Child and Family Services
On this page
- Information for carers
- Information for birth families
- Information for guardians
- Information for mandatory reporters
- Information on support services
- Information on Adoption and Permanency Services
- How you can help keep children safe
- Help is available
Our child protection and out-of-home care (OOHC) services are essential and will continue during the COVID-19 pandemic.
We will likely change the way we deliver some of these services. This may mean a change in the way we conduct home visits, or arrange family time for children in care.
Caseworkers have been provided with practice considerations and health and safety procedures to continue their work.
Information for carers
See our coronavirus information for carers. This includes:
- foster carers
- relative/kin carers
- short-term carers
- emergency carers
- respite carers.
Information for birth families
It is a hard and worrying time for all families at the moment. The consistent advice from health experts, to reduce the spread of COVID-19, is that people need to stay home and distance themselves from others outside their immediate home. This means people everywhere cannot see many of the people they interact with on a daily basis and care about deeply. If a child you love is in care, you probably feel extra worry and sadness. You probably have lots of questions. We will try to answer some of them here.
Will I still have contact time with my child?
Yes. Time with your child is still very important.
For families were restoration is the case plan goal, we will do our best to find ways to maintain face-to-face family time. Your caseworker will talk to you about your individual plan.
For families that have a child in a permanent care arrangement we will use some different ways for you to stay in touch with your child during this time. You may be able to be in contact with them through phone calls and video calls, text messages or letters.
We know that it will be very hard not to see your child in person for a little while. The reason is to keep you, your child and their carers as safe as possible. This is very important to us.
It is important that you have a say about how you want to stay in contact with your child. Talk to your child’s caseworker about this.
How long until I can see my child in person again?
These changes are temporary. Family time arrangements will go back to normal as soon as it is safe for people in the community to be in more contact again. We will follow Government and Health advice closely and commit to ensuring that you and your child remain as connected as possible during this time.
What if I have children in care with different carers?
Your caseworker will talk with you and all of your children and their carers to work out how you can stay in touch with them all.
If you usually get together as a family, you might have a video catch up all together. Or you might get to be in touch with them each separately. Let us know your ideas for the ways you would like to see your children. We will do what we can to accommodate requests while still following Government and Health advice.
How can I make the most of contact that is not face-to-face?
We understand that time with your child is very important for them and for you. It is crucial for continuing your relationships, attachments and for security. We want to make sure that you continue to have time to catch up, to show each other love and have fun together.
You can use phone calls and video calls to try new activities. You could:
- video call and play with different effects and filters
- play online games together
- read a story to them over the phone
- make plans for the things you will do together when you can next see each other.
What if I don’t have phone credit or data?
Speak to your child’s caseworker if you are worried that phone or online contact may be hard.
What if I am not happy about the way I can keep in touch with my child?
We know that you look forward to seeing your child. We will try to be as creative as we can to keep you and your child connected. You can talk to your child’s caseworker about how you would like to be in contact with your child. They can speak to your child and their carer about what will work best for your child.
You can also speak to the caseworker’s manager if you have worries.
What do I tell my child if they ask me why we can’t see each other face-to-face?
Children will have questions about why things have changed. If your child sees that you are not worried about the change then they are less likely to feel worried too.
You can help your child with this change by:
- staying calm
- letting them know that you love being in touch with them
- telling them how proud you are that they are following the rules that keep everyone safe
- being honest that this is because there is a virus and for a little while everyone needs to stop seeing people that they do not live with
- telling them that this is not their fault
- letting them know that you want them to be safe and healthy
- that this will just be for a while and you are excited to see them in person again when this is over.
What if I am worried about my child during COVID-19?
It is normal to worry a lot about the people you love right now. You may worry that your child could get sick and how you can find out if they do get sick. You may have questions about their schooling or other changes to their life during COVID-19.
Talk to your child’s caseworker. It is their job to keep you up to date and make a plan with you about how to share information about your child.
Your child might worry about you getting sick. Let them know that you will try hard not to get sick and to stay healthy. Let the caseworker know how you will tell them if you get sick.
Will meetings about my child still happen?
Yes. We will still have case planning meetings for children. These will usually happen by phone or video during COVID-19. Your child’s caseworker will include you. Ask for assistance if you have worries and need help to phone or video in to meetings.
How do I talk to my child about COVID-19?
If your child asks you about the virus, be honest, open and calm. This is the best way to stop them from feeling anxious about what’s going on.
Speak in words they can understand and answer their questions to the best of your ability. If you are unsure, look to NSW Health for up-to-date advice and news.
