Tips for parents in the early stages of a child protection case

If the Department of Communities (sometimes called “the Department” or “Child Protection”) has started working with your family, you might want some tips on what you can do. There are steps you can take early to work on the worries the Department may have about the safety and welfare of your children. 

Taking these steps will show the Department that you are doing all that you can to make it safe enough for your children to remain in, or be returned to, your care.

The tips here may help you whether the Department is working with you and your family to meet the needs of your children without going to court, or if the Department has applied to the Children’s Court for a protection order.

Start working on the worries now

It is good to start early and show the Department that you are making things safe for your children. You don’t have to wait for the Child Protection worker to tell you what you need to do. You must show good changes over time so you should start working on the worries as soon as you can. For example, you might call and go to a counselling course or support organisation.

You should let the Department know about any good changes you are making or have made.

Make things better faster by working with Child Protection

Working with Child Protection as soon as they are involved with you and your family will help to make things safer for your children. When you work together things usually get sorted out faster.

You may find it hard to work with the Department. This is understandable for many reasons.

Remember that you and the Department have a common goal of keeping your children safe and free from harm and risk.

You should aim to create a working relationship with the Department, co-operate, be respectful and engage. Signs of engagement might include going to meetings and participating in them, returning calls quickly, going to appointments that help you work on the worries (for example, counselling appointments), and going to all your visits with your children.

If the Department workers see that you are engaging and trying hard to address the safety worries, they will be more eager to provide you with the resources to help you to reunify with your children as soon as possible.

Keep in contact with the Department

It is important that you speak to the Department and have a say about what is going on for your children.

When the Department are involved with your family, they will need to call you to talk about your children. It is good for you to have a phone with you and to keep credit on it.

Make sure you have the Department workers’ names and contact numbers.

If you:

  • miss a telephone call you should call the Department back as soon as you can 
  • change your number, give the Department your new number so you do not miss any information about your children
  • do not have a phone, give the Department a phone number of a person who you trust to take messages for you and to pass them on.

Go to meetings and speak up

Go to meetings with the Department to talk about your children about the good things that you have been doing. The Department should hear what you think about your children’s care and your plans to make it safe for your children.

You do not have to go alone. You might need someone’s help to speak up. You can bring a person like a family member or friend who you trust to support you in the meeting.

If you cannot get to a planned meeting, you should call the Department as soon as you can to make another time. It is better to call the Department before the meeting begins so that everyone can plan another time for the meeting. You should ask for meetings at times that suit you.

Keep a record

Keep a record of everything you do to make things safer for your children. This includes all the meetings you go to with the Department and appointments with support services (for example, for counselling) and all your visits with your children.

Also keep notes about any calls or attempted calls you have made to the Department. Make a note of all the phone calls you receive from the Department. Write down the date, time, and names of the people you speak with.

You might have many calls and meetings to go to. It is good to have a written record of key conversations as this helps you and the Department clearly understand any plans made about your children.

Maybe you can keep your records on your phone or in a notepad. 

Find safe friends or family members who can help you make the changes you need to make things safe enough at home for your children

Think about who the safe people are in your life. They might be family members, friends, neighbours, or community members. These are the people who:

  • can support you to make the changes you need to get your children back in your care and close your case with the Department, and
  • may be able to support you at court or in meetings with the Department, supervise your visits with your children if supervision is needed and support you in following any rules set to make things safe for your children.

If your visits with your children are supervised, one of these safe people may be happy to supervise your visits. If so, ask the Department to talk to them as soon as possible. If they are assessed as suitable people to supervise, in some cases, this might help you have visits with your children more often and for longer periods of time at child friendly places and even at your home as you work towards getting your children back in your care.

If you are not happy with where your children are living

If your children are not living with you and you are not happy with where they are living, you might want to suggest other family members for your children to live with while you make it safe for the children to return to your care. Speak to those family members first to check they are happy to care for your children. If they can help, ask them to contact the Department as soon as possible to get the assessment process started. You should also give the Department the names and contact details of these family members.

The Department will need to contact and assess the family members you suggest. This may take weeks so you should call your family members as soon as you can.

If the family members you put forward are not assessed as suitable carers by the Department speak to your lawyer about what you can do.

Talk to a lawyer

If:

  • you are not sure what is happening
  • you don’t agree with a decision the Department has made
  • you don’t feel things are going well  
  • you have other worries about your case, or
  • if you want help to have a say at court

talk to a lawyer.

Resources

Blurred Borders Fact sheet 26 Practical tips for parents on Child Protection. This fact sheet has more tips.

Family Inclusion Network WA Inc has tip sheets on several topics such as contact and preparing for meetings.

Reviewed: 11 December 2023

 

Disclaimer

The information displayed on this page is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should see a lawyer. Legal Aid Western Australia aims to provide information that is accurate, however does not accept responsibility for any errors or omissions in the information provided on this page or incorporated into it by reference.