What is Guardianship?

If the children’s court makes a decision that a child cannot live with their parents, Guardianship Orders are an option for providing that child or young person with a stable, nurturing and safe home, without severing legal ties to their family.

A guardian has full parental responsibility for a child or young person until they reach the age of 18.

The child will still have contact with their parents, family and important people in their life, as outlined in a care or case plan, or Court Orders made for that child. 

Who can apply to become the guardian of a child?

People who are relatives or kin of a child can apply to become their guardian.  Other suitable people who already have an established relationship with the child, such as their foster carer, may also apply to become their guardian.

For Aboriginal children and young people, guardians who are not relatives or kin should be Aboriginal people in order to be considered ‘suitable persons’.

How is guardianship different from adoption?

Guardianship does not change the legal relationship that a child has with their birth family, apart from giving the guardian legal parental responsibility. Guardianship orders last until a child turns 18 years old.

Download a factsheet to learn about the three different types of permanency orders.

What will change under a guardianship order?

  • The carer has full responsibility for the child or young person.  
  • The guardian will be required to provide an annual update to the Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) about the child or young person.
  • Other than this report, there will be no case management or ongoing involvement from an agency or DCJ.
  • A guardian is responsible for following the care or case plan, or court orders, for that child, including contact arrangements.
  • A guardian ensures the child or young person’s emotional, social, cultural and spiritual needs are met as outlined in their care or case plan.
  • A guardian is responsible for  arranging, coordinating and (where required) supervising contact between the child and their birth family.

What is a care or case plan?

A care or case plan outlines how a child’s health, education, cultural, spiritual and identity needs will be met. It includes how their guardian will support them, including how they will support them to have contact with their birth family.

Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander, and other cultures

If a child or young person is Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, or from a different cultural background to their guardian, they have the right to maintain connections with their culture and community and have a cultural support plan in place. The guardian must ensure the child or young person’s cultural needs are met and encourage and facilitate their participation in cultural activities and events.

What support is available for guardians?

  • My Forever Family NSW offers ongoing training and support to guardians.
  • Guardians receive an ongoing allowance to assist with the expenses of providing for the child in their care. The allowance is the same as the DCJ statutory care allowance.

Guardians may be eligible for family and income support from Centrelink depending on their income and circumstances.

How do I become a guardian?

  • The first step is a discussion with the child’s case manager about the possibility of pursuing guardianship.
  • A case review meeting will be held with the potential guardian, the child or young person (if appropriate), the child’s family and any other significant people. If it is agreed that guardianship may be suitable to meet the long-term needs of the child or young person then the application and assessment process can begin.
  • The consent of children 12 years of age and over is required, and children under the age of 12 will be consulted about their wishes.
  • The potential guardian will need to complete an application form, health, identity and criminal checks, and provide character references.
  • The carer will participate in a series of face-to-face interviews and home visits to assess their ability to provide for the child’s needs, including supporting their birth family contact and cultural needs, until they reach the age of 18.

For detailed information on guardianship download Becoming a Guardian factsheet.

How do I apply to become a guardian?

If you are already the carer or kinship carer for a child or young person then you can speak with your case manager to discuss becoming that child’s guardian.

Anyone wishing to apply to become a guardian, including current carers,  can contact My Forever Family NSW to discuss your situation, what guardianship would mean for you and the child or young person, and how to get started.

Contact us to discuss becoming a guardian.