You can also contact the National Coronavirus Health Information line on 1800 020 080.
What advice should I give my child about COVID-19?
Your child’s carer and caseworker will be talking to your child about how they can stay healthy. You can also talk to them about this. Make sure your child knows how to reduce their chances of contracting or spreading the virus. Talk to them about the steps to keep themselves, and those around them, healthy.
- regularly cleaning their hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water
- coughing or sneezing into their elbow, or cover with a tissue
- avoiding close contact with people who are ill
- avoiding touching their eyes, nose and mouth.
I don’t feel like I am coping, what should I do?
This is a very stressful time. You are not alone and there are people who can help.
You can call:
- Lifeline on 13 11 14
- Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36, or chat online on their site
- Parentline NSW on 1300 1300 52
Information for guardians
Talking to children about Coronavirus
Should I talk to the children about Coronavirus?
It is perfectly normal for children to have questions about the Coronavirus. Children will look to you and other adults on how to manage their reactions.
It’s ok to talk to them about Coronavirus. A calm, reassuring conversation will actually help. Speak in words they understand. Listen and answer their questions as honestly as possible and correct any misunderstandings. This will help them feel informed and understand what is happening. Keep up to date with the facts from reliable sources such as the NSW Health website.
How can I help children to feel calm?
Children are likely to have questions about their birth family and why, in some situations, they can’t see them face-to-face because of the Coronavirus. Help them understand that it is just a precaution to help stop the risk of the Coronavirus spreading. It’s not because they or their family are sick or have done anything wrong. Help them connect in other ways. Let them know it won’t be forever. When things calm down and the risk is over they will be able to see family members and friends face-to-face again.
Children can be distressed by hearing repeated stories so monitor how much children are being exposed to television and social media and encourage them to talk to you about what they are seeing and hearing.
Schooling, child care and learning
Are schools still open?
Yes, all NSW public schools and early childhood education centres will be open for term 2, including schools for children with special needs. Out-of-school-hours care should also be available.
Catholic and independent schools are being asked to support children in out-of-home care in the same way by remaining open.
Some school services may need to close temporarily if there is a confirmed COVID-19 case. Your school will let you know if this needs to happen.
Should I be sending children in my care to school?
Learning is especially important for children and young people in care.
We understand there is a concern about personal safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the risk to children is lower and the benefits of school are great.
As the child’s guardian with full parental responsibility, you make the decision about what is best for your child.
Carers of children in out-of-home care have been encouraged to send children in their care to school from 29 April. Children in out-of-home care sometimes have additional needs and vulnerabilities and school can provide important routine, structure and extra support.
Whatever you decide for the children in your care, encourage them to learn. You can do this in different ways – from reading, to home projects, to online learning sites.
If your child is unwell or if you have concerns about your health or the health of another member of your household, please seek medical advice before your child attends school.
How can I help my kids learn if they aren’t attending school in person?
Your school should be supporting you by providing learning materials, helping with technology and giving you specialist advice if needed. Talk to your child’s teacher or principal.
What about child care for younger children?
The NSW Department of Education has specific advice about child care and early education.
Children with colds, flus or any other illness should be kept at home. Children who have travelled overseas in the last 14 days should be kept at home.
Information for mandatory reporters
Due to congestion on telecommunication networks, we’re experiencing intermittent outages on the Child Protection Helpline (13 21 11).
If you are a mandatory reporter, and think a child or young person is at risk of significant harm, we’re asking you to please make an online report at reporter.childstory.nsw.gov.au
If you cannot make an online report, call the Child Protection Helpline on 13 21 11.
In an emergency, where there are urgent concerns for the child’s health or life, call the police using the emergency line triple zero (000).
Before you report
Children and young people may be more vulnerable during this time as they are less ‘seen’ by other safe adults.
If you are a mandatory reporter and are concerned about the safety and wellbeing of a child:
- Consider whether the child has a known safety network (a group of people who are aware of the family circumstances and work together to help create safety). Liaise with them to share your concerns and collaboratively plan to address the identified issues.
- If there is no known safety network, review your records to determine whether you have previously identified safe adults in the child’s life that you could connect with.
- If neither option above is available or appropriate please complete the Mandatory Reporter Guide and if applicable contact the Child Protection Helpline.
- Who are mandatory reporters?
- Mandatory reporters: What to report and when
- Signs of abuse
- Mandatory reporters: How to make a child protection report
- Mandatory reporters: What happens after I make a report?
Information on support services
DCJ funded support services, including residential care, early intervention and family preservation programs will continue to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic. Speak to your service provider about how services may have changed during this time.
