How the child care and protection process works in Australia
Are you worried about FACS taking your children away? Knowing how the child care and protection process works in Australia, and how decisions are made, could to put your mind at ease and help you decide what to do next.
Every state and territory in Australia has its own child protection system, but they all follow the same basic process. These systems are designed to help children who may be at risk of abuse or neglect at home.
The following step-by-step guide relates to the child care and protection process in New South Wales, and how parents or guardians can seek legal aid to help bring their children home.
1. Filing a report:
Anyone who is concerned about the safety and welfare of a child may notify FACS in NSW. This may be a concerned relative or friend of the family, other members of the community such as teachers or medical professionals, or even parents and children seeking help for themselves. Some people in the community are ‘mandatory reporters.’ People such as medical professionals, teachers and some social workers are mandatory reporters. This means if they become aware of certain risks, they are required by law to make a report to FACS.
2. Screening reports
FACS receive a large number of reports every year, and not all are deemed to be as serious as others. An intake team reviews each report to decide if the situation described may indeed constitute harm to a child and if there is suitable evidence to warrant an investigation.
Reports marked for further action may be categorised in two ways:
- Family support issue: reports will be referred to support services, who will arrange a meeting with the family to discuss the concerns raised and ways to improve the situation.
- Child protection notification: children may be at risk and an investigation is required to find out more.
If there is evidence that a child may be at risk, an investigation will be launched to obtain more information required to substantiate or dismiss the claim.
Investigations are carried out by FACS case workers in the local area. However, if a report involves a criminal matter such as violence or sexual abuse, the investigation will be carried out jointly with local police.
When the investigation is completed, FACS case workers will decide whether a child is indeed at risk of harm, now or in the future, and whether intervention is needed.
If a report is substantiated, support services will decide the most appropriate action to take. This may involve:
- Family support services: referring families to voluntary services such as parenting classes or domestic violence seminars to help address the problems at home.
- Out of home care: removing children from their home and placing them in a safer environment, until the situation at home has improved.
Where to get help
If you or someone in your family is currently dealing with FACS, you have the right to legal representation in the Children’s Court.
To find out how family lawyers can help you, download our free ebook: Care and Protection: Know Your Rights and Where to Get Support.