What happens with my child when they are in care and what can I do to have them come home?
This is the third guide in the Working together for kids series. Download Guide 3 – When children are in care: What happens with my child when they are in care and what can I do to have them come home?
- The purpose of this guide
- Children and young people
- Who looks after my child when they are in care?
- Who makes decisions while my child is in care?
- What happens while my child is in care?
- What about contact with my child?
- Restoration planning
- What are my child’s rights?
- What can I do to give my child the best chance I can of returning home?
- What if? Common questions
The purpose of this guide
The purpose of this guide is to provide you with information about what happens when your child moves into care.
Specifically, this guide will tell you about:
- Who will look after your child – the different types of care.
- What a Care Plan is and your involvement in developing one.
- Who will make decisions about your child’s day-to-day and long-term care.
- What contact you might have with your child while they are in care.
- Tips for connecting with your child while they are in care.
- What you can do to have your child return home.
By providing this information we aim to help parents and family members understand how the child protection system works in the ACT so we can best work together for the benefit of children and families.
If you would like to speak to someone, please contact your case worker in the first instance or use the contacts provided.
The information provided is intended as a guide only and you are encouraged to seek legal advice regarding your particular circumstances where necessary.
This is the third guide in the ‘Working together for kids’ series. Please contact your case worker if you would like a copy of the other guides:
- Guide 1 – Child Concern Reports: What are they and what does it mean if someone makes a report about my child?
- Guide 2 – Going to court and working to reunite families What’s involved and what can I do?
- Guide 4 – Feedback and raising concerns: How can I let others know what I think?
- Guide 5 – Representing yourself in court: What do I need to know to navigate care and protection court processes?
The ‘Working together for kids’ guide series has been developed in partnership between CYPS and the Australian Red Cross Birth Family Advocacy Support Service. Acknowledgement also goes to the Family Inclusion Network ACT who was involved in the original Working together for kids book on which the guide series is based.
Children and young people
In reading this guide, the terms ‘child’ and ‘children’ also refer to ‘young person’ and ‘young people’.
- To speak to my case worker: 6207 1069 (North team), 6207 1466 (South team)
- To make a Child Concern Report: 1300 556 729
- P: 6110 2200
- P: 6234 7600 | E: email@example.com
- P: 6243 3411 or 1300 654 314 | E: firstname.lastname@example.org
- P: 6205 2222
- P: 1800 176 468 | email@example.com
- West Belconnen: 6205 2904
- Gungahlin: 6207 0120
- Tuggeranong: 6207 8228
- P: 6207 5294 | E: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Please ask for a copy of the ‘Working together for kids’ guide, Feedback and raising concerns.
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If you have difficulty reading this content and would like to receive this publication in an alternative format, such as large print or audio, please call (02) 6205 0282.
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Who looks after my child when they are in care?
The care of your child is extremely important. The focus of the ACT out of home care system is to ensure children have a safe and stable home to live in. If Child and Youth Protection Services (CYPS) has investigated allegations that your child may be at risk of abuse or neglect and the ACT Childrens Court has determined they are ‘in need of care and protection’, CYPS will arrange for a suitable person to look after your child and be responsible for them. This can be for a short time or a longer time and is typically with either a kinship or foster carer.
When children are in care, CYPS works in partnership with ACT Together – a key group of care agencies in the ACT that specialise in child and family support services.
Kinship carers are people in your family or extended family network who are able to provide a safe home for your child and are given parental responsibility for them.
Often a kinship carer is a grandparent, aunt, sibling or a member of your child’s cultural community, such as with Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander children. They may also be a significant person in your child’s life, such as a long-term family friend. Typically, you can nominate a person from your family to be the kinship carer and look after your child. The person you nominate will be assessed to ensure they are suitable and can best care for your child. Kinship carers have the same rights and responsibilities as foster carers.
The Children and Young People Act 2008 recognises it is better for your child to be cared for by someone they already know and trust.
The advantages of kinship care include:
- less worry and stress for your child about living with people they do not know
- there is likely to already be a strong, positive relationship between your child and the kinship carer
- it is likely the kinship carer will be committed to caring for your child in the long-term
- the kinship carer is well equipped to help your child maintain important family connections
- the kinship carer is also well equipped to support the development of your child’s identity.
In considering care for your child, CYPS and ACT Together will look at all options from your extended family to find a suitable kinship carer before considering any placements with unrelated carers (such as foster care or residential options).
