Privacy, confidentiality and information sharing
As a carer, it’s important that you respect the privacy of a child in your care and keep information about their circumstances and family background to yourself. This also means that a case plan and other documents about the child need to be kept in a safe place.
It is important for you to have information about the child in your care because it helps you to understand the child and how best to look after them. It also helps you work towards the goals that are agreed to in the case plan. Information about a child may include the important people in their life, the history of the harm they have experienced and their separation from family, any history of harmful behaviour to themselves or others, and their medical history.
Generally, when it comes to talking to other people about a child in care, the principle of ‘need to know’ should guide your decision-making. This means only telling people what they need to know, so that they can do their job or provide a service that can assist in helping with the care of the child. Other members of your family may need to know sufficient information to enable the child’s integration into the family. It is OK to let people know that you are a carer, and you should introduce the child by their name as you would in any introduction.
Under the Care and Protection of Children Act 2007 (NT) Part 5.1A, foster and kinship carers are Authorised Information Sharers, which means that you are authorised to share information relating to the safety or wellbeing of a child.
For example, it can be OK to share detailed information with the child’s:
- psychologist if it helps them to assess the child's development
- doctor for health-related issues
- teacher if the information is relevant to the child’s schooling.
Children who have special needs (such as a physical disability, a developmental delay, or behavioural or emotional problems) may require specialised services. People who supply these services then become part of the team working for and with the child and the family. For example, the school may need to know if the child is likely to be aggressive in certain situations, and the doctor might need to know if the child has been physically abused and is likely to become tense or to recoil if touched.
In contrast, it is not OK to discuss the child's history and circumstances with other parents or with people helping out, e.g. with transport.
To help you and other Authorised Information Sharers understand your obligations under the Information Sharing Act, the Department of Children and Families (DCF) has developed a series of tools and resources. These can be found at https://childrenandfamilies.nt.gov.au/for-child-protection-workers/guidelines-for-information-sharing
In the media
A child’s privacy in the media is strongly protected by the law. In order to protect a child in care, you need to talk to the Department of Children and Families if you or the child would like to take part in a news story. A child in care cannot be identified in the media, in print, a photograph or film unless this has been specifically authorised by the Case Manager or Team Leader. There will be times when it is perfectly OK for a child to have their photo in print, for example, in class photos or if they have done well at school, sports or other activities. The most important thing is that there is no information included that would identify the child as being in care.
Carers who are uncertain about what they can discuss or disclose about a child in their care need to talk to the Case Manager, who will be able to clarify the situation. It is better to contact the Department of Children and Families than to accidentally harm the wellbeing or privacy of a child. The Case Manager can arrange to get clarification or arrange for correct authorisation if required.