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Well-being of children

11 Aug 2016 - 14:14 | Version 21 |

Contributed by JaquiePalavra and MauriceSgarbossa and current to 1 May 2016

The Care and Protection of Children Act, 2009 (NT) (CaPoCA) aims to promote the well-being of children including:

protecting them from harm and exploitation; and
helping them to reach their full potential; and
helping families to do this; and
making sure those responsible for them meet these responsibilities. (s.4 CaPoCA)

It sets up a system for the investigation of child abuse and the care of children who are in need of care and protection. The CaPoCA gives the Minister for the Department of Children and Families a range of duties and responsibilities. In reality, these duties and responsibilities are carried out by the staff employed by the Department of Children and Families (DCF) (see Contact points ). It is the responsibility of the Territory Government to promote and safeguard the wellbeing of children and supporting families in meeting their obligations towards them.[s.7]. A child is defined in the CaPoCA as a person under the age of 18 years.

The CaPoCA also sets up the Children's Court, which has the role of making decisions about children in need of care and protection..

Children in need of care and protection

The primary aim of the CaPoCA is to keep families functioning and to support families in caring and protecting their children. The CaPoCA is specifically concerned with children 'in need of care and protection'. A child is 'in need of care and protection' when:
  • the child has suffered or is likely to suffer harm or exploitation because of something done or not done by their parent/s [CaPoCA s.20(a)]
  • the child has been abandoned and there is no family willing and able to care for them [CaPoCA s.20(b)]
  • the child's parents are dead or unable or unwilling to care for the child and no other family member of the child is able or willing to do so [CaPoCA s.20(c)]
  • the child is not under the control of any person and the child is behaving in a way causing harm or likely to cause harm to either themselves or others [CaPoCA s.20(d)].

Harm to and exploitation of a child

Harm and exploitation are terms used in the CaPoCA to describe what is commonly known as child abuse and neglect. The legal definitions of harm can be found in sections 15 and 16 of the CaPoCA; however, the following is a useful guide:
  • Physical abuse: occurs when a child suffers or there is a substantial risk that the child may suffer a physical injury inflicted or allowed to be inflicted by the child's parent or caregiver. The injury may be inflicted intentionally or be the inadvertent consequence of physical punishment or physically aggressive treatment.
  • Emotional or psychological abuse: occurs when a child's parent or caregiver repeatedly rejects the child, or uses threats to frighten them or puts them down or degrades them persistently. This may see the child subject to persistent name calling, belittling or continual emotional coldness, which significantly damages their physical, social, intellectual or emotional development and well-being. Such abuse may occur due to the child's physical surroundings, nutritional or other deprivation, or the emotional or social environment in which the child is living or where there is a risk that such surroundings may cause the emotional or psychological detriment.
  • Neglect: occurs when the child's parent or caregiver fails to provide the child with the basic necessities of life, such as food, clothing, shelter, medical attention or supervision, to the extent that the child's health and development is or is likely to be significantly harmed.
  • Sexual abuse or exploitation: occurs when a child has been sexually assaulted or exploited or where there is substantial risk of such abuse or exploitation occurring and the child's parents or caregivers are unable or unwilling to protect the child. Child sexual abuse involves a wide range of activities, including the fondling of a child's genitals, masturbation, oral sex, vaginal or anal penetration by a penis, finger or other object, involving or exposing a child to acts of a sexual nature, prostitution or pornography, and where the child has been subjected to female genital mutilation or there is a substantial risk that she will be subjected to genital mutilation (this includes plans to take the child out of the NT to have genital mutilation performed on her).

Parent, relative or family of a child

There is a wide definition of parent in s.17 and relatives in s.18 of CaPoCA.

A parent of a child includes the child's father, mother or any person who has parental responsibility (right to make legal decisions) for the child. This can include step-parents who have a family law order for parental responsibility. It also includes a parent of a child under Aboriginal customary law or tradition.

Relatives of a child include parents, grandparents, step-parents, aunts, uncles, siblings, cousins or related to the child under customary law/tradition or contemporary custom or practice. This relationship may include those that arise through common ancestry, adoption, marriage, de facto relationship or any customary law/tradition.

