Talking with the family

If you think a family is eligible for Additional Child Care Subsidy (ACCS) child wellbeing, it's important to have a conversation with them before applying on their behalf. This page has guidance on talking to families.

On this page:

When to have the conversation

Have a conversation with the family before you apply for ACCS child wellbeing for them. You must have their informed consent before applying.

Engaging with families early can:

  • prevent issues from escalating
  • support families to be decision makers in the process
  • provide families with an opportunity to explore the benefits of the child wellbeing subsidy
  • ensure families are aware of support services and agencies.

In some cases, you may consider delaying the conversation. For example:

  • if not doing so could result in the family withdrawing their child from care
  • if you need time to engage a support service to support the family during the conversation.

Having the conversation

You should have open and transparent conversations with families about ACCS child wellbeing and what it means for them. Exactly what to say and how to frame the conversation will depend on:

  • your relationship with the family
  • whether there is a sense of urgency.  

If you do not already have a relationship with the family, it may help to build rapport with them before you have the conversation. Ultimately, you should ensure:

  • the family remains at the heart of decision making
  • they feel valued in the process.

Below is general guidance on your approach when talking with families.

Be sensitive

Always approach the conversation in a warm, culturally sensitive manner.

Be aware that the term “at risk of abuse or neglect” can be distressing for families. Cultural and societal pressures and stigmas will inform the family’s view of this term. Build your own understanding of the family’s perspective before starting the conversation.

Respect the family’s right to privacy.

Ask the family for their preference on the time, date and location of the meeting.

Invite the family to have a support person accompany them.

Be sensitive to the family’s unique cultural circumstances. For example, if there is a language barrier, a translator or other support may be needed.

Be empathetic and avoid judgement

Determining that a child is at risk does not necessarily mean that parents or carers have done something wrong.

A child can be at risk due to factors outside the family’s control. For example a parent may be temporarily unable to meet their child’s basic needs due to:

  • serious illness or injury
  • issues with social and emotional wellbeing.

There may be family violence or court orders in place. These can prevent family members:

  • accessing finances
  • moving freely in places where there are support services.

Provide clear information

Families must be able to provide informed consent to you applying for ACCS child wellbeing on their behalf.

You should clearly describe ACCS child wellbeing and what the payment means for the family, including:

  • what the eligibility criteria are
  • how many hours of care the family will have access to
  • subsidy rates
  • length of coverage
  • what the family need to do
  • evidence required e.g., letter of support
  • the requirement for you to make a referral to a support agency.

When applying for ACCS child wellbeing, you must refer families to a support agency and identify the child is at potential risk of abuse or neglect. Your discussion should cover this. You should also discuss the kind of support that would best suit the family.

You should tell the family that when you apply for ACCS child wellbeing, they will be notified via:

  • a notification in their myGov account, or
  • a letter from Services Australia.

They may also be contacted by the support agency.

Provide practical help

Ask families if they would like help with practical tasks, like:

  • navigating myGov
  • contacting Centrelink.

Provide information about services they may not be aware of.

Focus on benefits

ACCS child wellbeing can help children access quality education and care. This in turn can help children:

  • improve their social and emotional wellbeing
  • meet their developmental milestones
  • be ready for big school.

ACCS child wellbeing can also help parents. Importantly, it can reduce financial pressure from child care. It can also help parents prioritise their wellbeing while their child is in care, by doing things like:

  • looking for work
  • studying or training
  • attending appointments with health or social welfare professionals.

Respect the family’s decision

You should not insist on applying for ACCS child wellbeing if the family:

  • does not agree that their child is at risk
  • if they are not comfortable accessing the subsidy.

In these cases, you should:

  • Have an open door policy. Families may like to take time to think and return to the discussion at a later time.
  • Provide the family with contact information for support agencies. They might prefer to engage with their preferred service.

Regardless of the family’s view, you must follow any mandatory reporting obligations in your state or territory. We have more information on our reporting obligations page.

Example: starting the conversation

‘I understand home life has been a bit difficult and Hayley doesn’t seem to be herself at the moment. If you like, I can provide details of a number of support services that might help. 

First Nations families

First Nations children have a right to access culturally safe and responsive services and support.

Providing sensitive, culturally safe and responsive advice and support to First Nations families:

  • builds trust
  • genuinely supports families
  • helps children stay connected to early education and health services, and their community.

When talking with First Nations families about ACCS child wellbeing, you should:

Welcome families to include an advocate

First Nations families may feel safer if they can have a support person during these conversations. It is the family’s choice who this person is. They could be:

  • someone with cultural authority
  • a supportive family member or friend
  • a family support agency worker.

This person may offer to lead the discussion with the family.


Invite the family to take the lead. Listen to their experiences and needs in a non-judgemental manner.

Ensure the family and the support person feel comfortable sharing their views or asking questions.

Take time

Not all things need to be discussed or decided in one conversation. Ask the family if they would like to stop for a break.

Check with the family that they are OK with how the conversation is going.

Respectfully check you have understood the family and support person. Check everyone understands the next steps.

Be flexible

If a family has had problems with a program, service or person, work with them to find an alternative they prefer. Find out if they’ve heard about other services in their community.

Focus on benefits

Explain that ACCS child wellbeing is about doing things to help:

  • keep the child and the family together, in their home and in their community
  • improve the child’s social and emotional wellbeing
  • the child reach their developmental milestones
  • the child be ready for big school.

Gain informed consent

You must have the family’s informed consent before applying for ACCS child wellbeing. More information on this is in the “Provide clear information” section above.

Resources for providers and services

Some First Nations families may not trust government help or services, having experienced government-led mistreatment and injustice in the past. This can act as a barrier to families engaging with services and support that they’re entitled to.

There are a range of resources you can access to help you have culturally safe conversations with First Nations families.

Stronger, Safer, Together is published by SNAICC. It's for services that support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families.

You can find other resources on and the Department of Social Services website.

Safe and Supported: The National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2021 to 2031 sets out an ambitious ten-year plan to help children in Australia to grow up safe and supported in their families, communities and culture.

Building relationships with First Nations support services

First Nations support services offer support that is:

  • culturally responsive and grounded
  • holistic
  • community sensitive
  • culturally competent to be responsive to the needs of First Nations children and families.

They play a significant role in providing early childhood education and care. Developing strong, ongoing relationships with these services will help you:

  • develop effective and culturally competent services for First Nations children
  • build trust and work effectively with families and communities.

Building these relationships will help you reach the best outcomes for First Nations families, so it’s well worth your time and focus.