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2 This information kit has been created by FIN Qld (Townsville). PLEASE BE ADVISED: This guide is intended to provide you with information only. Should you encounter legal problems, it is strongly advised that you seek legal guidance from a Solicitor. FIN Qld (Townsville) believe that the information provided in this kit is accurate as at July 2009 and does not accept responsibility for any omissions or errors. 2

3 Disclaimer 2 Is this Information Kit for me? 3 Dictionary of Important Terms 4 What is Child Protection? 5 What is Harm? 5 Child Protection Act (CPA) Child Protection Principles 6 Part 1: The Investigation Stage 7 What to do when Child Safety makes first Contact 8 If Child Safety contacts me regarding suspected child abuse or neglect 9 Can I refuse to let Child Safety Services into my home? 10 Other Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 11 Part 2: Intervention with Parents Agreement 12 Definition of a Care Agreement 12 Important steps to note regarding Care Agreements 13 Care Agreements Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 14 Part 3: What should I do if I receive notice to attend Court? 15 Court Orders 15 Child Protection Orders (CPOs) 17 Types of Child Protection Orders 18 Court Process 19 How to Prepare for Court 21 At Court 23 Court Ordered Conferences 24 Other FAQs 24 Court Decisions 25 Placing a Child in Care 26 Children s Rights 28 Family Group Meetings 29 Case Planning Meetings 29 Preparation for Family Group Meetings 33 Suggested Questions to ask at Family Group Meetings 34 SCAN Meetings 35 Complaints 36 Child Safety Internal Review 36 3

4 This kit contains general information only and is not legal advice. The kit is a basic guide about the rights and obligations for parents of children who are in the care of Queensland s Department of Communities, Child Safety Services or are being investigated by the Department. The information is current as of July 2009 and FIN (Qld) Townsville strongly encourages people to seek legal advice regarding their particular circumstances. Parent: refers to a child s biological mother, father or significant other exercising parental responsibility for the child. A parent of an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child includes an individual who is regarded as a parent under Aboriginal or Island custom. Please seek legal advice if you are unsure whether you are a parent and have the rights / obligations as a parent under the Child Protection Act Custody: is the right and responsibility to make decisions about the child s daily care and to have the daily care of the child. 4

5 Guardianship: refers to both the daily care and long term decisions regarding a child s care, welfare and development. Notification: a report made by an individual to the Department of Communities, Child Safety Services about suspected child abuse and / or neglect. The Child Protection Act 1999 (CPA) advises the Courts, Child Safety Services and the community at large in what to do regarding Child Protection. A Child Protection Order (CPO) can be made if it is assessed that: 1. A child has suffered harm (past), is suffering harm (present) or is at risk of suffering harm (future) and; 2. Does not have a parent able and willing to protect the child from harm. The CPA defines harm as any detrimental effect of a significant nature on the child s physical, psychological or emotional well-being. Harm can include: physical, psychological or emotional abuse and neglect; or sexual abuse or exploitation. 5

6 Services must prove that: Child Safety 1. Harm has, is or is likely to occur and; 2. There is no parent able or willing to protect the child from harm. To assess if harm has occurred, Child Safety Services can: Investigate the reported concerns; Organise with parental consent, a Care Agreement; Apply for a Temporary Assessment Order; Apply for a Court Assessment Order. Child Safety Services can be request a Child Protection Order from the Court if they believe that: the child is in need of ongoing protection and; the above criteria has been met. The following CPA principles must be considered by Child Safety Services before any action is taken: What is in the best interests of the child? The child s interests are paramount (and are considered before parents interests). Families have the primary responsibility for the upbringing, protection and 6

7 development of the child. Families should be supported in this role (and only in a minority of cases should children be removed from their family s care). The child s views and the family views are to be considered with both able to participate in decisions that affect their lives. If a child is removed from their family the paramount aim is to reunite the child with their family if possible and maintain family / social contacts. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children must have culturally appropriate assessment and placement in care and as far as possible the child should be cared for within an ATSI community. Child Safety Services will investigate for two reasons. These are: 1. A notification (or report) has been made to the Department. 2. If a child has been harmed, is suffering harm or the family is unable to provide protection for the child then Child Safety Services will investigate and may apply for a court order. 7