Family of child include relatives, members of extended family under customary law/tradition or contemporary custom/practice or anyone closely associated with the child or another family member of theirs.

Options where a child is in need of care and protection

The options available to the CEO for children in need of care and protection are:
  • to give to the child's family guidance and assistance by referral to counselling, intensive family support and parenting programs to ensure the child is adequately cared for;
  • to enter into a temporary placement arrangement with the child's parents to place the child into care and to provide for the child [CaPoCA s.46] (see *Temporary Placement Agreements* ) [CaPoCA s46])
  • as the last resort, to apply to the Children's Court for formal orders concerning the future care of the child: Temporary Protection Orders, Assessment Orders, Protection Orders and Permanent Care Orders [CaPoCA ss.103, 111, 121 and 137A].

DCF referral & assistance

The primary aim of DCF is to protect children and promote their wellbeing. Except in an emergency situation, such as when a child has been abandoned or there is a serious risk that a child will continue to be harmed if not removed from the family situation, the first response when a notification has been made is to investigate and assess the care and protection concerns. After the assessment has been made, DCF may either substantiate harm or not. The action taken will depend if on whether harm has been substantiated or there is a risk of harm. Action by DCF will range from referral to support services such as family counselling, intensive family support programmes, advocating on behalf of the family with other agencies who may assist with budget advice, counselling, parenting advice and parenting skills development, psychological services, medical assessments and respite care.

An application to the Children's Court will be made by delegate of the Minister (DCF staff) on behalf of the Minister when they consider a child is in need of care and protection and the proposed order is the best means of safeguarding the well-being of the child. [CaPoCA ss.103, 121 and 137A].

Temporary placement arrangement

The Minister can agree with a child's parents to have daily care and control of a child and place the child in out-of-home care for up to two months. This period can be extended for further periods, but can't exceed six months in total [CaPoCA s.46]. Temporary care gives families breathing space, reducing immediate pressures and giving family members a chance to sort out particular difficulties. When the subject is a child aged 15 years or more, an agreement of this kind can't be made without the child's written consent [CaPoCA s.46(3)(c)].

The party giving the child into custody can request their return at any time and the Minister must comply within 48 hours of receiving such a request. Where the Minister wishes to retain the child in custody, an application must be made to the Children's Court [ss 103, 121 and 137A] (see Children's Court).

Immediate risk and removing a child - Provisional Protection

An authorised DCF staff member or a police officer can, without a warrant, remove a child from any place if they believe the wellbeing of the child is at immediate risk. The child can be removed using such force as is reasonably necessary and held in custody for 48 hours, in a place of safety, such as with friends, relatives, a foster family or children's home willing to temporarily care for them [CaPoCA s.57]. This action can be avoided and the child can remain if the officer is satisfied that adequate steps will be taken to ensure the child will cease to be in need of care. In a case of suspected sexual abuse, a parent could, for example, keep the child at home by taking steps to ensure the person suspected of committing the abuse was allowed no further contact with the child and the child obtained appropriate support.

The Minister (through an authorised DCF staff member) may take a child into provisional protection for 72 hours [CaPoCA ss.51-53] after which the Minister must apply to the Children's Court for another order (Temporary Protection, Assessment, Protection, Permanent Care orders) if it isn't possible to return the child to the parents/caregivers. During this period the Minister has daily care and control and is responsible for the child [CaPoCA s.52(5)] having daily care and control.

A person who takes a child into custody under section 51 can arrange for a medical assessment or provision of medical services to the child [CaPoCA s.52(1)(e) & (f)].

The child's parents or those who have parental responsibility for the child must be told of any action taken or planned by the Minister (or delegated DCF staff) [CaPoCA s.51(2)].

