RUTH FORREST to VANESSA GOODWIN: LEADER OF GOVERNMENT BUSINESS
With regard to support services offered to foster children in Tasmania:
(1) Is any provision made for directed counselling for foster children within their school if a request is made for such support by the child, the foster parents or the teacher of the child?
(2) What are the requirements for foster child support workers in reporting problematic behaviour of foster children at home and at school?
(3) Is there any formalised process by which schools and the Department of Education organise extra support for foster children who require more directed assistance than their peers?
(4) How should parents of foster children requiring extra assistance notify the Department of Education of that need?
(5) (a) Is the Government aware of an information policy of settling foster children at school by separation from their peers with the assistance of a support worker; and
(b) If so, does that policy form part of the Government's education policy in relation to foster children with their complex needs and potential issues regarding separation generally?
Dr GOODWIN replied -
(1) Children in foster care are usually accessing counselling services, either through the Child Protection Services (which could include outsourced therapy through Australian Childhood Foundation) or via the school psychologist. Any concerns regarding the child, including problematic behaviour, are considered as part of the care team process. Care teams meet regularly to discuss case direction for the child and how the child's needs can be met, as part of care planning for the child. Care teams include representatives from all areas of the child's life including the Child Protection Worker, Department of Education representative e.g. school social worker, representatives from other services involved with the child such as mental health, the child's carer and their biological parents where appropriate.
(2) It is unclear what is meant by foster child support workers. For the purposes of this response, this has been taken to refer to the child's Department of Health and Human Services Child Protection Worker. As outlined in (1) any concerns regarding the child, including problematic behaviour, are considered as part of the care team process.In addition, referrals can be made to the school psychologists via the school principal. Students, parents and foster carers can also refer to social workers in schools for support. Social workers can provide advice and guidance to parents about services available for children if support is not able to be provided within the school context.
(3) There is a formal requirement for students under care and protection orders to have a collaborative learning plan. All other students are referred via the usual referral process and access additional support as necessary. At the Department of Education level, there is no formal requirement, but there is an expectation that there would be collaboration with the principal and school support staff, together with the foster carers and Child Protection staff.
(4) Parents of children in care who require extra assistance with schooling should discuss the issue with the child's Child Protection Worker. This can then be discussed by the CPW either directly with the school or through the care team process for the child. In addition, parents or foster carers can directly discuss, via the school principal, class teacher or professional specialist staff, any concerns about the student. The Learning Services Unit is also available for advice.
(5) (a) No, the Department of Education is not aware of any policy in this regard. It is customary to provide support based on the individual student's need, circumstances and school context as well as consider overall duty of care.
(b) It is widely understood that social isolation (separation) from peers is not in a child's developmental interests. At all times the safety needs of all children and staff are considered. It is undesirable, but possible, for a student to be separated temporarily from peers as part of their behaviour support plan ideally collaboratively developed between all stakeholders. This behaviour support plan takes into account the developmental needs of the child and usually describes goals to be achieved