8 1. Write down the names of everyone involved the Child Safety Officer, Team Leader & Manager as well as their Area Office and contact telephone numbers. 2. Ask for relevant paperwork (e.g. court order / care agreement) if your children have been removed. 3. If Child Safety asks you to sign something immediately REMEMBER THAT YOU DON T HAVE TO SIGN ANYTHING AT THAT EXACT TIME. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO ASK FOR TIME TO THINK AND SEEK LEGAL ADVICE IMMEDIATELY Keep ALL DOCUMENTS that Child Safety gives to you. ALWAYS attend court! (NOTE: even if you are told you are not required to) 6. Buy a diary and record ALL contacts and conversations you have with Child Safety representatives. (Note what was said, by whom and what was agreed to) 8

9 1. Be aware that EVERYTHING you tell Child Safety will be recorded and form part of their assessment. 2. Evidence gathered can also be used against you or others in criminal proceedings. 3. REMEMBER You do not have to answer any of their questions. Under the CPA there is no obligation to do so. NOTE: It is best, however, to try to remain on good terms with Child Safety and it is OK to answer any questions that you feel comfortable with. TAKE YOUR TIME to answer. THINK about the question. ASK for clarification if you do not understand a question or statement. Ask for a BREAK if you feel overwhelmed or confused. You may ask for a SUPPORT PERSON. 9

10 TAKE NOTES or have the support person take notes. RECORD WHAT IS SAID it is legal to only do so, provided that you are one of the people in the conversation. You are not obligated to let a Child Safety worker or Police into your home. However, they can: - enter your home if they believe that a child is in immediate danger or they have a Temporary Assessment Order - take the child with them and into their care if they have a Court Order. home. - seize things when entering a home to assess whether a child is in danger or to carry out their assessment under a court order. They MUST give you a RECEIPT for items removed from your NOTE Both the Child Safety and Police can be involved at the investigation stage. The Police have the same powers as Child Safety under the CPA. It is important to REMEMBER the following: The POLICE may carry out their own investigations separate to the Child Safety Services. 1 0

11 If the Police stop investigating; or the matter does not go to court or that you are found not guilty in criminal law proceedings, the DEPARTMENT may still have child safety concerns and a Child Protection Order may be sought. Seek legal advice immediately if this occurs. Must the Department tell me if they have taken my child/ren? YES Under the CPA the Child Safety must inform parent/s if they have removed a child/ren. At least one (1) parent must also be told of the allegation of harm unless it would jeopardise criminal proceedings or cause further harm to a child. Does Child Safety have to tell me that they have had contact with my child at school or day care centre? Child Safety can have contact with a child at their school / day care centre if they believe it is in the child s best interests that contact is made before notifying you. Child Safety must tell at least one (1) parent that they have had contact with the child and the reasons for the contact - unless it would jeopardise criminal proceedings or cause further harm to a child. Can the Department investigate my pregnancy? YES Child Safety can investigate concerns regarding an unborn child. They cannot, however, interfere with the rights of a pregnant woman. Child Safety may also contact relevant health professionals and interview partners / family with your consent to 1 1

12 investigate the types of support you have in place. Child Safety Services may elect to work with you without taking court action. You can choose to agree to this, however, under this agreement Child Safety may: Organise support services for the family Organise a Care Agreement (This where a child is placed in short term care arrangements) Interview the child for their views and perhaps make the child part of any agreements. A Care Agreement is a short term agreement between the Department and a parent/s whereby the child is placed in temporary care under the direction of Child Safety Services. Under this agreement, Child Safety Services can: Make all day to day decisions about the child including where they live. There are two types of Care Agreements: 1 2

13 1. Assessment Care Agreement and 2. Child Protection Care Agreement. IMPORTANT TIPS TO NOTE REGARDING CARE AGREEMENTS All Care Agreements MUST: Be in WRITING. Document HOW LONG it is for. State WHERE the child will reside (name, address & contact no.) State the CONTACT ARRANGEMENTS with your client and other family members. Document the type of decisions about the child you must be consulted about. REMEMBER! 1. Make sure the AGREEMENT is in WRITING and that you receive a COPY of it! 1 3