Mandatory reporting and investigation of notifications of harm/risk of harm or exploitation of a child

Anyone, who has reasonable grounds to believe that a child has suffered or is suffering harm/risk of harm or exploitation or is victim of a sexual crime, has a legal responsibility to report the incident to DCF or to the police [CaPoCA s.26]. Where such a report is made in good faith, no civil or criminal liability will be incurred [CaPoCA s.27}. Reports made by professionals, such as teachers, counsellors, social workers, ministers of religion and doctors, will not be held to be in breach of confidence or professional etiquette or ethics or a rule of professional conduct [CaPoCA s.39]. DCF staff take all possible steps to make sure the identity of a person who makes a report is not revealed. Failing to make a report is a punishable offence.

When a report of alleged harm/risk of harm or exploitation is made to DCF, DCF may make inquiries to determine if a child's wellbeing is at risk [CaPoCA s.32(1)]. DCF staff that carry out the investigation may organise medical examination of the child.

Where the report is made to the police, the police must notify DCF of receipt of the report for investigation by DCF [CaPoCA s.28].

Notification or reports about suspected child abuse are directed to the Central Intake Team of DCF who will speak to the person concerned and either provide advice or refer the concern for further investigation by DCF. If, after the notification has been investigated and 'substantiated' (confirmed) that a child has been abused or neglected, DCF may offer services or referrals to the family to help them in improving the care of the child. Sometimes DCF may need to make different arrangements for the care of the child if their parents/caregivers are unable or unwilling to protect the child from harm. This could be placing the child in out of home care under a Temporary Placement Arrangement, Provisional Protection or applying to the court for a Temporary Protection, Assessment, Child Protection or Permanent Care Order [CaPoCA ss.103, 111, 121 and 137A].

Aboriginal children

The important of role of kinship groups, representative organisations and communities of Aboriginal people is recognised under the CaPoCA and allows them to participate in making decisions involving a chid if nominated by the child's family. [CaPoCA s.12(1) & (2)].

If DCF need to place an Aboriginal child out of home care, then priority is given to placing the child in the following order:
  • with a member of the child's family;
  • with an Aboriginal person in the child's community according to local community practice;
  • with any Aboriginal person;
  • with a non-Aboriginal person but someone who DCF believe will be sensitive to the child's needs and promote the child's connection to culture and community (and possibly family);
[CaPoCA S.12(3)]

If possible, the child should be placed as close to the child's family and community [CaPoCA s.12(4)].

DCF will usually consult with the child's family, kinship groups, or community when considering what out of home care arrangements need to be made for the child.

Charter of Rights for Children in care in the Northern Territory

The CaPoCA imposes an obligation on the CEO of DCF to prepare a Charter of Rights for children in care [CaPoCA s.68A]. The purpose of this Charter is to ensure that the rights of children in out of home care are promoted and given special attention to.

It sets out the rights of children and what they should expect from those who are providing care to them. The charter must be provided and explained to the child in a way the child can understand, if of sufficient maturity and understanding, by DCF (usually the caseworker) [CaPoCA s.68A(6)].

Care Plans

When a child is placed in out-of-home care under an order, DCF must prepare and put in place a care plan for the child:
  • identifying the needs of the child;
  • outlining measures that will be taken to address/meet those needs
  • setting out the decisions about the daily care and control of the child such as where and with whom the child will be placed and contact with the child. [CaPoCA s.70].
When a Care Plan is being prepared or modified, DCF must have regard to the child's wishes considered reasonable and appropriate in the circumstances [CaPoCA s.72].

There is an obligation to prepare and interim care plan when a child is not under an order but otherwise in DCF's care [CaPoCA s.76]

Confidentiality, disclosing and sharing information

Except in limited circumstances, it is an offence, punishable by fine or imprisonment, to publish any material that may identify a child who has been the subject of an investigation or application to the Children's Court, or to publish the proceedings or results of any Children's Court hearing [CaPoCA ss.150, 308].

An 'Information Sharing Framework' has been established to enable the sharing of information between those who have responsibility for children such as (but not restricted to) teachers, registered foster carers, doctors, child-care workers and other persons or organisations defined as 'Information Sharing Authorities' [CaPoCA ss.293A -293J].

This Framework allows people or organisations defined as Information Sharing Authorities to share information important to a child's safety and well-being where they may otherwise have been prevented from doing so under privacy and confidentiality rules applicable to them.

