigation in writing including whether or not your name was reported to the NSW Ombudsman and whether or not your name was sent to the Commission for Children and Young People (CCYP).
What happens to the child in my care? We might need to make a decision on whether the child requires a new placement. This can also include other children in your care. If we decide that a child needs to be removed from your care you will be notified, in writing, of the decision and the reasons for making that decision. If you are unhappy about the decision to remove a child from your care, you can ask us to review the decision. We will also look at what supports the child needs as a result of the allegation. In some cases, the child’s birth parents will need to know that an investigation has been carried out.
What support will be available to me?
We recognise that foster carers need appropriate support during the investigative processes. The DoCS Officer will answer your questions and inform you of available support services.
You can bring a support person to any DoCS interview (unless it is part of a JIRT investigation).
Foster carers who are the subject of allegations can also get counselling support from the Counselling Psychologist of the Complaint Assessment and Review Branch, DoCS. You can ask for a referral to the Counselling Psychologist by contacting the AAE or the Client Services Manager at your local Community Services Centre.
Who else needs to know about the allegations? We are legally required to advise the NSW Ombudsman, and in some circumstances, the CCYP about allegations. Further information about those agencies is contained in the information sheets that will have been provided to you.
Do I have access to records? You can apply for access to any document held by DoCS about you under the Freedom of Information Act 1989 and the Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998. You may also request that information provided by you is attached to your file. If you wish to seek access to documents you will need to apply in writing. A form is available from your local Community Services Centre for this purpose. If you wish to have additional information attached to your file you should write to:
Allegations Against Employees Unit
Locked Bag 28
ASHFIELD NSW 1800
What support services or further information can I get?
DoCS Salaried Employees
Employee Assistance Program
DoCS Foster Carers
Aboriginal State-wide Foster Carer Support Service (ACWA)
Ph: (02) 9281 8822
Administrative Decisions Tribunal
Ph: 1800 060 410 (Toll free); TTY: (02) 9235 2674
Commission for Children & Young People
Ph: (02) 9286 7276; Web: www.kids.nsw.gov.au
Department of Community Services
§ Foster Care Liaison Officer, Complaints Unit Hotline: 1800 000 164 (Toll free)
§ Allegations Against Employees Unit
Phone: (02) 9716 2149
13 2111 (for general public and clients)
13 3627 (for mandatory reporting)
Foster Parents Support Network
Ph: 61 2 9608 8494
Fax: 61 2 9608 9934
National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse & Neglect (NAPCAN)
Ph: (02) 9211 3794; Web: www.napcan.org.au
NSW Government Information Service
Ph: (02) 9286 1000; Ph: 1800 451 524 (Toll free); TTY: 02 9264 8050
Parent Line, NSW
Ph: 13 2055 (Toll free)