Find a support service near you
The Human Services Network (HSNet) is an online platform where you can search for essential services in your area, including family services and food relief. Visit the HSNet website to search for services in your area.
Ask Izzy is a website and app with information on where to get help for shelter, food, health and other critical services. Visit the Ask Izzy website to search for services in your area.
Food relief during the COVID-19 pandemic
Who can I contact if I need help providing food for me and my family?
You should contact your caseworker or service provider. They can provide more detailed information about local services available in your area. They can help make arrangements or put you in contact with organisations directly.
If you are told to self-isolate and require emergency food relief, Service NSW can also provide you with assistance.
Are charities or charity groups providing food assistance?
Yes. A range of charities in NSW are providing emergency food relief and access to food services.
We recommend you call or email before visiting services in person. This will ensure they are still open and running as normal.
Anglicare can provide immediate assistance, including food parcels, through the Sydney and Illawarra area. They also have Mobile Community Pantries that can help with low-cost food. To find more information about Anglicare’s food and financial assistance near you, visit the Anglicare website or call 1300 111 278.
St Vincent de Paul
St Vincent de Paul can provide hot meals, meal vouchers and food hampers to anyone who is in need in each Australian capital city and many regional centres. For more information, visit the St Vincent de Paul website or call 13 18 12.
You can find more charities that provide emergency food relief, counselling and other support by contacting Service NSW.
If I’m told to self-isolate, how do I access groceries and other necessities?
If you’ve been told to self-isolate, you should first contact your caseworker and service provider to ask for help. You can also reach out to family or friends to help you with shopping and other necessities.
If you do not have family or friends who can help you, you may be eligible for an emergency relief package organised by the NSW Government and Foodbank. The emergency relief package is also available for households in regional and remote areas.
The package contains two weeks of food and personal care items such as pasta, long life milk, canned vegetables and toilet paper.
For more information, please call Service NSW on 13 77 88.
Can supermarkets help me access food?
Many supermarkets have introduced special community hours for vulnerable customers to access their stores. This is aimed at seniors, people with disabilities, and emergency services and healthcare workers.
Some supermarkets are also providing a priority delivery service for those who are not able to get to a store.
For more information about other supermarket initiatives, please visit Service NSW.
What food relief options are available specifically for Aboriginal people and communities?
The NSW Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) is providing food and hygiene item relief packages to Aboriginal communities affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. This initiative is primarily for people over 60 years of age.
Visit the NSWALC website for more information about the NSWALC Food Relief Program and other ways that the NSWALC are responding to COVID-19 in Aboriginal communities.
Information on Adoption and Permanency Services
Adoption and Permanency Services will continue to operate with some changes to the way we deliver services. Some steps in an open adoption process may be limited or delayed, as all upcoming adoption training seminars are postponed until further notice.
We will regularly review advice from the relevant bodies and update our website when seminars resume.
How you can help keep children safe
Families may experience extra stress at this time. They are often isolated from their support networks. People that they would normally ask for support may not be available. Without the normal routines of school, sport and social activities some children may be at even greater risk of harm.
As part of the community, there are small, practical ways you can help. Physical distancing does not mean we cannot stay connected. It does not mean we stop thinking about the safety of children.
Consider checking in on the children in your life that may be vulnerable. You can call, text, or message them on social media. You could:
- read a story to a child over the phone
- help a young person with their school work online
- listen to any worries they may have
- video call families to stay connected and help reduce feelings of loneliness
- call or message a parent/carer and offer your support and ask them how you can best help them during this time. Just being a familiar voice to talk to might be useful.
- offer practical support by dropping groceries at their door
- let the people in your life know help is available at the numbers below
- call the Child Protection Helpline if you have serious concerns for a child’s safety (13 21 11) 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Help is available
- have urgent concerns for a child’s health or life, call the police (000).
- think a child is abused or neglected call the Child Protection Helpline (13 21 11). 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- are hurt or controlled in your home, or know someone who is, call the NSW Domestic Violence Line (Freecall 1800 656 463).
- are a child or young person and need help, call the Kids Help Line 1800 55 1800.
Resources for carers and parents
- Videos and resources from Telethon Kids Institute
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) family guide from the Raising Children Network
- Resources to help reduce children’s fears, confusion and worries from the Australian Childhood Foundation
Free digital help for new parents
The NSW Government has funded free access to the SleepWellBaby app for NSW parents with newborns or children up to 12 months. New parents can access evidence-based parenting education and specialised telehealth services. Find out more on the Tresillian website.