The Information Sharing Framework sets out what Information Sharing Authorities can provide, request and receive information from other Information Sharing Authorities who have or are assisting a child and their family.

Children's Court

The Children's Court hears and determines all the applications made under the Care and Protection of Children's Act 2009 (NT) (CaPoCA). The court is made up of a single magistrate and cases can be heard at Magistrates Courts in the NT. The court in Darwin is separate from the main Magistrate's Court.

The aim of court proceedings is to create an appropriate judicial process for safeguarding the wellbeing of children. The court must regard the best interests of a child as being the paramount consideration when making orders for children. It must also give priority to the rights of a child if they conflict with the rights of an adult.

The Children's Court is a closed court. Only parties to the proceedings may be present in court. Permission from the court is needed for other persons to be present. Proceedings are conducted with as little formality and legal technicality as the circumstances allow and subject to the directions of the court, it is not bound by the rules of evidence.

Applications to the Children's Court

There are several orders that the Children's Court can make
  • A temporary protection order
  • An assessment order
  • A protection order; and
  • Permanent care order
An application to the court for any of the above orders is made by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Department of Children and Families (DCF). In some limited circumstances, other people can make applications to the court.

Applications by the CEO for a temporary protection order or a protection order are made when the CEO believes a child is in need of protection.

When is a child in need of care and Protection?

A child is in need of care and protection if the child has suffered or is likely to suffer harm or exploitation because of an act or omission of a parent of the child, the child has been abandoned and no family member of the child is available to care for the child, the parents of the child are dead or the child is not under the control of any person and is engaging in conduct that causes or is likely to cause harm to the child or other persons. (S.20 CaPoCA)

The Care and Protection of Children Act (NT) defines harm to a child as any significant detrimental effect caused by an act, or failure to act, on the physical, psychological and emotional wellbeing or development of a child. (s.15 CaPoCA)

The Act recognises that harm can be caused by physical, psychological and emotional neglect or abuse including sexual abuse and exploitation. A child being exposed to physical violence may also lead to harm to a child. (s.15,16 CaPoCA)

Assessment order

The CEO may apply to the court for an assessment order for a child if the CEO reasonably believes the proposed assessment is necessary to determine whether the child is in need of protection, including whether a parent is capable of exercising parental responsibility for the child and the proposed assessment cannot be carried out without the order. (s.111 CaPoCA)

An assessment order may involve a medical or psychological examination of the child or a parent of the child and may also include taking samples from a child or a parent of the child. (s.111 CaPoCA)

The order has effect for 28 days. The CEO may seek for the order to be extended for a further 28 days but cannot be extended again. (s.117 CaPoCA)

An application for an assessment order cannot be made if a protection order is in force for the child. (s.111(1)(a) CaPoCA)

Temporary protection order

The CEO may make an application to the court for a temporary protection order where the CEO reasonably believes the child is need of protection and the proposed order is urgently needed to safeguard the wellbeing of the child. It can do so only if there is no protection order in force for the child at the time. (s.103 CaPoCA)

Often these applications are made to the court after the child has been taken into provisional protection by the CEO. The application may be made to the court in any way the court thinks is reasonable under the circumstances. (s.104 CaPoCA) This can include by phone or fax or other electronic means but the application must tell the court why the order is necessary what arrangements have been made for the child and any information to support the application. (s.104 CaPoCA)

Once the court receives the application it must make the order if it is satisfied there are reasonable grounds for believing the child is in need of protection and the proposed order is urgently needed to safeguard the child. If the court is not satisfied it must dismiss the application. (s.105 CaPoCA)

A parent may attend a hearing of the application for a temporary protection order if it is listed in court and the parent has been made aware of the date and time the application will be heard. However there is no requirement for the CEO to inform a parent of the application. The order can be made in the absence of a parent.

If a parent attends a hearing of the application, a parent may inform the court why the child is not in need of care and protection and why the order being sought by the CEO is not urgently needed. The court cannot adjourn the matter. The court may consider standing the matter down for a brief period during the day so that a parent can get legal advice.