All possible kinship carers will be assessed to ensure your child is placed in the best care possible. This will include a criminal history check and a ‘Working with Vulnerable People’ check, followed by a comprehensive carer assessment process. Once a kinship carer is approved, they will receive ongoing support and regular visits from your child’s case worker, referrals to helpful community services and may be eligible for kinship care subsidy payments.
Keeping children with people they know is preferable. However, sometimes kinship care can be difficult for parents and place a strain on relationships within the family. These situations can cause distress to everyone, and particularly, your child.
If kinship care is arranged for your child, it is important everyone involved maintains their focus on what is in your child’s best interests. Differences must be set aside and all significant adults need to work together effectively.
Foster carers are people who have been pre-approved by ACT Together to be suitable carers for a child who needs to be cared for outside of their family home.
Like kinship care, foster carers are subject to a comprehensive assessment process, including criminal history checks, a ‘Working with Vulnerable People’ check and a medical and psycho-social assessment.
Foster carers are professionally trained to care for children who cannot live with their families. They are also provided ongoing support by ACT Together. The care agencies involved in ACT Together include:
- Barnardos Australia
- the Australian Childhood Foundation
- Oz Child
- Premier Youthworks
- Relationships Australia.
If your child is placed in foster care, ACT Together will liaise with your child’s foster carer and CYPS in relation to your child’s day-to-day care. ACT Together will coordinate your child’s contact arrangements with you and other family members, arrange appointments for your child and coordinate most aspects of your child’s ‘Care Plan’ (see What happens when my child is in care for information on Care Plans).
ACT Together are not however legally permitted to make changes to your child’s Care Plan or make any long-term decisions that relate to your child. These long-term decisions are managed by CYPS in consultation you wherever possible.
If your child is in foster care you should continue to direct any questions you have about your child’s care arrangements to CYPS. Where it is more appropriate to speak with ACT Together, CYPS will let you know who to speak to and provide you with their contact details.
Who makes decisions while my child is in care?
Care and Protection Orders usually include provisions that change who has parental responsibility for your child while they are in care. This means a change to who is legally responsible for making the day-to-day and/or long-term decisions about your child’s care.
Specifically, CYPS may apply for an order that allows the Director General of the Community Services Directorate (which CYPS is a part of) to hold either full parental responsibility for your child or to share this responsibility with another person – generally this person is you but can be anyone.
Where an order gives you (or another person) shared parental responsibility with the Director General (and therefore CYPS), both you and CYPS can carry out this responsibility and make decisions about your child’s care. However, the Children and Young People Act 2008 empowers the Director General to have the final say on most decisions. The Act states:
‘no other person with daily care responsibility for the child or young person may discharge the responsibility in a way that would be incompatible with the Director General’s discharge of the responsibility’.
In making decisions about your child’s daily care, CYPS (on behalf of the Director General) will always be guided by their assessment of what is in your child’s best interests. These decisions include:
- where and with who your child lives
- who your child will have contact with
- arrangements for the temporary care of your child by someone else (for example, if your child attends a friend’s sleep over)
- everyday activities such as your child having a haircut or what they wear
- daily care relating to school (for example, excursions), training and employment.
In a practical sense, these responsibilities are delegated by CYPS to your child’s kinship or foster carer. The carer becomes legally responsible for making the day-to-day decisions, and must do so in a way that is consistent with your child’s Care Plan.
If the Care and Protection Order in place for your child includes a provision for shared long-term care responsibility, the Act requires that you, as the parent, must be consulted in relation to decisions about:
- health treatments for your child that involve surgery (including immunisation)
- your child’s long-term education, training and employment
- issuing a passport for your child
- administration, management and control of your child’s property
- religion and observance of racial, ethnic, religious or cultural traditions.
However, unless your child's Care and Protection Order includes a consultation provision, the Director General will again have the final say and will base such decisions on CYPS’ assessment of your child’s best interests.
It is important to understand that consultation does not mean consent. While you, or your child, may be asked what you think, this does not mean CYPS (or ACT Together when they are involved) are obliged to follow this direction. Sometimes, what parents and children want are not always in a child’s best interests. Case workers are required to try and achieve a balance between the views of all parties and ensuring your child’s ongoing protection and wellbeing.
What happens while my child is in care?
