Protection & Care - After a Child is taken into Care

Contributed by JessicaPeake and TamekaBrown and current to 27 July 2018

This section is for parents whose child has been removed from their care by the Department.

Provisional Care Plans

When a child is taken into care, the Department will meet with parents for a 'Care Plan Meeting'. These meetings will be ongoing and will occur for each child in the care of the Department.

The first care plan meeting should occur within seven days of the Department's application being made in the Children's Court. It is important parents attempt to attend the meetings. Parents are entitled to have a support person (family member, friend, professional support worker or legal representative) attend the meetings with them.

The main focus of the meetings is to identify the needs of each child and how the Department plans to make arrangements for their needs to be met. A need may include but is not limited to housing and contact with parents and family.

If there are any changes to the Department's applications, these should also be raised by the Department at the care plan meetings.

After a care plan meeting, the Department must provide the parent(s) with a copy of the Provisional Care Plan within twenty working days.

Who will Care for my Child?

Once a child is removed, the child will be placed with an available and appropriate carer. This could include a general foster carer, family member, a family friend or other recognised carer. Depending on the child's age, the child may also be placed in a residential care facility.

There will be further considerations if the child is Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander as there are specific principles set out in the Act for their placement (s. 12 of the Act).

Unless otherwise advised by the Department, a parent will not be able to visit the child in their accommodation and will generally not be told any specific details about the placement.

Family Carers

If a child has been placed with a carer but the parent(s) has a family member or significant other who could be a carer for the child, the need to let the caseworker know. Parents will need to provide the person's name and details to the Department and they will look at conduction a Family Carer Assessment (previously known as a Relative Carer Assessment).

When conducting a Family Carer Assessment, the Department assess against five carer competencies;
  1. provides for a child in a way that promotes the wellbeing of the child, promotes the child's family and interpersonal relationships, and protects the child from harm;
  2. is able to provide a safe living environment for the child;
  3. is able to work co-operatively with officers, a child's family and other people when providing care for a child;
  4. is able to take responsibility for the development of his or her competency and skills as a carer; and
  5. is a person of good character and repute.

The Department may also require the person being assessed to undergo a house inspection and to obtain a National Police Certificate and a Working with Children Check.

If the Department are taking too long to assess the suitability of the person proposed, the parent(s) or the proposed carer can make an application to the Children's Court for interim orders requiring the Department to perform the assessment in a set time frame or for an interim placement order to be made.

For an interim placement application for a child to be placed with a person who is not a parent, the application is made under section 133(2)(c) of the Act. In making this application, the person applying must formally request a report (written or oral) from the Department which addresses their suitability to be a carer. If making an application under this section, it is a good idea to get legal advice before lodging the application.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children in Care

Where a child is Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander the Department must consult with the Aboriginal Practice Leader. A plan will then be developed to take any cultural issues into consideration.

There are also a special provision in the Act known as the "Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle". The purpose of the principle is to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children maintain a connection with their family and culture.

This provision exists as recognition of the importance for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to participate in the protection and care of their children with as much self-determination as possible.

The current provision requires the Department to seek a care option for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child using a set order of priority. This means, an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child coming into care should be placed with:
a) a member of the child's family;
b) if unavailable, a person who is an Aboriginal person or a Torres Strait Islander in the child's community in accordance with local customary practice;
c) if unavailable, with a person who is an Aboriginal person or a Torres Strait Islander;
d) if unavailable, with a non- Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person who the Department has found to be sensitive to the needs of the child and capable of promoting the child's ongoing affiliation with the child's culture, and where possible, the child's family.

The child's family will be asked to identify their preferred safe care options at a Signs of Safety Meeting with the child protection worker and any family or support people the parent(s) would like to bring (s. 13 of the Act). The Aboriginal Practice Leader (or other senior Aboriginal officer) must also be consulted where a care arrangement for an Aboriginal child with a family or significant other is being considered as set out in part 3.1.4 of the Department's Casework Practice Manual.

Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Children in Care

A very small number of children removed from the Department have a CaLD background. If there are concerns a child has been harmed or is at risk of harm, action must be taken by the Department even if the harm caused is seen as a cultural practice or is considered acceptable in a family's country of origin. The complete Services Framework for CaLD families can be found on the Department's website.

Where a child is from a CaLD background, information about a child's language and cultural needs should be obtained from the child's family and community.

Addressing the Department's Concerns

The Department may conduct a number of Signs of Safety Meetings with the parent(s) to discuss any concerns (also referred to as Danger Statements) the Department have and set out what steps a parent must take to address those concerns.

The Department is also required to file a Section 143 Written Proposal with the Children's Court after lodging an application for a Protection Order, which should again outline the concerns held by the Department and what the parents need to demonstrate to address those concerns and work toward reunification. This could include attending counselling, completing random or scheduled urinalysis testing, finding and maintaining safe and stable accommodation, participating in drug and alcohol treatment and rehabilitation, etc.

If the Department does not make the necessary referrals, parents should attempt to access these services themselves, as soon as they are able to. A parent can also talk to the Department about financial assistance to access the relevant services and programs recommended in the Section 143 Written Proposal.

The programs and services recommended in the Section 143 Written Proposal are not binding. If a parent feels the proposed program or service is not culturally appropriate or they wish to participate in a similar but different program, they can speak with their caseworker and explain why this service may not be right for them or their child and provide details of what they are proposing instead.

Tips for Working with the Department

It is important for a parent to 'work' with the Department. Sometimes parents find this difficult and frustrating, however the behaviour they show to their caseworker can have a big impact on how well the matter goes.

If a parent wants to have their child back in their care, they need to try their best to work well with the caseworker. If the parent is aggressive or has outbursts at Departmental workers, this will be included as part of the assessment of their ability to care for the child. The Department is able to call Police, hang up (the phone) on the parent(s) and take out a Restraining Order if staff are harassed or threatened and abused.

Some ways to ensure a parent's relationship with the Department works well, is to try:
  • being polite with whoever you speak to;
  • answer all calls from the Department;
  • calling the caseworker back as soon as possible if a call is missed;
  • keep in regular contact with the caseworker and make sure their contact details are always up to date with the Department;
  • not losing one's temper at the Departmental workers, save it to vent in a safe place later;
  • attend all meetings, Court hearings and other events the Department organises. If a parent cannot attend, they need to let the Department know as early as possible and explain why;
  • be proactive and enrol and attend any program requirements outlined in the Section 143 Written Proposal or as asked by the Department;
  • provide the Department with any Certificates of Completion/Participation earnt as soon as they are received.
The parent(s) should also try to stay organised and keep track of any contact they have with the Department, this might include things like keeping a diary or notebook and collecting information such as:
  • dates of any time spent with the child;
  • any contact with the Department (write down the details of the conversation or what happens at meetings);
  • any attempts to speak with the caseworker and messages left;
  • any attempts to organise more time with the child; and
  • records of required appointments - such as counselling, urinalysis, parenting programs or any other program.

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