The Commission has commenced an inquiry into the implementation of amendments arising from the Children, Youth and Families Amendment (Permanent Care and Other Matters) Act 2014. The inquiry commenced on 1 September 2016 and is expected to be finalised in March 2017.
The legislative amendments took effect on 1 March 2016 and change the way that Victoria’s child protection system operates. In particular, the changes seek to ensure that decisions about the care of vulnerable children are made in a timely way and promote permanency of care arrangements.
Permanency of care is defined in the Inquiry’s terms of reference as an enduring care arrangement for a child that promotes the child's safety, development and sense of belonging. For most children, this will be in the care of one or both parents. However, for a small number of children, a permanent or ongoing out-of-home care placement is required to ensure their safety and wellbeing.
The inquiry is examining the evidence available after the first six months of the commencement of the amendments, to determine whether they are achieving their objectives and whether they have led to any unintended consequences.
The Inquiry is being informed by evidence and data and involves a number of components, including stakeholder participation.
The inquiry is considering:
- whether the amendments have had any direct impact on outcomes for vulnerable children and families
- whether the permanency amendments are leading to timelier permanent outcomes, including family preservation and family reunification for vulnerable children and for children for whom it is unsafe to return to the care of a parent
- whether the permanency amendments have strengthened cultural supports and planning for Aboriginal children in out of home care
- the impact of the permanency amendments on child protection and other services
- whether any unintended consequences can be directly attributable to the permanency amendments
- barriers that prevent permanent care orders being made.
This inquiry is being guided by the best interests of the child principles in section 10 of the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005, the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.