When your child is in care, a number of things can happen. These include:
What is a Care Plan?
At the end of a Care Team meeting or at any stage in CYPS’ involvement with your child, an agreed Care Plan may be developed. A Care Plan outlines what needs to happen to ensure the care and protection of your child.
Your child’s Care Plan covers all aspects of your child’s care and will clearly state:
- your child’s needs, how each need will be addressed, who will be responsible for addressing them and when
- your needs and those of your family, how each need will be addressed, who will be responsible for addressing them and when
- an agreed date to review the Care Plan.
Care Plans are developed in partnership with relevant people and groups linked to your child. Development of your child’s Care Plan will include consultation with:
- your child – if they are of appropriate age and understanding
- each person with daily care responsibility for your child
- you – as their parent you have the right to be consulted
- anyone who would be involved in implementing your child’s Care Plan, including agencies or services with an ongoing relationship with your child
- the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Service if your child identifies as Indigenous.
Each party will be given an opportunity to make suggestions for your child’s Care Plan, including for both daily and long-term matters if relevant, and CYPS and/or ACT Together must consider each suggestion. However, CYPS and ACT Together are not required to accept all suggestions and in making decisions will consider what is in your child’s best interests.
As your child’s parent, you are encouraged to attend all meetings held by CYPS and ACT Together so you have the opportunity to input to and discuss your child’s Care Plan in detail.
CYPS or ACT Together should always provide you with an up-to-date copy of your child’s Care Plan. If you do not have one, contact your child’s case worker.
What are Care Team meetings?
Care Team meetings are a chance for everyone involved in your child’s care – including you, your child, their carer and any involved professionals, such as your child’s class teacher, counsellors and support services – to meet and discuss your child’s current and future needs. Attending these meetings is a good opportunity for you to have an active say in the decisions of your child’s future.
Care Team meetings are typically organised by ACT Together (but can also be convened by CYPS) and will develop both short and long-term plans for your child while they are in care. These meetings are also used to check the progress of these plans over time to ensure they are meeting the current and future needs of your child.
If you have more than one child in care, the needs of each of your children will be considered separately and be given equal time in meetings.
The goals of a Care Team meeting are to:
- consult with you, your child, carers and any other person with parental responsibility
- review your child’s progress in care
- share information about your child’s needs and wishes
- update your child’s Care Plan (if needed)
- conduct planning in relation to what needs to happen in the future to assist and support your child.
Care Team meetings are held regularly while your child is in care.
What will be discussed in a Care Team meeting
To ensure all your child’s needs are being met while they are in care, a Care Team meeting will generally cover your child’s:
- education and/or employment
- contact and relationships with family and significant others
- social wellbeing
- emotional wellbeing
- self-care skills
- transition planning if your child is15 years or older.
A Care Team meeting will generally also cover:
- your skills and capacity to care for your child
- the skills and capacity of your child’s carer to care for your child.
If your child identifies as Aboriginal or a Torres Strait Islander, their Cultural Plan will also be reviewed as part of the meeting to ensure it is supporting your child’s identity, and cultural and spiritual wellbeing. The Cultural Plan would have been developed as part of your child’s Care Plan.
What about contact with my child?
Maintaining contact can help both you and your child get through a difficult time. CYPS and ACT Together are committed to ensuring your child has ongoing contact with you and other significant people in their life.
Contact can mean direct or indirect interactions with your child. This can include:
- face-to-face visits (these may be ‘supported’, which means supervised)
- phone calls and letters
- email, webcam calls (Skype), social media and text messaging
- exchanging gifts or photos.
Who may, or may not, have contact with your child will be outlined in a ‘Contact Plan’, which forms part of your child’s Care Plan. The Contact Plan can include other family members such as aunts, uncles, grandparents, siblings and so on.
Contact arrangements included in your child’s Contact Plan will reflect the Care and Protection Order that is in place and any relevant contact conditions it includes (see Contact arrangements).
When writing a Contact Plan, some of the things your case worker may consider are:
- previous contact arrangements and their impact on your child
- observations made by other case workers or contact supervisors in the past
- information CYPS already has
- the views and wishes of your child
- information provided by other family members
- observations about your child’s pre and post contact behaviour made by your child’s carer.
When contact happens, it is important you use this time with your child to let them know you love and care about them, and most of all to have fun with them.
