We conduct monitoring visits to confirm that accredited agencies continue to meet the requirements of both the law and the NSW Child Safe Standards for Permanent Care.
Our monitoring functions are outlined in sections 128(1)(e) and (k) of the Children’s Guardian Act 2019 and sections 181(1)(e) and (k) of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act.
Under these provisions, we must continually assess designated and adoption agencies throughout their accreditation periods to make sure they continue to meet the accreditation requirements. We’re also committed to the continuous improvement of NSW’s out-of-home care and adoption sectors in NSW.
Regularity of monitoring visits
Our Accreditation and Monitoring team will visit every accredited agency at least once every 12-18 months to carry out an assessment. We examine similar criteria in every assessment. However, the purpose of our visit will vary depending on the particular circumstances of the agency we’re assessing.
In some cases, we’ll schedule regular monitoring visits. In other instances, we’ll visit a site at short notice in direct response to identified or reported risk, or a pattern of issues and concerns over time. In some circumstances, we may conduct a monitoring visit without providing notice.
If your agency is currently being assessed under a direct evidence program or for accreditation renewal, monitoring assessments will take place after these processes are complete.
Why we conduct monitoring visits
In most cases, we conduct a monitoring visit to confirm an agency is continuing to comply with its accreditation requirements. However, in other cases, monitoring assessments will occur in response to issues or concerns brought to our attention during our programs or by organisations such as the NSW Ombudsman or the NSW Department of Communities and Justice.
Where we identify concerns or issues within an agency, that agency will be prioritised for monitoring assessment. Circumstances that may trigger a prioritised assessment can include where:
- we’ve identified risks to children and young people
- there have been multiple critical incidents
- a child or young person in statutory out-of-home care has died
- there are Working With Children Check compliance issues or other probity check concerns
- there has been an ongoing lack of current case planning for children and young people or a lack of leaving care planning
- the agency is unresponsive or has delayed responding to our feedback or requests
- an agency has not submitted Notifications to us as required
- there are ongoing Carers Register issues
- the agency has undergone significant change, such as changes to the board, management or staff turnover, rapid growth or multiple new geographical locations
- the agency’s accreditation has been transferred in the previous 6–12 months
- NSW Family and Community Services or the NSW Ombudsman have raised concerns, or
- there has been a pattern of complaints about the agency from stakeholders, such as children and young people, birth families, carers, staff or the public.
Other reasons we may prioritise a monitoring visit to an agency could include where the agency:
- has placed children under 12 years of age in residential care
- has a small number of placements
- has a large number of placements or large geographical spread, or
- is without a board of management.
Actions before we visit
Before a monitoring assessment, our Accreditation and Monitoring team will usually contact your agency to arrange the most suitable time. We try to make sure you’ll only have to perform minimal work before the assessment, and we expect agency staff to continue to undertake their usual roles during our assessment.
That said, it’s important that your agency makes staff and management available to participate in discussions with assessors and to answer any questions we have.
Your agency will need to provide a suitable workspace for our staff to hold confidential discussions and review any documentation and records. If you maintain records electronically, you must provide our assessors with access to computers with appropriate logins.
During a monitoring assessment
Monitoring assessments to your agency usually involve assessing direct evidence, but assessors may also review indirect evidence that relates to your agency’s practices.
A monitoring assessment is very similar to other assessments. We’ll hold discussions with key staff and review your documentation and systems. Generally, we’ll assess some key areas including:
- Care environments in residential houses (residential care)
- Identification and follow up of child protection matters
- Behaviour support
- Placement matching and decision making
- Case planning, including permanency planning and leaving care planning and associated casework practice
- Evidence of follow up on case plan tasks monitoring of placements and casework including education, health and birth family time
- Recruitment and assessment of carers and staff supervision and support of carers and staff
- Continuous improvement processes
- Other matters as they arise.
Our assessors will ask your staff to identify documentation or other evidence that best demonstrates the agency’s practice in these areas. They may also ask your staff to clarify particular matters.
If assessors can’t access sufficient evidence of your agency’s practices, they’ll ask staff to locate and provide relevant examples.
Four basic rules of evidence
The assessors will apply 4 basic rules to determine whether the evidence your agency provided meets our requirements.
- Validity. Is the evidence about your systems and processes sound and credible?
- Sufficiency. Is there enough evidence to verify that systems and processes are implemented as part of your agency’s regular practice?
- Currency. Is the evidence current and up to date?
- Authenticity. Is the evidence factual and does it come from a reliable source that’s directly related to the process or system under review?
At the end of the monitoring assessment, assessors will provide brief verbal feedback, summarising the direct evidence they’ve reviewed. This includes highlighting the key areas for which no evidence was available or for which the above 4 rules of evidence could not be consistently applied.
The assessors will finalise their assessment documentation and discuss the outcome with an Accreditation and Monitoring manager. If we have no significant concerns, the assessor will send your agency a letter setting out the details of the assessment and the findings.
Where we identify areas for improvement, the assessors will send your agency a report. In this case, the report may also include a timeframe for the agency to implement improvements.
When further action may be required
We may require your agency to take specific action where:
- there is a risk to children or young people, or
- areas where significant improvement is needed, we may require your agency to take specific action. This could include developing an agency action plan to address outstanding matters. It could also include implementing risk mitigation strategies.
We can take further action if there are ongoing concerns. Action can include increased monitoring, imposing additional conditions of accreditation, or even suspending or cancelling accreditation.