Glossary of Terms

Agency: a foster care (or Out of Home Care) Agency is a non-Government organisation (NGO) that facilitates foster care for children under 18 on behalf of the Government Minister with responsibility for children in foster care.

Culturally And Linguistically Diverse (CALD): those within Australian society who are from different cultural backgrounds, and who may speak a language other than English at home.

Care Plan or Case Plan: a written plan for meeting a child’s care and protection needs that is developed in a participative process between the department or Agency, the child, their family and other people significant to the child and family. The care plan records the goals and planned outcomes of ongoing intervention and identifies the agreed tasks that will occur to meet these goal and outcomes. Case Plans are usually reviewed annually.

Case Plan Meeting or Case Conference: annual meeting between the department or Agency, the child, their family and other people significant to the child and family to review and update the child’s Care Plan.

Case Worker: a social worker who works with a specific number of children in foster care and their families to provide services and support, with the goal of stability and permanence for the child.

Contact or Access: regular, planned (usually supervised) visits between the child in foster care and members of their biological family (parents, siblings, grandparents, etc.) for relationship and identity purposes.

Court Order: once a child is removed into foster care, this action must be supported by a court order from the NSW Children’s Court outlining the duration and care plan for the child.

Cultural Support Plan: a written document that is a key part of the case planning process for every child from a specific culture, and in particular, for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child, or a child from a CALD background. The cultural support plan aims to keep children connected to their culture, families and communities whilst in foster care by:

  • helping to nurture and support the child to strengthen their cultural identity and connections
  • assisting with the child’s understanding of their community networks and cultural heritage
  • helping to increase the child’s knowledge and understanding of their place in their family, kinship and community structure
  • helping ensure that important cultural and family information is maintained.

FACS or DOCS: The Department of Family and Community Services (formerly Department of Community Services) is the NSW Government Department with responsibility for child welfare and protection. The Department has the authority to remove children at risk of harm into foster care. Previously most foster care in NSW was facilitated by the Department, but through the Transition, FACS is passing the management of foster care placements to NGO Agencies.

Foster Care: foster care is family-based care provided to children and young people up to 18 years of age who are temporarily or permanently unable to live with their families of origin. Foster care is arranged by a government department or not-for-profit agency, who supervise the placement, pay allowances to foster carers and provide ongoing support and training to the foster carer. For a child to enter foster care, a court order must have been given, stating they are unable to live with their biological parents, and outlining how long that will be for.

Foster Carer: an adult who has been specially trained and authorised to care for children who are not biologically related to them that are in foster care.

Guardianship: Guardianship is a court order that can be made for a child in out-of-home care, in which the child will remain in the care of their guardian until they turn 18 years of age or the Children’s Court changes the order. Children under a guardianship order are no longer considered to be in foster care but in the independent care of their guardian. To become a guardian the adult must have a pre-established relationship with the child – often a relative or the long-term foster carer of the child.

Leaving Care: when a young person turns 18 they officially become an adult and “age out” of the foster care system. A Leaving Care Plan is written with the child and Case Worker in the lead up to this event, and to help prepare the young person for independent living.

Life Story Work: a method used to record the details about a child or young person’s history and personal development in words, pictures and photos made by the child or young person with help from their foster carer, often in the resource called My Life Story Book provided to each child that enters foster care. This bookbelongs to the child and provides a permanent personal historical record.

Open Adoption: adoption is a legal process that transfers rights and responsibilities of parenthood from the child’s birth parents to the adoptive parents. An open adoption is one that states how birth parents are still to be involved in the child’s life after the legal changes are passed.

Out of Home Care (OOHC): where children are cared for out of their own home, such as in foster care or residential care.

Parental Responsibility (PR): where a child or young person is in need of care and protection, the Children’s Court makes an order allocating parental responsibility (PR), or aspects of it, to the Minister for Family and Community Services or another appropriate adult (e.g. family member).

Relative or Kin Care: when a child under 18 is unable to live at home and is cared for by a member of their extended family (biologically related to them).

Restoration: where a child in foster care is restored to their birth family, usually once certain stipulations are met, changes are made by the birth parents & supports put in place.

Statutory Care: (legal term for foster care) where the Children’s Court has made an order allocating some or all aspects of parental responsibility (PR) for a child or young person to the Minister for Family and Community Services. Previously these children were referred to as ‘wards of the state.’

Transition: in 2012 the transition of Community Services foster carers to accredited non-government foster care Agencies (NGOs) began as a major project in NSW, taking place across five to 10 years. This means the Department can focus on child welfare and early intervention, while Agencies manage the day-to-day placement and support of children in foster care.


Definitions on this page have been collated from a variety of sources, and every effort has been made to ensure they are correct. They align with definitions in NSW Legislation, as well as the core training materials used in foster care in NSW. If you would like to suggest an edit, or request a new definition, please contact us via

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