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Health and medical

Health and medical

The Department of Children and Families makes sure that children in care have a health check either before they come into your care, or shortly after. You are provided with information to assist you in meeting the child’s health needs, including contact details for their regular doctor or medical professional and relevant medical history and treatment. 

Routine day-to-day health issues can be handled by you, but you need to keep the Case Manager informed. For any major interventions like immunisations, surgery or counselling, the guardian’s consent is needed, so you need to talk to the Case Manager first. Young people over the age of 16 years are able to give their own consent to medical, dental or surgical treatment and procedures, but you should still talk to the Case Manager about this.

If a child is on medication of any kind, you need to ensure that they take the right dose at the right time, and that the course of medication is completed. You are the person who cares for the child every day, so you need to let the Case Manager know if you think the child is having any health troubles. The Department of Children and Families will help you to get access to any required health care or checks, and it’s important that the management of any serious health concerns is outlined in the child’s case plan. Due to the serious effects of passive smoking, especially on babies and children, it is important that you do not smoke within the home, in vehicles or in the presence of the child.

The carer payment covers basic medical, dental and pharmaceutical costs where the child does not have an ongoing or chronic condition. If there is an ongoing or chronic condition, you will need to talk with the Case Manager about costs and payment.

Going to the doctor

It is fine for you to take the child to the doctor when they get sick, just like you would with your own child. It’s usually best to take them to their usual doctor (if they have one), but if that’s not possible, you can take them to your own doctor. It is important that the doctor knows that the child is in care and that significant health issues and authority for any procedures need to be communicated to the Department of Children and Families. It is also advisable to check bulk billing and reimbursement practices with the doctor. You should keep notes from any medical visit so you can talk about these with the child’s Case Manager.

Accidents and illness

If the child gets a serious illness or injury, you need to let the child’s Case Manager know straight away. The Case Manager will need to inform the child’s parents, and work with you to make sure the right consents for treatment are in place. If you have trouble getting hold of the child’s Case Manager at short notice, you should talk to the Team Leader or, if it is after hours, to the Central Intake Team on 1800 700 250.

In an emergency

In an emergency, you need to take the child to the doctor or the hospital immediately.

Carers do not have the authority to sign any forms in a hospital for a child in care. However, emergency treatment can be given by doctors without consent, in situations where delays could put the child’s safety at risk. The Case Manager needs to know as soon as possible, so that they can talk to the child’s parents about what is happening. If you are unsure about whether the child needs medical help, you can call Healthdirect Australia on 1800 022 222. This is a free 24-hour telephone health advice line staffed by registered nurses who provide expert health advice.

Medicare arrangements

All children in care are covered by Medicare. Most children will already be enrolled with Medicare on their family enrolment. If the child is in care for only a short period, up to six weeks, you will be given the child’s Medicare number rather than a card.

If the child is to be in care for a longer period, the Case Manager may apply to Medicare to have the child issued with their own card, with the Department of Children and Families listed as the cardholder. The carer’s details can be held by Medicare to ensure smooth processing of payments. You should be provided with the child’s Medicare details as soon as possible after placement. However, it may take longer for the child to have a card in their own name, as Medicare requires a court authority, specifying custody.

Dental services

Children in care are able to access free regular dental checks through the Children’s Dental Service. If there are any issues, or you think the child might need fillings or more intensive dental care, you should talk to the child’s Case Manager, who can organise the right consents and help with arrangements.

Immunisation and vaccinations

The Department of Children and Families encourages children to be immunised. Talk to the Case Manager before you take any action, as parental consent may be required. For more information about immunisations visit the Department of Health website.

Other medical needs

For other special medical needs, such as prostheses, transportation and special equipment, you need to talk with the child’s Case Manager.

Health Care Cards

The Foster Child Health Care Card enables carers to purchase Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme (PBS) medications at reduced costs for foster children, and may entitle children in care to other concessions.

The card is issued in the name of the child in care. To apply for a Foster Child Health Care Card, contact Centrelink for the appropriate form.

Private health cover

If you have private health cover you can include a child in long-term care on your cover. With any claims, however, you will be expected to pay the difference between the refund and the account.

Sexual health

If you think that a child in your care may be sexually active, you need to talk to the Case Manager. There are many different aspects to take into consideration in dealing with this issue. These include the legislation, policy, wishes of the parents (if appropriate/relevant), your stance, and the child’s capacity, maturity, age, lifestyle, history and health status.

It is important to be aware that the age of consent for contraception for a child is 16 years. If you think a child or young person may require birth control, you need to talk to the Case Manager before taking any action. Under the Care and Protection of Children Act, you are required to report to the Case Manager if you believe that a young person under the age of 14 years is engaging in sexual activity. This is a legal requirement that does not allow for exceptions.

If you would like to talk to someone about sexual health, contact the NT Department of Health - Sexual Health and Blood Borne Virus Unit and talk to a Youth Health Policy Officer. Their role is to engage young people with sexual health services in the NT and promote testing and condom use through innovative and creative tools in a culturally sensitive way. You can contact them on 8922 8044.