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This information sheet outlines the requirements of designated agencies to manage and retain records relating to children and young people in statutory out-of-home care (OOHC). A designated agency is an organisation that is accredited by the NSW Children’s Guardian (OCG) to provide statutory OOHC services in NSW.
Records referred to in this information sheet are those documents and information that capture the development, context, history and identity of a child or young person in statutory OOHC, or which provide evidence of the services and activities carried out by the organisation.
Records may be created, received or maintained in Hard Copy form (paper) or electronically. This includes email, letters, documents, text messages, plans and reports, as well as information in databases and information systems.
All staff are responsible for making and keeping full and accurate records. As these records have enduring value, it is vitally important they are managed effectively.
This information sheet relates to records for children and young people. It does not contain advice on corporate and administrative records related to your agency.
Section 160 of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 provides the legislative foundation for the maintenance of records.
The Act states that “Each designated agency must ensure that written, photographic and other records relating to the development, history and identity of a child and young person for whom the Minister has parental responsibility and for whom it has supervisory responsibility are maintained and are accessible to the child or young person.”
The NSW Child Safe Standards for Permanent Care 2015 provide a number of requirements for recordkeeping. The standards can be accessed in full from the NSW Children’s Guardian website.
Agencies are required to keep records of how they are meeting the legislative requirements and Standards for every child and young person in the agency’s care, across all of the Standards as they relate to children and young people and their carers.
Agencies should review their physical storage of records to ensure that they are secure, protected and accessible. To prevent unauthorised access, all sensitive information must be stored in locked cabinets or within lockable document filing rooms when not in use and before leaving work at the end of the day. Access to information is for those staff approved to do so for legitimate business purposes only. Duplicate copies of sensitive documents should be disposed of in secure disposal bins. Ensure printed documents are collected as soon as they are printed. Additional care should be taken when taking client related records out of the office.
Staff should not store records in their own personal drives, separate from the agency’s official records system. This applies to emails and text messages and those sent or received for work purposes are official records. If an email or text message needs to be kept to document a transaction or decision, then it should be captured into the agency’s official record keeping system.
Original records relating to children and young people must be retained and must not be destroyed. These records will become State archives and are to be retained permanently.
Please contact DCJ Records Management for advice on how long to retain hard copy records if you have undertaken a scanning or digitisation program as there are some records that must be preserved.
The State Archives and Records Authority of NSW can provide guidance on the physical storage of records.
Section 170 of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 requires designated agencies to retain all records of children and young people in OOHC until they are transferred to the Secretary/DCJ.
Section 170 (1) states that “Each designated agency must keep the records made by it in relation to the placement of a child or young person in out-of-home care for 7 years after the designated agency ceases to be responsible for the placement of the child or young person”.
Section 170 (2) states that “At the expiration of the 7-year period or, if, within that period, the agency ceases to be a designated agency, it must deliver the records required to be kept under this section to the Secretary.”
The OCG’s NSW Child Safe Standards for Permanent Care - Standard 17 states that “Children and young people have a permanent record of their histories which contains all relevant documentation.”
DCJ retains records of all children or young people in OOHC on a permanent basis.
Section 170 of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 requires a designated agency to transfer to DCJ (on behalf of the Secretary) records (paper or digital) an agency has held for greater than seven years after ceasing to be responsible for the placement of a child or young person in OOHC.
Where a designated OOHC agency ceases to be a funded or is no longer a designated OOHC agency, then the agency must work with DCJ to return these records within a reasonable time, ideally prior to the end of contract.
Discussion about the timeframe for the transfer of records to DCJ should be in consultation with the lead contract manager and DCJ Records Management.
For the transfer of records relating to children and young people in statutory OOHC, where placements ceased seven years prior, the agency should compile all records into a single transfer to DCJ once every 12 months or where otherwise agreed.
Care must be taken when sending the records for multiple children and young people by ensuring individual records are appropriately identified.
Please refer to Statutory OOHC designated Agency Retention of Records, Hard Copy Records Information Sheet No: 2 for further details on the process to transfer Hard Copy records to DCJ.
DCJ entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Government Records Repository (GRR) to facilitate arrangements for paper records.
Digital records need to be returned to DCJ. The process for the transfer will need to be discussed between agencies and DCJ Records Management. Agencies should look to store and ultimately transfer records in digital formats which are in widespread use where technology to support the reading of those formats is expected to exist well into the future. When transferring digital records, it is important that all electronic information is linked through the child or young person’s unique identifier, to ensure that all records are correctly matched and related.
Note that DCJ cannot accommodate the transfer of whole business system databases. The information contained in these systems will need to be converted to an acceptable digital format prior to transfer to DCJ. Care must be taken not to lose context, relationships or metadata when converting information for this purpose.
Full and accurate recordkeeping supports Section 169 of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 which describes the entitlement that children and young people in statutory out-of-home care have to access their information.
The Act states that “On leaving, or after having left, out-of-home care, a child or young person is entitled to possession, free of charge, of the originals of documents held in a file of personal information by the designated agency that had supervisory responsibility for the child or young person, by his or her authorised carer or by the Secretary, if the child or young person was under the parental responsibility of the Minister, including his or her birth certificate, school reports, medical reports, and personal photographs.”
DCJ will work collaboratively with designated agencies to help them meeting their legislative obligations under s.170 with the management and transfer of OOHC records for children and young people.
There is a dedicated Records Management Team within DCJ who are subject matter experts and can assist with your specific agency queries.
Discussions on recordkeeping will occur in consultation with your agency’s DCJ Contract Manager and the DCJ Records Management Team.
For specific information about the record transfer or retrieval process or technical and logistical support, please contact our Records Management via E-mail: NGORecordsManagement@FACS.nsw.gov.au
08 Feb 2023
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Informed by lessons of the past, Department of Communities and Justice is improving how we work with Aboriginal people and communities. We listen and learn from the knowledge, strength and resilience of Stolen Generations Survivors, Aboriginal Elders and Aboriginal communities.
You can access our apology to the Stolen Generations.