Types of grandparent or kinship care
There are three main types of grandparent or kinship care. The type of grandparent or kinship care you have affects the decisions you can make about the child and the financial benefits you might get. For example, enrolling the child in school or agreeing to a medical procedure for the child is usually easier if you have a court order.
This is when you have an agreement with the child’s parents about caring for the child, without a court order like a child protection order or a family law order.
In this situation, the child’s parents have legal parental responsibility. They’re in charge of all major and long-term decisions about the child. Only they can do things like legally authorise medical care, apply for passports, sign school forms and so on.
Informal arrangement plus a family law order
A family law order is an order from the Family Court. It lists who has parental responsibility for the child – for example, you as a kinship carer. It can give you some security about your caring arrangement. The Court can ask for others to recognise the rights listed in the family law order. Others might include the child’s school, for example.
This arrangement is still informal because it doesn’t give you formal – or foster – carer status, even though you have a family law order.
A formal arrangement with a child protection order
A child protection order is made by the Child Protection Court in your state or territory. A child protection order is used when there’s been a report to the child protection authority that a child is at risk. As a grandparent or kinship carer, you can apply for full or shared parental responsibility.
This arrangement is formal because a child protection order gives you formal carer status, like foster carers have.
For information about legal and financial support, you can call Family Relationships Online – 1800 050 321. Australian Government Grandparent Advisers can tell you about payments, services and support in your area. You can call them on 1800 245 965. You could also contact Services Australia for advice.
Legal issues and support for new carers
Here are some legal issues and options that might make things easier for you as a new grandparent or kinship carer.
Court orders can list the time a child spends with parents. If you feel that the current contact arrangement with parents is causing problems for you or the child, you can talk to your child protection agency or lawyer about making changes to court orders.
Informal Caregivers Statutory Declaration
If you’re a grandparent or kinship carer with informal arrangements (and without a family law order), fill in a statutory declaration form. This form allows you to give parental consent for things like the child’s school excursions, child care, health services and recreational activities. This declaration doesn’t affect the parents’ rights.
For further information, contact the attorney general’s office, child protection authority or education department in your state or territory.
Financial issues and support for new carers
Here are some financial issues and options that might make things easier for you as a new carer.
Find out what government payments you’re entitled to. These can include family assistance, help with the cost of child care, the Double Orphan Pension and one-off payments. For example, you might be eligible for a lump sum when you start caring for a baby or child who has recently come into your care.
Some payments are means tested.
If you’ve had to stop work, move house or make any other financial changes to your life to care for the child, you might be able to get other support from Centrelink.
Centrelink can also help you apply for a Foster Child Health Care Card. This card can help you with medical expenses – for example, bulk billing when you take the child to the doctor.
Call Medicare on 132 011 to add a child to your Medicare Safety Net. The Medicare Safety Net helps with high out-of-pocket costs for certain Medicare services.
Think about whether you want to negotiate child support from the child’s parents, or be assessed for child support. These decisions will depend on your relationship with the child’s parents and your financial situation. For information about child support, call Services Australia on 131 272.
Child protection benefits
If you have the care of a child with a child protection order, the child protection authority in your state or territory will give you regular payments for everyday costs, case management support, training and respite. If the child has special needs, you might also get higher rates and help with education and health costs.
If you have informal care of a child with or without a family law order, you might be able to get a carer card, respite or other support. Support for carers is different across states and territories.
Do a family budget to keep track of the changes to your finances. Having an up-to-date budget might also be handy whenever you’re asking for financial support.
A family budget planner might help with this.
Legal and financial issues for carers in the longer term
If you’ve been caring for a child for a while and you’ve already covered the basics, here are a few other things to think about.
If the child in your care was a victim of crime or witnessed one, the child might be able to get compensation from the state or territory where the crime happened. This compensation might cover counselling support and medical expenses, as well as pain and suffering. Check the time limits for application, and keep in mind that there’s some flexibility when a child is involved.
To find out more, contact the attorney general’s office or justice department in your state or territory.
Making or changing your will
You might be worried about who’ll care for the child after you die. It’s a good idea to plan for this by making or changing your will.
A will is a legal document that lists who gets your money and property when you die, and who cares for any children. It’s important to include the reasons why you’ve chosen a person to care for the child and why some family members get more or less of your property than others. In the will, you can attach letters from witnesses, or other evidence that shows your relationship with the child.
If a child in your care gets something from your will, think about appointing a trustee to manage what the child gets until they’re an adult. You can include instructions on how any money can be spent for the child – for example, on school fees and housing. If you don’t know who to appoint as a trustee, you can appoint the public trustee in your state or territory, or contact them for advice.
If a carer dies and there’s a court order for the care of the child, the matter returns to the court where the order was made. The court will then use evidence – for example, your will and supporting letters – to decide who’ll care for the child.
For information and legal advice, contact legal aid, your solicitor or the public trustee in your state or territory.
Child protection agencies in Australian states and territories
Child protection agencies are responsible for children’s safety and wellbeing. This includes looking at care and living arrangements for children who are at risk. It also includes making payments to carers of children with court protection orders.
Here are Australia’s state and territory child protection agencies:
- Australian Capital Territory: ACT Government Department of Community Services – Child and Youth Protection Services
- New South Wales: NSW Government Department of Communities and Justice
- Northern Territory: NT Government Department of Territory Families, Housing and Communities
- Queensland: Queensland Government Department of Children, Youth Justice and Multicultural Affairs
- South Australia: SA Government Department for Child Protection
- Tasmania: Tasmanian Government Department of Communities Tasmania
- Victoria: Victorian Government Department of Families, Fairness and Housing
- Western Australia: WA Government Department of Communities, Child Protection and Family Support