14 2. NOTE: The Department can apply for a Child Protection Order (CPO) AT ANY TIME DURING the Care Arrangement As a parent, what are my rights under a Care Agreement? Both you and your child have the same rights as you would if there was a CPO in place. How long does a Care Agreement last? Remember there are two types of Care Agreements: 1. Assessment Care Agreement must not be longer than 30 days and cannot be extended. 2. Child Protection Care Agreement initially should be no longer than 30 days duration. However, they can be extended for a period of up to 6 months. TIP: It is important to remember that before an extension is granted, a case plan must be made. Read the tips on page before you go to a family group meeting. Am I able to STOP a Care Agreement? YES at any time during the Care Agreement, BUT you must give Child Safety two (2) days notice. 1 4

15 HOWEVER Be aware that Child Safety can then apply for a Court Order to remove the child and assess any suspected harm to the child. If Child Safety gets a CPO granting custody / guardianship of the child to them, any Care Agreement automatically expires. Firstly, STAY CALM and DO NOT PANIC. There are two documents that you will likely receive from Child Safety before attending court. These are: 1. An application for a Court Assessment Order or Child Protection Order. At the bottom of this document will be a date and court address for you to attend the next hearing. 2. Affidavit/s SEEK LEGAL ADVICE IMMEDIATELY if you are given notice to attend court. Should you require an interpreter at court, you must tell the court as early as possible before the court hearing. Call Legal Aid Queensland to determine if you are eligible for free legal advice / services. See a private lawyer if you are not eligible for Legal Aid. 1 5

16 Assessment Orders allow Child Safety to investigate and assess whether the child is in need of protection. Assessment Order Types: 1. Temporary Assessment Order (3 days) 2. Court Assessment Order (4 weeks) NOTE: These orders can be extended once only for the same duration but only with court approval. Temporary Assessment Orders (Emergency Orders) Lasts for 3 days maximum and a court hearing is not required. A Magistrate can issue this order by telephone, fax or radio. Under this order, a Magistrate can: Order a medical examination. Permit the Police or Child Safety to have contact with the child. Allow the Police or Child Safety to enter and search a property if parents have denied access. If it is deemed necessary, the Police or Department have the powers to take the child into care. Order contact with a parent/s: supervised, unsupervised or not at all. NOTE: copy of the the order as issued. Child Safety must give you a order and explain the terms of soon as possible after the order is Court Assessment Orders or COA Lasting for up to 4 weeks maximum, before a COA is granted: 1 6

17 Parent/s should have first received all court documents (or reasonable attempts were made by Child Safety to do this). It is deemed necessary to assess whether a child is in need of protection and this cannot be determined by alternative means (i.e. through your consent). Under this court order, a Magistrate has the same powers as above. What is a Child Protection Order or CPO? A CPO is an order made the court where it has been determined that the child is in need of protection. Child Safety must then prove that: Harm has, or is likely to occur and There is no parent/s willing and able to provide protection for the child. Before a CPO is issued, the court considers: Whether parent/s have been given the court documents (or reasonable attempts were made by Child Safety to do this). Whether an appropriate Case Plan has been made & shown to the Court. If the order has been contested, a Case Conference was held. Whether the child s views or requests have been publicised to the Court (if possible). 1 7

18 A parent/s criminal, traffic and domestic violence history and reports undertaken by Child Safety (and if required, reports on other adult members in your household). Whether the protection of the child can be achieved by less intrusive terms? TYPES OF CHILD PROTECTION ORDERS 1. Directions Order least intrusive order lasting no more than 1 year. This order instructs that a parent do or not do something to protect the child. 2. Protective Supervision Order lasting up to 1 year, this order allows Child Safety to supervise the child while the child remains in the care of their parent/s. 3. Short Term Custody Order lasting up to 2 years this order grants custody of the child to Child Safety or a suitable family member. 4. Short Term Guardianship lasting up to 2 years, this order grants short term guardianship of the child to Child Safety. 5. Long Term Guardianship lasting until the child turns 18 years of age. This order grants long term guardianship to Child Safety, a suitable family member or other person. 1 8

