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Supporting Students in Out-of-Home Care

Policy

This policy provides an overview of out-of-home care and to outline schools’ obligations under the Out-of-Home-Care Education Commitment: a Partnering Agreement 2018 (the Partnering Agreement)

Summary

  • Children and young people who cannot live in their family home may access out-of-home care as a temporary, medium or long-term living arrangement.
  • Out-of-home care includes both statutory and informal out-of-home care.
  • Schools are required to meet defined obligations under the Partnering Agreement for all students in statutory out-of-home care. These obligations aim to support the educational achievement of every child and young person in statutory out-of-home care.

Details

Under the Partnering Agreement, schools must meet certain obligations to students in out-of-home care. The Partnering Agreement details the obligations in relation to students in Statutory out-of-home care.

Out-of-home care is a temporary, medium or long-term living arrangement for children and young people who cannot live in their family home. Out-of-home care most commonly refers to statutory out-of-home care, where a child or young person cannot live in their family home and a legal order is in place to support the arrangement.

Statutory out-of-home care includes foster care, kinship care, permanent care, residential care and lead tenant arrangements. In Victoria, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has oversight of these arrangements.

Out-of-home care also includes informal out-of-home care arrangements. Informal out-of-home care refers to an arrangement in which a child or young person is living with someone other than their parent or legal guardian, without an out-of-home care legal order in place. DHHS usually does not have oversight of these arrangements. When a student is living in an informal out-of-home care arrangement, the, carer should be asked to complete an Informal Carer Statutory Declaration form (login required). The declaration is a written statement that sets out the care arrangements for the child or young person. A completed declaration is required to allow the school the student attends, or where they are seeking enrolment, to work with an informal carer.

Out-of-home care does not include children or young people who have transitioned to family reunification or adoption.

Types of statutory out-of-home care

  • foster care: a child or young person is taken into care by a foster carer who has been trained and approved to look after children and young people
  • kinship care: a child or young person is taken into care by a relative or family friend allowing them to remain within the family or local network
  • permanent care: refers to situations when a child or young person is placed with approved permanent care parents by Adoption and Permanent Care Teams, or when an existing foster care or kinship care placement is converted to permanent care by the granting of a permanent care order
  • residential care: a young person is placed into a home staffed by carers
  • lead tenant: an out-of-home care placement option providing medium-term accommodation and support to young people aged 16 to 17 years

For more information, visit: kinship, foster and other care on the DHHS site.

Out-of-home care channels

Children and young people come into out-of-home care through 2 main channels:

  1. after an investigation and removal from the family home by Child Protection
  2. when a parent or parents cannot care for their child and approach DHHS or a community service organisation to care for their child

For more information, visit Child Protection on the DHHS website.

Legal orders

A number of legal orders can be granted by the Children's Court to assist in the safe removal of a child from their family home.

Current orders can be found on the DHHS website. For more information, visit Child Protection Orders.

Schools’ obligations under the Partnering Agreement

Schools and child protection practitioners are required to meet their obligations under the Partnering Agreement.

Partnering Agreement background

The Partnering Agreement is a commitment between:

  • the Department of Education and Training
  • the Department of Health and Human Services
  • the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria
  • Independent Schools Victoria
  • Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency
  • the Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare

The Partnering Agreement strengthens the shared commitment between partners to improve education and health and wellbeing outcomes for children and young people in out-of-home care.

The Partnering Agreement was refreshed in 2018, with changes to align with current legislation, policy and programs available to children and young people in out-of-home care to support their education, health and wellbeing.

The agreement aims to ensure that: 

  • processes are in place to actively support the educational achievement of every child and young person in out-of-home care 
  • a strongly coordinated approach exists to support the needs of children and young people in out-of-home care 
  • all parties understand each other’s roles and responsibilities and work cooperatively 
  • strategies are implemented to improve outcomes related to student enrolment, attendance, achievement, case planning, retention and school completion

Obligations: Statutory out-of-home care

For every student in statutory out-of-home care, and for the first year of a student entering permanent care, schools must implement their obligations under the Partnering Agreement. These obligations include:

  • appointing a learning mentor
  • assigning a student support group
  • developing an individual education plan
  • developing an educational needs analysis
  • nominating a designated teacher

Schools should refer to the following for guidance on how to meet the requirements listed above:

  • The Partnering Agreement
  • Guidelines: Supporting students in out-of-home care (in the Guidance tab)
  • The Educational Needs Analysis guidelines (in the Guidance tab)

Informal out-of-home care

The obligations set out in the Partnering Agreement apply specifically to students in statutory out-of-home care.

When a child’s parents are unable or unwilling to care for them, relatives or significant others may take on responsibility for the care of that child. Sometimes this care is provided on an informal basis that does not give the carer any legal status over the child or formal recognition as a carer.

In these circumstances, the carer should be asked to complete an Informal Carer Statutory Declaration form. This declaration is a written statement that sets out the care arrangements for the child.

Generally, an informal carer who has provided the school with a completed Informal Carer Statutory Declaration may make school-based decisions for the child and may access school information ordinarily provided to a parent.

It is important to note that, subject to any court orders, generally, a parent’s decision overrides any decision made by an informal carer. Other factors that might be relevant to decision-making and information-sharing for the child include a consideration of whether the child is a mature minor or any safety and wellbeing concerns. Refer to the Department’s policy on Mature Minors and Decision-Making for further information.  

LOOKOUT Educational Support Centres (LOOKOUT Centres)

LOOKOUT Centres are an additional resource to support schools and child protection practitioners to meet their obligations under the Partnering Agreement. LOOKOUT Centres also provide support in the early childhood sector.

For more information, visit: LOOKOUT Education Support Centres

Early childhood

The early childhood agreement for children in out-of-home care aims to increase the participation of young children placed in out-of-home care in high quality early childhood education and care.

Relevant legislation

Department policy outlining obligations for schools when supporting students in out-of-home care

Reviewed 03 March 2021

Policy last updated

15 June 2020

Scope

  • Schools

Contact

The student’s school is the first point of contact for queries regarding the Supporting Students in Out-of-Home Care policy

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