If a Temporary Protection Order is made by the court:
  • the CEO will be given daily care and control of the child; (s.107 CaPoCA) and
  • If the child is not already in the care of the CEO, an authorised officer of the CEO may enter and search the place where a child is believed to be, using reasonable force if necessary, and take the child into care. (s.108 CaPoCA)
  • Must give a copy of the order to the parents or the person who has parental responsibility for the child, as well as the child if appropriate. (s.106 CaPoCA)
  • The order expires after 14 days, after which, if no further temporary protection application is applied for, the CEO must return the child to the parent(s) or the person who has parental responsibility for the child. (s.107 (b), 109(1) CaPoCA)
  • The CEO may return the child to the care of the parent(s) or the person who has parental responsibility of the child before the expiry of the order. (s.109(2) CaPoCA) A Temporary Protection Order allows the CEO time to make further investigations, prepare an application for an assessment order, temporary protection order or a protection order if necessary. A decision to grant a temporary protection order cannot be appealed. (s.140(1) CaPoCA).

Protection Order

The CEO may make an application for a protection order for a child if the CEO reasonably believes the child is in need of protection or would be but for the fact that the child is in the CEO's care and the proposed order is the best means to safeguard the well being of the child. (s.121 CaPoCA)

The CEO's application must also tell the court what the proposed order is, when it is to have effect, why the CEO considers the order is necessary and also the proposed care arrangements for the care and protection of the child under the order. (s.122 CaPoCA). The application is usually accompanied with a sworn affidavit by the CEO's delegate. It sets out the grounds and evidence supporting the orders sought by the CEO.

A proposed order by the CEO must specify one or more of the following;
  • A supervision direction requiring a person to do or refrain from doing something directly related to the protection of a child and/or require the CEO to supervise the protection of the child in relation to specified matters. (s.123(1)(a) CaPoCA)
  • A direction giving daily care and control of the child to a specified person. (s.121(1)(b) CaPoCA)
  • A short term parental responsibility direction for the child to a specified person for a period not exceeding 2 years. (s.121(1)(c) CaPoCA)
  • A long term parental responsibility direction for a child to a specified person for a period of more than two years but not more than when a child turns 18 years of age. (s.121(1)(d) CaPoCA)
An order that gives parental responsibility to the CEO or another person other than a parent is an order that entitles that person to exercise all the powers and rights, and has all the responsibilities, for the child that would ordinarily be vested in the parents of the child. (s.22 CaPoCA)

An order that gives daily care and control to the CEO or another person is an order that entitles a person to exercise all the powers and rights and has all the responsibilities for the day to day care and control of the child. (s.21 CaPoCA) It does not, for example entitle such a person to make decisions regarding authorizing medical procedures or signing applications for passports for a child.

Giving notice of application for a protection order

As soon as practicable after the application has been made for a protection order, the CEO must give each parent of the child a copy of the application and a written notice stating when and where the application will be heard and also that the application may be heard and decided if the parent(s) are not there. (s.124(1) CaPoCA)

The CEO may give a copy of the application and notice to the parents by personally serving them or if that is not practicable by sending them to the parent's last known address or by sending to them by post.(s.124(2) CaPoCA)

When a parent(s) or a person who has parental responsibility for a child receives an application for a protection order it is strongly advised that they seek legal advice. This is available from Legal Aid and North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) or a private lawyer. Parents have a right to representation in court. They can represent themselves, or be represented by a lawyer or any other person. (s.101 CaPoCA)

The court will require that the parent(s) or a person who is a respondent to the proceedings to file a response to the application within 4 weeks from the first court date if they disagree with the application in whole or in part. The response should address the grounds put by the CEO in support of their application, state the orders that are opposed, propose alternative orders, if any and accompany the response with any supporting evidence such as an affidavit setting out the facts in support of their case. (Local Court Act (NT) Practice Direction No 1 of 2015)

Legal Representation for Children

The court may order the appointment of a legal practitioner to represent a child to whom the proceedings relate if the court considers doing so is in the best interest of the child. (s.143A CaPoCA)