19 NOTE: The Court can order that a parent has no contact or only supervised contact with their children under any of theses orders. It is IMPORTANT that you attend EVERY COURT HEARING; otherwise, the Court may decide the application before the final hearing without your input! Typical Court Process If you agree with the order (CONSENT) 1 9

20 Application Filed Usually by Child Safety in the Children s Court First Hearing at the Children s Court Court considers if the application is being contested by you & whether an interim order is required. Family Meeting There may be a number of meetings or only one to make a Case Plan If you have agreed to the order, there is typically one other mention at court where Child Safety will present consent papers & a case plan. If the Court is satisfied, a CPO is then made. If you disagree with an order (CONTEST) 2 0

21 Remember: You may consent to an order at any stage during the Court process Application Filed Usually by Child Safety in the Children s Court First Hearing at the Children s Court Court considers if the application is being contested by you & whether an interim order is required. Family Meeting There may be a number of meetings or only one to make a Case Plan Court Ordered Conference This will occur if you contest the Department s application Mention Date - Before Hearing At this date, the Court ensures that everything that is required to be done before the hearing is done. HEARING Under oath, both you and Child Safety ask each other questions to test evidence. A final decision is made by the Court & Orders are granted. 2 1

22 1. SEEK LEGAL ADVICE before you go. 2. Wear NEAT and CONSERVATIVE CLOTHING as it shows the Court you are serious. 3. PREPARE for Court! It will help your case if you READ ALL DOCUMENTS given to you by Child Safety. WRITE DOWN what you don t agree with. Give ALL OF THE ABOVE information to your lawyer. 4. THINK ABOUT what questions you may be asked in Court. TAKE NOTES with you about what you want to say. BE AWARE, however, that anything you say will be used to make a final decision. USEFUL TIP! Prepare for Court by getting copies of files / information Child Safety has about you by applying EARLY through Freedom of Information. NOTE: It can take weeks to obtain this information (Child Safety has to respond to an application within 45 days) So get in early! You can get the Freedom of Information form from: NOTE: On the forms, remember to request for all paper and electronic files, notes, letters and entries on yourself. 2 2

23 1. Always be polite Call the Magistrate Your Honour. 2. Everything is focussed on: What is in the best interests of the child. 3. If you do not understand something, you can ask the Magistrate, a Court Officer or your lawyer to explain it to you. 4. The Court has to be satisfied that you have had a reasonable opportunity to obtain legal representation. 5. The Child/ren can appoint a separate representative (a children s lawyer). 6. If the child is mature enough and wishes to have a say, the Court must be informed. The Court can call off proceedings to a later date (known as an adjournment ) for several reasons (e.g. allowing you to obtain legal representation). In the meantime, an interim order can be placed by the Court this will allow Child Safety to have custody of the child until a final decision is made. However, the Court can also order: No contact or supervised contact with the child A report about the child, family members and the home environment A medical examination of the child A family group meeting Separate legal representation for the child A conference between Child Safety, a court official and you. 2 3

24 Court Ordered Conferences occur if you contest the application made by Child Safety. The meeting is chaired by a court appointed official and the aim is to get an agreement between you and Child Safety, to avoid going to a hearing. You can be represented by a lawyer. TIP: These meetings are confidential and what you say cannot be used in court. However, a report outlining the outcome of the meeting is presented to the Court afterwards. Make sure you prepare beforehand! Other FAQ s What if I haven t been told about Court Proceedings? SEEK LEGAL ADVICE immediately! You must be served the documents properly. (This means that all court documents must be given to you in person). What if I don t go to Court? The case can be decided without you provided that Child Safety can prove that they have given you copies of the court documents (or made reasonable attempts to do so) within a reasonable time before the scheduled hearing. 2 4

25 What happens if there is a Court Order already? Read the order get legal help if there is something you do not understand. Depending on when the order was made, you have 28 days to appeal the decision. NOTE: You only have 28 days after the decision was made to appeal it. What if I don t agree with a decision? You appeal a decision but REMEMBER that this must be done within 28 days of the decision being made! The appeal is to the District Court and you must use Form 96 available from the Court Registry or online at On this form, write a CLEAR statement detailing why you believe the decision is wrong or unfair and get a lawyer to check it for you. Lodge the form with the District Court of Queensland. Once an order is made, can the order be changed? Yes The order can be varied or revoked by making an application to the Court. An order will only be revoked if it is proven that the order is no longer necessary to protect the child from harm. Seek legal advice immediately if you are considering this. What happens if I refuse to do what the order says? You can be charged with an offence. A warrant can be issued for an officer to enter and search a premises and remove a child if you prevent the child from being taken into care, or if you take the child from the person who has been appointed the custodian. 2 5

