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Child Protection is an incredibly complex area of the law, and one wrong turn can have dire consequences.
It is essential that you seek expert advice immediately and certainly before any court proceedings begin for any child protection issue.
What You Need to Know about Child Protection Matters in Queensland, Toowoomba, Ipswich & North Lakes
Child safety and child protection matters usually start when someone who is concerned with something they have heard or seen in relation to the care of a child, advises the Department of Children, Youth Justice, and Multicultural Affairs, as it is known, about that concern.
The department only becomes involved with matters if there is deemed to be an unacceptable risk to one or all of the children in a household. This can include the unacceptable risk associated with children who may only be visiting a home.
If the department’s view is that there is an unacceptable risk, they can seek that the parents or carers of the child work with them in an effort to minimise the risk. This occurs in various ways:
- Safety Plan
- Intervention with Parental Agreement
- Court Order
Each of the above can include requirements that certain persons must remain away from the child, or their behaviour be supervised by either the department or a departmentally approved person.
What do I need to know about safety plans?
If you agree that there is a need for a safety plan in respect of your particular case, then you need advice on what it means, how it affects you and your family, and what you need to do to ensure you comply with the plan.
It is important to obtain independent legal advice at the first stage. If you are aware of your rights and responsibilities under the plan, you may be able to limit the department’s further involvement with your family.
If the safety plan is breached or not complied with fully, the department has the ability to seek a child protection order, and this document can be provided to the court as evidence of the safety plan and the ongoing concerns of the department.
What do I need to know about an intervention with parental agreement?
An intervention with parental agreement, or “IPA”, is very similar to a safety plan in that it provides for how the department is going to intervene with your family. Generally this is in an effort to stop the department needing to be involved into the future.
As with a safety plan, it is very important that you are aware of your responsibilities and the requirements that the department has of you under the IPA. If you do not comply to the department’s standards, they have the ability to then seek a child protection order and to provide the document to the court as evidence of the agreement.
What do I need to know about child protection court orders?
A child protection order is an order made by the Children's Court providing for the custody and/or guardianship of the child being held by the department. A child protection order is a state court order which completely disrupts the care arrangements provided for in any Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia order.
What Do I Do if the Department Becomes Involved with My Children?
The first step the department takes is usually to seek a temporary assessment order (“TAO”) which lasts for 72 hours. Often the parties involved are not advised that such an application has been made. Further, the court will often make such an order without the necessity of hearing from the respondent parents or guardians.
If you believe the department may be considering making such an application, it is important that you seek legal advice so your solicitor can advise the court that you wish to be heard. If the court is aware that you have legal representation and wish to be heard, they will, in most cases, provide an opportunity for that to occur.
The second step the department will take is to seek a court assessment order (“CAO”), which usually continues for 28 days. This order is made by the court in circumstances where the department can show a risk and a strong need for further assessment of the child who is deemed to be at risk. If the court can be satisfied that the parents or guardians are willing and able to both protect the child and make arrangements for further assessment of the child, then it may be possible for a CAO to not be made.
Following the TAO and CAO process, the department must then determine whether they seek further involvement with the family to minimise the risk to the child/ren. If this is deemed necessary, they will often seek that a short term order be made. Such orders can last for up to two years if made. At this stage, parents or other family members have the right to be heard and submit a response to the department’s application.
Speak to an expert child protection lawyer today to learn about your best course of action.
If the DCSYW become involved with your family, or if you suspect they will become involved, it is extremely important that you seek legal advice from a family lawyer with experience in child safety and child protection matters. This is a highly complex and specialised area of the law, and many family lawyers do not practice in this area. In most matters, early legal advice may help to limit the ability of the DCSYW to take the matter further.