Care plans

If the child is in the care of the CEO under an order giving the CEO daily care and control of a child or a protection order is in force for a child then the CEO must prepare a care plan for the child as soon as practicable after the child has been taken into care. (s.69, 70 CaPoCA)

A care plan is a written plan that identifies the needs of the child and outlines the measures that must be taken to address those needs. It also sets out decisions about daily care and control of the child such as placement arrangements and arrangements for contact between the child and other persons. (s.70 CaPoCA) The CEO may modify the plan from time to time and should take into account the child's wishes if the CEO considers this to be appropriate. (s.71 CaPoCA)

Once a care plan has been made the CEO must make sure that a copy of the plan is given to the child, each parent of the child, the carer of the child and anybody else the CEO considers has a direct and significant interest in the wellbeing of the child. The CEO however is not required to give the plan to a person if the CEO considers it inappropriate or impracticable to do so. (s.73 CaPoCA)

A care plan must be reviewed on a regular basis. (s.74 CaPoCA) The first review must take place within 2 months after the child is first taken into care and thereafter every 6 months. (s.74 CaPoCA). Care plans must also be prepared for children under a temporary placement arrangement. (s.75 CaPoCA)

Adjournments

Often an application for a protection order is adjourned from the first hearing date to give the CEO time to organise reports and assessments and put further evidence before the court. It also gives time for the respondent parties to seek legal advice and representation, gather further evidence in order to better prepare their case and file a response to the application.

However the court must to the greatest extent possible avoid granting an adjournment unless the court considers it is in the best interests of the child or there are other strong reasons for doing so. This is in recognition that the best interests of the child is best served by having the application decided as soon as possible. (s.138 CaPoCA)

Orders that can be made on adjournment

The court may make interim or temporary orders for the protection of the child during the period of adjournment. These include orders:
  • That the CEO, or another specified person including a family member or a parent has daily care and control during the period of adjournment.

  • that a report be prepared about the child and/or the child's family
  • that if the proceedings relate to an application for a permanent care order, a report be prepared on the person proposed to be given parental responsibility for the child
  • for a medical examination
  • restricting the contact between the child and specified persons. (s.138 CaPoCA)

Interlocutory Applications

A parent or another relevant party such as a family member who has been joined as a party to the proceedings may also make an application for daily care and control of the child during the period of adjournment. The court may set the matter down for an interim hearing and consider the evidence from the parties before making such a temporary order.

Case Conferences

During the period of adjournment the court may also order a Case Conference if the orders sought by the CEO are opposed in whole or in part by the respondent parties for the purpose of determining what matters are in dispute and resolving any such matters. The court may also give directions as to any material to be filed in advance of such a conference. (Local Court Act (NT) Practice Direction No 1 of 2015)

The case conference is confidential. This means that anything said or done at such a conference cannot be disclosed to the court without agreement by all the parties. (Local Court Act (NT) Practice Direction No 1 of 2015)

If at any stage in the proceedings the parties come to an agreement as to what if any orders should be made, the parties may inform the court of such an agreement and the court may make such orders without the matter proceeding to a trial.

Setting the matter down for hearing

If the parties have been unable to resolve the matters in dispute after a Case Conference the parties must agree to a statement of issues, both legal and factual that remains in dispute. The court is informed at the next court date and the matter will be set down for trial and a case management inquiry date.

Varying or revoking and extending an order

Before an order expires, a party to the proceedings before the making of the order, may apply to the court for the order to be varied, revoked or revoked and replaced by a new protection order. However a parent of a child must not apply for the order to be replaced if the proposed new order will give parental responsibility to the child to a different person or apply for the order to be varied or revoked if a similar application has been decided by the court. (s 137 CaPoCA)

The CEO may also apply to extend the order before it ceases to be in force by making a further application to the court. (s 136 CaPoCA)

Permanent Care orders

Only the CEO may apply to the court for a permanent care order. The CEO can only make such an application if there is already in force a protection order for a child giving parental responsibility for the child to the CEO or another specified person and that order is for a period that ends immediately before the child turns 18 years old. (s.137A CaPoCA)

