Seeing your children when they are in the care of Child Protection
How to find out what Communities are proposing about contact when your children go into care
Ask the Communities case worker. The case worker will try to meet with you as soon as possible after your children are taken into care to talk about many things including contact.
The report in support filed by Communities with the protection application should also set out:
- initial contact arrangements, and
- what needs to happen for contact to occur or change, such as:
- to start contact
- to increase contact
- to change to a venue outside the Department office, or
- to progress to unsupervised contact.
It is important to read the report in support or get someone to read it to you. If you don’t understand what is in the report, talk to a lawyer.
The Department has asked me to sign a contact agreement. Do I have to?
The Department usually want you to sign a contact agreement before visits with your children start. This sets out rules for the visits like not talking to your children about the case at court and not coming to visits under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs. It is important to follow all the rules you agree to in the contact agreement during your visits with your children.
There can be lots of different rules in the agreement. You should read the agreement carefully before you sign it. If you think something asked of you is unreasonable speak to the case worker. If you are still not sure about agreeing, speak to your lawyer.
What if I don’t agree with the contact arrangements proposed by Communities?
If you don’t agree with the contact arrangements proposed by Communities for seeing your children, speak to the case worker and team leader about what you think is best for your children.
If there is no change and your case is at court, speak to your lawyer. You may need to make an application to the court for interim (temporary) orders setting out the contact arrangements you think would be best for your children. Then a magistrate will decide when you can see your children.
If your case is not at court ask for a care plan review.
What does it mean that my contact must be supervised?
Contact may be supervised if the Department believes there is a safety risk to your children. Visits are often supervised, especially when children first come into care. The visit may be held at a Department office, a supervised contact centre or somewhere else agreed to by the Department.
You should ask the Department what safety risk is causing contact to be supervised. Once you know the risk you can start trying to show it isn’t a problem to work towards having unsupervised visits. The safety risk may not be from you. For example, it may be from your partner or another person if they go to visits with you and have a history of being violent or misusing drugs.
If the Department or a magistrate says that your contact must be supervised it means that someone will be with you at the visits to make sure they are safe for your children. This means that the person, often it will be a Family Resource Employee (FRE) or another Child Protection worker, will be with you and your family throughout the contact visit.
If the supervisor is a Department worker they must take notes about what they see and hear during the contact visit, including all the good things that happened plus any worries they have. These notes will go to your case worker.
Can a family member or friend supervise my contact?
Yes, the person supervising does not always have to be someone from the Department. The supervisor can be a family member or friend if the Department agrees.
If you want family members or other friends to supervise your contact rather than a Department worker, speak to these people first to check they are happy to help out. If they are, ask them to contact the Department as soon as possible to get the assessment process started.
The assessment process can take time, so it is important to get it started as soon as possible.
If family members or friends are assessed as suitable to supervise your contact you may be able to get more frequent or longer visits with your children.
If the family members or friends you put forward are not assessed as suitable to supervise your contact speak to your lawyer about what you can do. You may need to apply to the court for an interim order about this.
What if my visits are cancelled?
Sometimes visits may be cancelled at short notice because a Department worker (including a transport worker) or your child is sick, or for some other reason.
You could talk to your case worker about making up the visit at another time, or if cancellation is happening often, what can be done to have the visits occur regularly again. If the outcome of that discussion is unsatisfactory you could talk to the team leader.
If visits are not happening as usual and your case is still at court, talk to your lawyer about whether you should make an application for interim (temporary) contact orders to have more certainty about the visits.
If an interim court order about contact is not followed by the Department find out the reasons why from the case worker and talk to your lawyer as soon as you can.
If the usual contact arrangements are changed without you having a say, speak to the case worker about any problems this may be creating for you. If you are not satisfied with the outcome you can talk to the team leader about your situation.
If you are still not satisfied with the outcome get legal advice about your options.
Make the most of your visits with your children.
Be on time. Your children will be happy to see you. Visiting your children helps you stay connected with them. Listen, play, and talk with your children. Doing these things helps show Child Protection and the magistrate that you care about your children. It also helps your children know that you are okay. When you can, bring something healthy for them to eat and drink.
It is important to be careful about what you say to your children during your visits. Do not talk to your children about the court case or your conversations with Child Protection. Instead, ask your children about the good things happening in their life. Try to talk about all the things that they can look forward to. It is important to focus on them as much as you can and to talk about all the things that are going well.
Ask for help if you are finding your children hard to manage at times during the visits.
If you think it is good for your children to visit with you more, talk with your Child Protection worker and your lawyer about this. If you miss a visit with your children, make sure you get to the next one. Don’t give up.
When you can, let the worker know before the visit that you can’t make it so that they can reorganise things for your children. Remember not going to visits can let your children down and be upsetting for them.
Reviewed: 3 January 2023