Who can collect a child from child care? Legal issues in child care
Care arrangements for children in contemporary Australian society vary significantly from family to family and even within sibling groups. It is imperative that childcare professionals and other childcare service employees are informed and remain up to date about who has legal access to a child and information about that child.
COLLECTING A CHILD FROM CARE
All childcare service providers must have a policy that clearly sets out procedural arrangements for the collection of children. State and territory licensing and regulatory processes for the provision of childcare services stipulate that a child may only be collected from a childcare service by a parent or authorised person. The National Quality Standards under the National Quality Framework reiterate this position.
Childcare service enrolment forms should therefore require detailed written information about each person authorised to collect a child, including the person’s full name, residential address, telephone number and relationship to the child.
Sometimes a court order may prevent a parent or other person from collecting or having access to a child. Examples of such orders include Family Court orders, family violence-related orders, child protection orders and bail orders.
Any court orders should be copied and kept in the relevant child’s records and steps taken to ensure compliance. As court orders can be varied, revoked or extended from time to time, it is necessary to ensure information is periodically updated.
Childcare service providers should use a verification procedure, such as a driver’s licence check, to ensure only authorised persons are permitted to collect a child. If an unauthorised person presents to collect a child, the child’s parent (or if a parent is unavailable, an authorised person) should be immediately informed and authorisation for that person to collect the child obtained if appropriate.
On occasion a parent or authorised person may attend to collect a child while under the influence of a drug or alcohol, or present in such as manner as to suggest his or her ability to safely collect a child is impaired. Childcare service providers owe a duty of care to the children in their care to ensure their safety is paramount and they must comply with their obligations under state or territory child protection laws. In circumstances where the collection of a child poses a potential risk to a child’s safety that cannot be addressed by alternative means, child protection authorities or police should be notified and advice sought as to how to proceed.
PRIVACY AND CONFIDENTIALITY
Childcare professionals frequently receive personal information about a child or a child’s family. Access to this information must be carefully restricted. Access to personal information about a child or a child’s family should not be permitted except in accordance with applicable privacy laws. Most childcare services are covered by and must comply with the Commonwealth Privacy Act 1988 because they operate within the private or health sectors.
Decisions about whether to allow access to personal information about a child must be made carefully. On occasions it may be inappropriate to permit even a parent or other authorised person access to personal information about a child. Examples may include where there is a likelihood of risk to the child due to family violence or where there is a child protection order in place.
The information contained in this article is not legal advice. Legal advice concerning issues raised by this article should be sought from a legal practitioner in your state or territory.
Office of Early Childhood Education and Childcare, Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (www.deewr.gov.au/earlychildhood).
Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (www.privacy.gov.au).
Who can collect a child from child care? Legal issues in child care by Isabelle Crompton was featured in Every Child Vol. 17 No. 1—Relationships and interactions. Click here to purchase your copy today!