In making such an application the CEO must reasonably believe that a permanent care order is the best means of safeguarding the well being of the child and the person who is proposed to be given the parental responsibility for the child has demonstrated their suitability. (s.173 CaPoCA)

As soon as practicable after making an application for a permanent care order, the CEO must give a copy of the application and a notice stating when and where the application will be heard, and that the court may make the order in the absence of the parents or the person proposed to be given parental responsibility of the child under the order. (s.137C(2) CaPoCA)

The application and notice may be served on the parties personally, but if the CEO believes this is impracticable, then by leaving a copy of the application and notice at the last known address of the parent or other person, or by sending them in the post is sufficient.

Making a permanent care order

The court must make a permanent care order if it is satisfied that the child would be in need of protection but for the fact that the child, when the order was made, was in the care of the CEO or another person and the person proposed to be given parental responsibility for the child has demonstrated their suitability to have that responsibility. The court must consider the wishes of the child, the parent(s) of the child and the person proposed to be given parental responsibility for the child under the order as well as any other person who the court believes has a direct and significant interest in the well being of the child. (s.147H CaPoCA)

Upon a court making a permanent care order, any protection order in force for the child is revoked. (s.137F(3) CaPoCA) If requested the court may also make an order allowing the child to travel overseas without the consent of a parent. The order unless revoked earlier expires when the child reaches 18 years of age. (s.137F(3)(A)) CaPoCA)

Once a permanent care order is made the CEO must give a copy of the order and written notice to each party to the proceedings, except the child. (s.137L CaPoCA) The notice must explain the effect of the order and inform the parties that they may lodge an appeal against the order within 28 days after the order is made. (s.137A CaPoCA) The order and notice may be given personally to the parties but if this is not practicable leaving them at the last known address or sending them in the post to that address. (s.137A(2) CaPoCA)

Revoking a permanent care order

The CEO may also make an application seeking to revoke the permanent care order or revoke and replace it with a protection order any time before the permanent care order expires. (s.137M CaPoCA)

Appeals

A party to any Court proceedings may appeal to the Supreme Court against any order or decision of the Court other than for a temporary protection order. (s.140(1) CaPoCA)

A person wishing to appeal against a decision of the court must do so by filing a notice of appeal with the Registrar of the Supreme Court within 28 days from when the original decision was made. (s.140(2) CaPoCA)

Case study

A boy aged seven years was physically abused by his mother's partner who was living with them. He was abused to the extent that his teacher noticed bruising on him. His teacher also observed that he did not appear to be as happy as he used to be and that he was no longer doing well at school.

The school made a report to Department of Children and Families (DCF). DCF workers then carried out an investigation which included talking to the teachers, the child, the mother and her partner. The police also became involved and interviewed the mother's partner. When the investigation was complete, an assessment was made by DCF. It concluded that the abuse was substantiated. After negotiations with the mother, it was decided that the child would live with his grandmother for a few months and would not have any contact with the mother's partner. The police also took action against the perpetrator and laid criminal charges of assault against him.

After the child was placed with the grandmother, under a temporary placement arrangement, workers from DCF continued to talk with the mother about future care arrangements for the child. When DCF workers concluded that the mother would not acknowledge the abuse had occurred and take the appropriate steps to ensure the abuse would not continue if the child returned to live with her, they made an application to the Children's Court for a protection order.

Transfer of order to another state

State and Territory governments have reciprocal arrangements to transfer responsibility for a protection order, also referred to as a home order, if a child under an order moves interstate. (s.155 CaPoCA)

Child abuse and the criminal law

A DCF investigation into alleged maltreatment and any subsequent applications to the Children's Court are made in the interests of a child's wellbeing and are not related to any criminal proceedings. Where the treatment of a child amounts to a criminal offence quite distinct action needs to be taken by police.

Members of the police force will notify the CEO as soon as practicable of any instances where they believe a child has suffered or is suffering child abuse. Police may then decide whether charges should be laid.

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