When your child is on a Care and Protection Order, or an interim or final order, it will include information about contact arrangements for your child. In making the order, the ACT Childrens Court will either stipulate the specifics of contact through a contact provision or state contact arrangements are to be determined by CYPS.Contact arrangements will always be based on a professional assessment of what is in your child’s best interests.
Contact arrangements will outline who will be able to have contact with your child and how that contact will happen, for example whether any contact is to be supervised. Contact arrangements may also say you are unable to have contact with your child if the potential risk to them is too high.
In most cases, the ACT Childrens Court gives responsibility to CYPS to establish the specific arrangements for your child. To do this, CYPS will conduct a careful assessment about the contact that should happen between you and your child (as well as any other relevant people) when writing the Contact and Care Plans. CYPS will consider what is in your child’s best interests, as well as your child’s wishes when making their decisions.
Having your child in care can be emotional and stressful, especially if you want more contact with your child than the court order allows. It is in your best interests, and your child’s, that you always abide by the court order. Following the court order shows you are prepared to work effectively with everyone involved and can put your child’s interests first.
The ACT Childrens Court and your child’s Care Team will consider your willingness to cooperate and your behaviour when making any future decisions. The aim is to have your contact with your child increase as your situation changes for the better. However, if you do not follow the directions of the court order, for example if you do not return your child at the agreed time, or you allow your child to have contact with someone they are not supposed to, you will be in breach of the order and could be charged. Breaching the court order can also have a significant influence on whether or not your child can be returned to your care.
Sometimes, the ACT Childrens Court may decide it is in the best interests of your child to have their contact with you supervised by another person. This person may be a family member, someone from CYPS or ACT Together, or a representative of a community support service. This type of contact is called ‘supported contact’, also known as ‘supervised contact’.
When contact is supported, the supervising person will be present for the whole contact session. They will also record their observations about the interaction that takes place between you and your child.
Changes to contact arrangements
Changes to contact arrangements can only happen if it is believed the change is in your child’s best interests. Who has responsibility to make changes, depends on who made the original arrangements – the ACT Childrens Court or CYPS.
If contact was determined by the ACT Childrens Court through a contact provision, any changes must be agreed by the Court. This requires an application to the Court to amend your child’s Care and Protection Order.
If contact was determined by CYPS (by the ACT Childrens Court giving responsibility to CYPS), then changes can be made without involvement of the Court.Changes are considered by your child’s Care Team in consultation with all relevant people.
How can I prepare for contact visits?
Your case worker will talk to you about contact arrangements including the type of contact you and your child will have, how often it will occur and if visits need to be supervised or not. They will also talk through any issues that might impact your ability to participate, including access to transport and ensuring you are prepared.
Being prepared for visits with your child will help you make the most of the time you have with them. If you need help to prepare, you can talk to your case worker about transport options as well as ideas for fun activities you and your child can do together.
It is important to write down when, where and what time your contact visits will happen. It may help to put them on a calendar you see each day or have a friend or family member call to remind you the day before. If the contact visit will be at your home, it might help to have activities planned and healthy snacks ready.
During visits your child might ask some difficult questions about why they are in care, when they can come home and so on. It is a good idea to think about how you would respond to these questions before the visit happens. Your case worker or another support person can help you prepare for these times.
It is also a good idea to prepare for how you will say goodbye to your child at the end of the visit. Be aware of the time and start to get ready to leave in advance so you are not rushed when you have to say goodbye.It is important to stay as calm as possible until your child leaves. It may help to have a friend meet you after the visit who can provide support to you.
Remember, if contact with your child is to be ‘supported’, a person will supervise and make a record of your visit. This may include recording what sort of food you provided, how you spoke to your child and how they spoke to you, if your home was clean and your presentation – whether you were alert, engaged and positive, or drug-affected, depressed and unprepared. These records may be used in evidence during ACT Childrens Court proceedings.
Making contact as positive as possible
There are a number of things you can do to make contact enjoyable and a positive experience for you and your child.
Your child will want to do the same things you did together at home – hugs, talking, eating, telling stories and jokes, playing with toys, games and so on. You may not like seeing your child in a strange place or with someone else there, but by doing things you would have done together at home, your child will be more comfortable.
- Come to the visit prepared with activities and a healthy snack for your child.
- Arrive on time or call if you are going to be late.