26 NOTE: Interstate orders can be enforced here and orders made in Queensland can be enforced in other states. Seek legal advice if you are experiencing problems with interstate orders. A child must be placed in care that best meets a child s needs and is culturally appropriate. Child Safety must first: consider placing the child with family members or; other individuals who have a significant relationship with the child/ren. To become a Kinship Carer for the child, the family member(s) or significant other(s) must first apply to Child Safety. This involves thorough checking of the person s background including a criminal history review. Apply early as these processes can take time. Under the Child Protection Act, the general principle is that ATSI children should be cared for within the ATSI community. A recognised Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander representative must also be involved in any decision making process where it is a significant decision in a child s life, except in an emergency (and then an ATSI representative must be consulted as soon as practicable afterwards). 2 6

27 NOTE: If the child is an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child, Child Safety must first consider the following before placing the child into care: The child s relationship with parents, siblings and other people of significance under Aboriginal tradition or Island custom is maintained. An order of priority of where the child should be placed: 1. Member of the child s family or 2. Member of the child s community or language group, or 3. Another Aboriginal person or Torres Strait Islander who is compatible with the child s community or language group, or 4. Another Aboriginal person or Torres Strait Islander. Where a child cannot be placed according to the above hierarchy then consideration must be given to placing the child with a person who lives near the child s family, community or language group. If the child is placed with a non-indigenous carer, Child Safety must assess the carer s commitment to facilitating contact between the child and their family; maintaining their contact with their community and culture; and preserving the child s sense of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander identity. 2 7

28 Child Safety has an obligation to ensure that the child in care: Has a safe and stable living environment. Is placed in care that best meets the child s needs and is most culturally appropriate Maintains relationships with the child s family and community Is consulted about decisions affecting the child s life and given information about decisions (if relevant). Has access to dental, medical, therapeutic services and education and job training opportunities. Can my child do anything about a decision that has been made by Child Safety? YES! A child can: Contact the Commission for Children and Young People and Child Guardian who can negotiate with Child Safety on their behalf. Tell a Child Safety Officer what they want. 2 8

29 Ask for their OWN lawyer. FIN Qld (Townsville) Family can serve a couple of different purposes. These include: Group Meetings To make or review a case plan. To make recommendations about or deal with a matter concerning the child s care, protection and well-being. NOTE: It is important that you find out from Child Safety what the meeting is going to be about. Knowing what the meeting is about enables you to prepare for the meeting in advance. A family group meeting to make a case plan must be held before a Child Protection Order can be made. The purpose is to develop a written plan which meets the child s protection and care needs according to the input received from parent/s and the child s family. This is required to be updated at regular intervals. REMEMBER 1. EVERYTHING that is said in theses meetings is NOT confidential. What you say can be used against you in Court. 2. You and the child s family must be told about the meeting and given enough time to prepare for the meeting before it is held. 3. If you do not understand something, ASK. 2 9

30 Who can attend the Case Planning Meeting? The person who convenes the meeting (likely to be a Child Safety convenor or Team Leader) determines who is to be present anyone who might make a useful contribution or wishes to be involved with the child such as parents, the child, members of family, legal representative of the child, recognised Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander entities, support people for parent or child (youth worker, elders etc). NOTE: Family group includes members of the extended family, clan, tribe or similar group, and anyone else recognised as belonging to the child s family. Inform invitees that it will be a Case Planning Meeting. Tell the attendees that the child is a child in need of protection. Outline the assessed risks and assessed needs. Provide details of the proposed meeting including day, time, and venue. Provide opportunities for attendees to identify issues. Get the views of people who cannot attend the meeting. 3 0

