When children and young people are placed away from their families, a duty of care exists to ensure that they are safe, that they receive quality care and that, where appropriate, they return home as soon as possible.

This duty of care is a responsibility shared by families, foster parents, case workers, departments and placement agencies. The provision of good quality care is not limited to the qualities, skills and care provided by the foster parent, but equally depends on the quality of casework and support of the child and family.

For foster parents this duty of care involves a responsibility and obligation to ensure that the child or young person in their care is looked after appropriately and in accordance with agency standards. At the most fundamental level this means that foster parents in the provision of day to day care to children and young people placed with them must promote their rights to:

  • adequate food, clothing and shelter;
  • medical, dental and like treatment necessary to promote and maintain their health;
  • receive education, training, recreation and employment opportunities according to their age, developmental needs and interests;
  • maintain contact with family and other significant persons and to have them actively involved in their lives;
  • be safe from exploitation and maltreatment.

As well as this general responsibility to provide safe and appropriate care, foster parents also assume a number of obligations which they agree to fulfil in respect to the child/young person; the family; the case worker and the department/agency with whom they are registered to foster.

In terms of the department or agency, foster parents must agree to act in accordance with specific departmental or agency standards, guidelines and policies relating to how care is provided and include obligations to:

  • support contact between the child/young person and their case worker
  • discuss with the case worker the progress of the placement and to write reports, and in some cases attend planning meetings, about the child or young person
  • respect the privacy of the child/young person and their family, to treat confidentially any information provided about them and not disclose that information to another party without prior consent
  • advise the case worker or agency if the child/young person is not coping with, or not attending, their schooling
  • seeking approval in advance for serious matters such as operatic procedures and the use of anaesthetics
  • ensure the child or young person's whereabouts are known at all times, including reporting any changes of address, plans to holiday away (interstate or in another locality within the state) and episodes of running away.
  • comply with foster parent licensing and review requirements and advise of any changes in circumstances
  • participate in foster parent training opportunities
  • immediately report to the case worker or agency any critical incidents such as injuries (accidental or non-accidental), instances of alleged abuse by any person and any criminal or self harming behaviours committed by the child/young person