- If you are unable to make the planned contact visit let your case worker know as soon as possible. Your child can be very excited about seeing you and become very upset when you do not turn up.
- If your child is unable to attend a visit (for example if they are sick) ask your case worker to arrange another time. Your child is entitled to have a catch-up visit with you at another time.
- Be drug and alcohol free before and during the contact visit. If you attend a visit drug or alcohol affected, the visit is likely to be cancelled by the contact supervisor.
- Try not to smoke during your visit. If you must have a cigarette, you will need to move away from your child so they are not exposed to the second-hand smoke. Do not smoke inside while your child visits your home. You might like to consider using a nicotine replacement therapy, such as patches or gum, during the visit.
- Ask for help if you have any difficulties in managing your child’s behaviour during a visit. If another person is present, ask if they could suggest some useful behaviour management tips.
- If you feel frustrated or angry during the visit and someone else is there to take care of your child, go for a walk to give yourself time to calm down. Feelings of frustration and anger are common during times of stress. However, if you direct your anger or frustration towards your child, or another person at the visit, it can make your child feel uncomfortable and unsafe. It is likely in this situation that your visit will be ended by the supervisor or may lead to CYPS reviewing the frequency of future visits.
- Contact time is valuable for you and your child. If you have any questions about your child’s care arrangements, court proceedings or so on, talk to your case worker about these at another time. Make the most of this time by focusing your attention on your child and having fun with them.
- Be careful not to make promises you may not be able to keep. This includes promising to buy your child toys, take them on holidays, or that they will come home soon. It is more important that your child has a good time with you each time they see you, rather than them getting their hopes up about things you may not be able to make happen.
- If you have a mental health issue, or any other significant health problem, make sure you are receiving professional assistance and complying with your treatment plan. This will help you make the most of the time with your child and that it is an enjoyable experience for both of you.
While your child is in care, a key focus for CYPS and ACT Together is to reunite them with you and your family when there is no longer significant risk to your child if they were to return to your home. CYPS will work closely with you and your family to achieve this, ensuring the best interests of your child are always at the centre of all decisions.
What has to happen for my child to come home?
Reunification, or family restoration, refers to the process of returning your child to your care after an out of home care placement.
When your child is placed in out of home care, whether that is with another family member or in foster care, CYPS will explore the possibility of restoration as soon as possible. CYPS will seek to reunite your child with you as soon as it is safe for your child to do so. This means there must be only a very low likelihood of your child being exposed to abuse or neglect after returning home because your home situation has changed.
Decisions about whether your child can return to your care will be based on the same risk assessment processes and safety methods that were applied by CYPS in deciding to obtain the Care and Protection Order for your child. Your case worker may need to complete another Family Assessment to confirm the changes you or others have made. As with the previous assessments, CYPS wants to hear from you about what is now happening in your family and will not prejudge your situation or ability based on your history.
While your child is in care, CYPS will work with you to identify the abilities of your child, family and support network to implement a ‘Restoration Plan’ to achieve a sustainable reunification. This is best achieved using a staged approach where goals and review dates are put in place to support the gradual transition of parental care and responsibility for your child back to you.
The restoration process involves CYPS, you, your family, ACT Together and community support services working together to:
- improve your relationship with your child through attending therapy or parenting courses such as Circle of Security
- improve your child’s sense of connection with, and belonging to, their birth and extended family
- make recommendations about transitioning your child back to you or your family
- ensure appropriate and timely services and responses are in place to facilitate and sustain your child’s return home.
If you are working towards having your child returned to your care, you should:
- have a copy of your child’s Restoration Plan
- understand what the Restoration Plan says you need to do and focus your efforts on doing these
- have had your views considered when your child’s Restoration Plan was developed.
What’s included in my child’s Restoration Plan?
Your child’s Restoration Plan will cover:
- what needs to change before CYPS believes it would be safe for your child to return to your home. This is sometimes called ‘outcomes’ or ‘goals’, and are usually tasks that need to be completed by you as their parent.
- services that can be arranged by CYPS to help your family
- how long support will be given to you to work towards your child returning home.
How long will it take for my child to come home?
The time it takes for your child to return home depends on your family’s situation and the age of your child. For some children, it could be a matter of weeks, but for others it could take longer. Your child’s Restoration Plan should explain how long it might take for your family.
Usually the amount of time your child spends with you and at your home will gradually increase. You may start with day visits and then move onto overnight or weekend stays.
