Out-of-home care (OoHC) provides placement and support services to children and young people who have been assessed to be at risk by Child Protection, or where their parents are unable to care for them for a period of time.
The Early Childhood Agreement for Children in Out-of-Home Care (2019) requires all children in OoHC who are enrolled in kindergarten to have their learning and developmental progress assessed and documented from age 3, and discussed regularly with carers, in accordance with the Children Services Act 1996 and the Education and Care Services National Law 2010 (Victoria).
Children in OoHC are often supported by a number of professionals and carers who have a critical role in facilitating children's learning and development. Some children's situations may require coordinated support across a number of key professionals to ensure children can participate fully in kindergarten. An OoHC Program Support Group (PSG) can be useful in bringing together key people involved with supporting the child's inclusion in a kindergarten program.
The OoHC PSG ensures the learning program is responsive to the individual abilities, interests and needs of children living in OoHC. It supports the continuity of learning by supporting transitions, including the transition to school, into and between services or transitions in care placement.
Role of the OoHC program support group
The function of the OoHC PSG is underpinned by the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework and Early Childhood Agreement for Children in Out-of-Home Care and demonstrates the implementation of the associated practice principles; in particular, partnerships with families and professionals.*
The OoHC PSG has an ongoing role, which preferably begins prior to the child commencing in the kindergarten program and continues until they have transitioned into school.
It is recommended the OoHC PSG meets at least once per term to co-ordinate support for children's learning and development through:
- sharing knowledge and understanding of the child's interests, history, current context and support requirements
- sharing expertise to inform the development of an inclusive program that is responsive to the child's culture, learning and development needs using a trauma-informed approach
- Identifying resources and staffing options to maximise opportunities existing within the kindergarten
- Identifying strategies, services and supports for the child, which can be informed by, and coordinated across members of the PSG
- supporting and planning for transitions, including changes in care arrangement and moving from kindergarten into school
- contributing to a child's trauma-informed Individual Learning Plan, including relevant information from a child's Cultural Support Plan
The agenda for the OoHC PSG meetings should be informed by the child's Individual Learning Plan, celebrating the child's achievements, and discussing identified areas for additional support and planning for the child's learning and development.
Through OoHC PSG meetings, early childhood teachers work with families, carers and other professionals to support positive participation and learning outcomes for a child living in OoHC during their kindergarten years.
An OoHC PSG helps support families, carers and case managers through the transition into kindergarten and school, and to feel confident that the child's interests, abilities and requirements are understood. The OoHC PSG can also consider continuity of support during periods where the child may experience changes in care arrangement.
The LOOKOUT Transition to Primary School guidance provides information on enhanced transition planning for children living in OoHC and outlines strategies to support continuity of learning and development.
Membership of the OoHC PSG and their contributions
The early childhood teacher convenes the OoHC PSG and is the representative of the kindergarten program in the group. They organise meetings and facilitate conversations to support planning for the child.
Families, carers and case managers attend OoHC PSG meetings to share and contribute to the development of a program that responds to the child's interests, abilities and support needs.
Any other person who supports the child's learning, development and wellbeing may be invited to attend the OoHC PSG meetings as appropriate. These people may include early childhood intervention professionals, cultural support professionals, relevant therapists or allied health professionals.
Department of Education and Training LOOKOUT Early Childhood Learning Advisors (ECLAs) can provide services with support for an initial OoHC PSG meeting. They can also be involved in subsequent meetings, where there are complex needs, or their presence is beneficial. It is also essential to consider a child's voice in planning and incorporating their input where possible.
Benefits of the OoHC PSG
A key benefit of the OoHC PSG is the opportunity to develop collaborative partnerships with families, carers and other professionals involved in supporting the child. Achieving high-quality outcomes for children requires active engagement with those who play a role in advancing children's learning, development and wellbeing.
The OoHC PSG recognises that children learn and develop within the context of their living environment and those genuine partnerships with families, carers and case managers enable building on the strength of each other's knowledge. This includes valuable information about the child's strengths, abilities, interests and needs. This partnership approach is based on understanding each other's expectations, priorities and perspectives.
The OoHC PSG supports these partners to feel confident through the transition into kindergarten and school and recognises the critical importance of the team around the child working together, coordinating their knowledge and strategies, to improve outcomes for children in OoHC.
Supporting children placed in Out-of-Home Care
LOOKOUT Education Support Centres (DET)
* In the context of this fact sheet, a family may refer to biological, adoptive or stepparents, siblings, grandparents, other extended family members, kinship or foster carers or other legal guardians of the child
PSGs are also a fundamental part of the
Kindergarten Inclusion Support (KIS) Program for children with disabilities or developmental delays, ongoing high-support needs or complex medical needs