Protection & Care - Before a Child is taken into Care

Contributed by JessicaPeake and TamekaBrown and current to 27 July 2018

This section is aimed at parents whose child has not yet been removed by the Department, such as where the parent is pregnant or where the Department is providing family support.

Department Involvement Pre-Birth

If the Department receives information that raises concerns about a child's wellbeing, it is able to make any inquiries reasonably necessary to determine what action should be taken to safeguard that child's wellbeing following birth (s. 33A of the Act).

As set out in section 33B of the Act, if the Department decides to take action, the Department must provide:
  • social services to the pregnant mother - such as training, counselling, advocacy, crisis care, support or family violence services;
  • arrange a meeting with the mother and any other person appropriate, so a safety plan may be developed at a Pre-Birth Meeting; and/or
  • conduct an investigation to assess the likelihood of the child needing protection once it is born.
To try to avoid the Department getting involved or having baby taken into care after birth the parents should:
  • focus on their good health and make sure they access antenatal care;
  • have support from friends, family or a social worker;
  • not expose the unborn child to risk, such as exposure to family violence or drug and alcohol use; and
  • find stable and secure accommodation.

Pre-Birth Meetings

The Department may seek to have pre-birth meetings if the parent(s) themselves are in the care of the Department, the parent has other children currently in the Department's care or for any other reason relating to concerns for the unborn child's safety.

These meetings are generally known as Pre-Birth Signs of Safety meetings and where time allows, there will be three of them. In arranging the Pre-Birth Signs of Safety meetings the Department will liaise with the hospital social worker of the hospital where the mother is planning to give birth. The meetings should also be facilitated by an independent Department trained facilitator who does not have direct involvement with the family.

The meetings use the Signs of Safety Child Protection Practice Framework to make sure the parent(s), family members and other supporters participate in the decisions that need to be made about the baby before it is born. This will include sharing information and working together to assess how things are going for the parent(s), make decisions about what needs to happen and to plan for baby to be safe enough to go home with the parent(s) when the child is born.

It is important the parent(s) tries to work with the Department and begin meetings as soon as possible. The parent(s) can have a support person(s) at the meetings and it is recommended that they do. This can include family members, friends, professional support services or anyone else who may be helping the family and who the parent(s) do not mind hearing about the concerns the Department have.

It is also a good idea for the parent(s) to get legal advice at this early stage.

Many mothers try to hide their pregnancy or try not to be involved, hoping it will go away. The more time a parent has to safety plan with the Department and show they can address the Department's concerns, the more likely it is baby will be able to go home with the parent(s) and the Department will reduce their involvement.

Safety Planning

If there are safety concerns, for baby or for a parent, the Department may want to do some safety planning and develop a safety plan.

The plan will set up how things will work safely if the baby comes home. This may involve a plan to keep the parent, carer or baby safe. It may involve any important people and family support the parent or carer have supporting them, as they may agree to be part of the safety plan.

Family Support

The Department are able to provide family support through a number of their programs, including Best Beginnings and their Parent Support service or by linking families in with other mainstream service providers.

Best Beginnings

Best Beginnings is the Department's Family Support initiative for infants and can carry on up until they turn two years of age.

It involves regular visits to the family's home by caring, trained professionals who provide support, advice, information, connections and practical help. The program is structured according to the parent(s) and child's needs. The aim is to improve child health and wellbeing, parent and family functioning and social support networks.

Support can come from a range of professionals including nurses, teachers, social workers, and psychologists. A parent needs to be referred to the program before birth or before the child is three months old.

Details about the Best Beginnings program is located on the Department's website.

Parent Support

The Parent Support service's aim is to help parents become more effective in managing their children's behaviour where there are issues of:
  • antisocial behaviour
  • criminal activity
  • truancy (only if in combination with one or both of the above behaviours).

The Parent Support Worker can work with parents in their home for up to six months to help them regain control of their child's behaviour.

This may include:
  • working with parents to improve their relationship with their child
  • supporting parents to increase their parenting skills and confidence
  • providing ideas of new ways for parents to communicate with their child
  • helping parents to learn new discipline techniques
  • working with the child (if appropriate) to ensure that they behave appropriately and attend school regularly.
Further information on the Parent Support service can be found on the Department's website.

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