Young children are better off if they spend their early years in the care of the person who will be with them as they grow up. This means they need to go home as soon as possible. If your child is a baby, their Restoration Plan may be much shorter than if your child is school-aged.
However, no child benefits if they go home before their parents are ready. It is important that when your child goes home, they are able to stay home.
What are my child’s rights?
The ACT Charter of Rights for Children and Young People in Out of Home Care ensures the rights of all children who are unable to live with their parents and are being cared for in short or long-term out of home care. This includes children living in kinship care, foster care, respite care or other residential care facilities.
The Charter sets out what children can expect from the people who look after them and work with them while they are in care.
The rights of all children in care are:
- The right to be safe and looked after.
- The right to be respected.
- The right to be treated fairly.
- The right to have fun, play and be healthy.
- The right to be heard.
- The right to privacy and to have their own things.
- The right to ask questions about what is happening to them.
- The right to have contact with the people they care about and to know about their family and cultural history.
- The right to go to school.
- The right to talk to people about things they don’t like or don’t understand.
For more information about the Charter visit the Community Services Directorate’s website at:
Having your child in care is an emotional and difficult time. Hang in there and tell yourself you can get there in the end. The following tips will help you achieve that.
This may be an emotional and difficult time and you need people around you who will encourage and support you to work with CYPS and ACT Together. You are encouraged to have contact with any organisation you feel necessary so others can speak up for you if you don’t feel confident doing so on your own. See the Contacts section for some of the support available to you.
Work with CYPS and ACT Together to address the issues that led your child to be taken into care. CYPS and ACT Together will be able to offer you referrals to support services in the community who will help you achieve this.
Know what is expected of you
Ensure you know what is in your child’s Care Plan and what you are expected to do. If you are confused or worried about the plan, talk to your case worker, or another person you trust, about your concerns. Doing what you say you will do shows your child and other people you can be trusted and are putting your child’s interests first.
Write everything down
Get a diary and write down the date of every contact you have, or try to have, with CYPS or any other relevant organisation. Always leave your name and get the name of the person you speak to when you ring. Write a few points about what you discussed and any decisions made.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions
If you are unsure about what someone is saying to you, ask them to explain it or provide you with examples. For instance, if your case worker wants you to strengthen your parenting, ask them for specific examples of where you should build your skills and what you need to do. Also, if people are talking in jargon or acronyms, ask them to explain. You have the right receive information in a way you understand, so don’t be afraid to ask questions if you are ever unsure.
Attend all meetings with CYPS or ACT Together
Always engage with your child’s case worker and do all that they ask of you. Attend all meetings and take someone with you who can help you understand what is being discussed and who will help you remain calm. If you can’t attend a meeting contact your case worker as soon as possible to let them know and if possible arrange another time.
Attend all contact with your child
When you see your child, arrive before time and bring a healthy snack and activities to do with them. Try to do things you would be able to keep doing together at home – remember, presents and expensive outings don’t count as much as having a good time with each other. Your child will also be looking to you for reassurance that you are ok. If you can’t attend a visit, contact your case worker as soon as possible and ask to arrange another time.
Obtain legal advice or representation
You are strongly encouraged to get legal advice and to be represented by a lawyer or solicitor in court. You can contact Legal Aid ACT, the Aboriginal Legal Service ACT/NSW, or a service which offers a free legal consultation, such as the Women’s Legal Centre, ACT Law Society or the Welfare Rights and Legal Centre. See the Contacts section. If you intend to represent yourself in court, ask your case worker for a copy of the ‘Working together for kids’ guide, Representing yourself in court .
Be wary of using social media
Be wary of using social media such as Facebook and Twitter to discuss your situation as this can be used in court.CYPS is legally able to use information gained from social media, whether it has been provided by someone else or publicly posted, to inform its decisions.
Always appear in court
You should always appear in court (unless your solicitor has said you don’t have to). It is an important opportunity for you to have input into what will occur and to understand the implications of any legal proceedings.
If the ACT Childrens Court makes an order you do not agree with, seek legal advice and use your support networks. Options are available to you to sometimes appeal decisions. You may be able to appeal to the Supreme Court. If you’re not sure about anything, ask your case worker or someone in your support network. Also ask for a copy of the ‘Working together for kids’ guide, Feedback and raising concerns.
