What is Kinship Care?

If the Victorian Child Protection Service requires an out-of-home care placement for a child or young person in need of protection, this will include placement with:

  • an approved kinship carer
  • an accredited foster carer through a community service organisation, or
  • a residential care provider.

When a child or young person needs an out-of-home care placement, it is a legislative requirement that kinship care be explored before other placement options are pursued. As a kinship carer, you provide the child or young person in your care with a connection and shared family history, culture and identity. This will usually provide a less traumatic experience of child protection intervention for them and their family.

Kinship and foster care are often referred to as home-based care because they occur in a home setting.

Kinship care is the care provided by relatives or a member of a child or young person’s social network, when they cannot live with their parents due to safety and protective concerns.

Aboriginal kinship care is care provided by relatives or friends of an Aboriginal child or young person who cannot live with their parents, where Aboriginal family, community and Aboriginal culture are valued as central to the child or young person’s safety, stability and development.

Kinship placements occur as a result of child protection intervention, either voluntarily or under a Children’s Court order, and are supported and supervised by Child Protection or a community service organisation (agency).

Privately arranged or informal kinship care

Privately arranged or informal kinship care are terms that may be used to describe arrangements where children and young people are cared for by relatives without any child protection intervention.

While this manual is aimed at kinship carers who care for children and young people subject to child protection intervention, privately arranged or informal kinship carers may also find information in this manual useful.

Safety screening

Before placing a child with a kinship carer, Child Protection completes a preliminary assessment and mandatory safety screening.

This includes:

  • a national police history check for every member of the household over 18 years
  • an assessment of the previous history of the potential carer(s) through a review of the department’s Client Relationship Information System
  • an assessment of the primary carer’s likelihood to pass a Working with Children Check (WWCC).

Police checks

To be approved as a kinship carer, Child Protection will conduct a national police check on you and anyone else over the age of 18 who usually lives in the house. Information from the police check is only shown to those who are deciding if you can be approved as a kinship carer.

You may still be approved as a kinship carer if you have a criminal record, but this will depend on the individual circumstances.

When child protection is considering whether a criminal record affects the suitability of the kinship carer, they will take into consideration:

  • what the crime was
  • why you, or any other adult in the home, committed the crime
  • how long it has been since the crime was committed
  • if this could put a child or young person at risk.

Working with Children Checks

Kinship care is considered to be ‘child-related work’ under the Working with Children Act 2005 and all primary kinship carers, approved by the Victorian child protection program, must hold a Working with Children Check (WWCC). This includes current, new and respite kinship carers.

The WWCC is an ongoing screening process that provides greater protection for children and young people in kinship care by monitoring a person’s suitability to work with or care for them. It screens a person’s criminal record to ensure those charged with, or convicted of, certain serious crimes, are unable to work with children or young people. It is renewed every five years.

Only primary kinship carers need to apply for a WWCC. In your household, where there may be one or more people who have been approved as a child or young person’s carer, all are required to hold a WWCC.

You are required by law to apply for a WWCC. You should apply for one within 21 days from the date the child or young person is placed in your care or, if you already hold a WWCC card, you need to update your details to include your status as a kinship carer within 21 days from the date the child or young person is placed in your care.

If you do not apply for, or update, a WWCC, you will be in breach of the law and the child or young person cannot remain in your care. There is no cost for a kinship carer to apply for a WWCC in Victoria. You can apply online via the WWCC website at www.workingwithchildren.vic.gov.au/ and click on the ‘Apply for Check’ button.

In the Organisational field, it is essential that you use the full Department of Health and Human Services address and phone number:

Department of Families, Fairness and Housing

PCB- Safety Screening – Kinship Carer

GPO Box 4057 Melbourne 3000

Phone: 03 9096 5715

It is also important that you select ‘80 – Kinship carer – caring for a child placed by Child Protection under the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005’ in the dropdown box in the Occupation field.

You must select ‘Volunteer’ for occupation type.

For more information, contact the Working with Children Check Unit customer support line on 1300 652 879,

email <workingwithchildren@justice.vic.gov.au> or visit www.workingwithchildren.vic.gov.au/.

For any questions about this process, you can contact the child or young person’s child protection worker or agency case manager.