31 A written plan comes from the meeting and may include: A goal or goals to be achieved. Living arrangements. Services to be provided. Matters Child Safety will be responsible for. Matters for which a parent or carer will be responsible. Contact with parents / child s family group. Arrangements for maintaining ethnic and cultural identity. A proposed date to review the plan. Can a case plan be changed? YES but only within 7 days of it being developed. A case plan will only be amended if it is in the child s best interests and the current plan is clearly impracticable. Written notice of the change/s must be given to all of the people who attended the meeting. Copies of the plan must be given to the child, parents and anyone else affected by the plan (s51t) Child Safety must support the plan by providing or arranging a service to assist the goals of the plan (s51t(d)) 3 1

32 The plan must be reviewed at least every 6 months (s51v). From this review a report and a revised case plan must be completed. How often should it be reviewed? Things to consider are: the child s age and circumstances; nature of arrangements in place under the plan; any problems or potential problems or ways it might be improved; and the length of the order in place (s51v). When developing a case plan towards reunification, there should be back up plans and processes to follow if reunification is unsuccessful. NOTE: If you receive a case plan after the meeting and you do not believe it is correct, or that it does not reflect what was agreed to, then it is vital to write a letter to Child Safety, stating what you think was agreed to or said. Writing this letter is a must! If you do not do this, then it is assumed that the plan is correct and it will be presented to the court. If you respond to the case plan in writing, then it can be referred to in later conversations, your court documents and any further complaints. 3 2

33 Preparation for Family Group Meetings includes: Case Planning, Case Plan Reviews and Court Ordered Conferences. What should I do to prepare for these meetings? Look at the aforementioned notes on pages Ask yourself: What are your goals? Do you want reunification? What do you want to achieve? What sort of contact do you want? How long for? Who with? What decisions would you like to be involved in? (e.g. health, education, doctors appointments etc) What support would you like from Child Safety? It is best to try as much as possible to focus on what s best for the child. Don t be afraid to ask questions. If you are represented by a lawyer at these meetings discuss with your lawyer the questions that you would like to ask. Do this before the meeting so you can be properly prepared. 3 3

34 What does Child Safety What does Child Safety NOTE: If Child course: How long will for it? want? want me to do? Safety wants you to do a this take? Will they pay Ask why then do they want a 2 year order if a course is likely to take only 6 months? Will they give you notice if they intend to visit your home? What type of contact, how long for and how regular? If contact is supervised, when can unsupervised contact start? If Child Safety offers supervised contact is there a relative you would prefer contact happen with? (NOTE: Child Safety will have to assess them as suitable) 3 4

35 REMEMBER You can ask for time out at any time, especially if you need to think about a Child Safety proposal before you agree to it What is SCAN (Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect) and what are their meetings about? These meetings are held to: Discuss cases of suspected child abuse and neglect and; To make recommendations about how to best assist families keep children safe from harm or risk of harm. Officers from various government departments who have an interest or involvement in the case (such as Department of Communities, Child Safety, Health, Education, Police and if relevant, recognised Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander entities) meet together to make recommendations for a child. The information discussed at these meetings may assist Child Safety and their work with families. 3 5

36 Whilst the minutes of these meetings are confidential, you can expect your Child Safety Officer to advise you if your family is to be referred to SCAN and to discuss the outcome of these meetings with you. Making a complaint is sometimes the only option if you want to change things from the way they are. The following are some tips to read before you make a complaint: 1. REMEMBER to record every conversation you have with a Child Safety worker. Record the name of every Child Safety worker you spoke to as well as the date and time you spoke to them. 2. If you are not getting calls returned, record the number of times you attempted to make contact. TIP: A diary helps! 3. Ask for paperwork. If you get paperwork late and you have a Court date, then you can ask the court for more time to look at the paperwork and get legal advice. 4. If you receive a letter from Child Safety that you do not agree with, then it is important that you reply in a letter what your side of the story is. 3 6

37 If you are having problems with Child Safety workers, then there are a number of things you can do. Options include: 1. Talking with your Child Safety Officer or their Team Leader. REMEMBER: If you do come to some agreement it is best to put in writing (in a letter addressed to the Child Safety Officer or Team Leader you spoke to) confirming what was agreed to. 3 7

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