If your child is in out of home care, you are encouraged to read the guide Going to court and working to reunite families. This guide has been developed by CYPS and community partners and provides helpful information about care and protection processes. If you don’t already have a copy of this guide, please ask your case worker for one.
What if? Common questions
Q. What if CYPS has placed my child with a person I don’t like?
A. In all decisions that relate to the care of your child, CYPS (and ACT Together) is guided by an assessment of what is in your child’s best interests. If your child will be safe and well looked after by an ex-partner or a family member you don’t get along with, CYPS may still decide to place your child in their care if it is considered the best option for your child. In making decisions about a care placement, CYPS is guided by research which demonstrates it is better for a child to be looked after by people who know and love them, than to be placed in foster care with people they have no relationship with.
Q. What if I’m not happy with my child’s Care Plan?
A. You should always have a copy of your child’s Care Plan and have regular opportunities to contribute to the arrangements outlined in it. Usually Care Plans are updated at meetings with CYPS and ACT Together, such as Care Team meetings, Case Conference meetings or in the context of an annual review process. If you are not happy with your child’s Care Plan, you should explain your concerns to your case worker (in writing wherever possible) and also attend all meetings that have been organised to discuss the Care Plan and care arrangements for your child.
Q. What if I don’t have a support person to bring to meetings and I would like an advocate?
A. If you would like to have a support person or advocate with you at meetings with CYPS or ACT Together but do not want to ask a friend or relative, it is a good idea to contact your local community service provider or your nearest Child and Family Centre to request a family support worker who may be able to support you.
Q. What if I’m not eligible for Legal Aid?
A. If you are declined for Legal Aid you can ask them about the appeals process for their decision. Legal Aid will supply you with information about how to proceed with a Legal Aid appeal if you choose to do so. You are eligible for a free legal consultation with one of three ACT services – Women’s Legal Centre, ACT Law Society and the Welfare Rights and Legal Centre . These agencies will give you a one-off, free, legal consultation after which you can be referred to a suitably qualified lawyer. If you decide to use the lawyer it will be at your own cost.
Q. What if my case worker is not returning my phone calls?
A. CYPS and ACT Together will do their best to ensure all phone calls are returned within two working days. Sometimes however, staff are out of the office or on leave and a response may take longer. If your call is not returned within two working days you should contact your child’s CYPS team leader. If you do not know who your child’s team leader is, you can call the CYPS Intake Team on 6207 6956 and ask them to transfer you to the most appropriate person. It is a good idea to keep a record of your attempts to contact CYPS or ACT Together either by sending the request by email or making a note in your diary.
Q. What if I want to make a change to contact or if contact is difficult or impossible for me to attend?
A. Changes to contact arrangements can be made for a specific reason (for example, the Christmas period, birthdays or unforseen events) as long as they don’t affect the long-term frequency or duration of a court ordered contact arrangement. The best way to handle this is to phone, or even better email, your child’s case worker explaining your situation and proposing a new contact time. Your case worker will then work to accommodate the new arrangement wherever possible.
Q. What can I do to stay connected with my child if they are no longer in my care?
A. Even if your child is no longer in your care, you have a right to receive regular information about their progress and wellbeing. If your child is at school, you can ask your case worker to arrange for you to receive copies of their school reports, letters written by your child and regular photos, including school photos. CYPS and ACT Together encourage you to also send regular letters and birthday cards and gifts, and to always attend scheduled contact to maintain this important relationship despite the difficult circumstances.
Q. What if my child tells me their carer is saying or doing things that make me worried?
A. If your child tells you things about their carer that make you worried about your child’s safety or wellbeing, it is important you tell your child’s case worker exactly what has been said as soon as possible.The best way to do this is by email and to include the information in detail. If you are worried your child may be at risk of abuse or neglect, you should call make a Child Concern Report by calling 1300 556 729, using the online portal from the Community Services Directorate website or contacting the CYPS Intake Team on 6207 6956.
Q. Who can I turn to for help with my feelings of grief and loss?
A. Becoming involved with the child protection system is often experienced by parents as a stressful event. Where CYPS makes decisions about the care of your child, it is very normal and understandable for you to experience feelings which may include grief, loss, stress, anxiety, frustration, anger and depression. CYPS and ACT Together staff are always ready to refer you to support services to assist you during this difficult time. These services have experience in providing both support and practical advice if you are experiencing short or long-term separation from your child.