Tips for parents in the early stages of a child protection case
There are steps you can take soon after the Department of Communities (sometimes called “the Department” or “Child Protection”) starts working with your family to address 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 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.
Find out tips on:
- working on worries early
- working with the Department
- keeping in contact with the Department
- going to meetings and having a say
- keeping records
- finding safe people to support you
- if you are not happy with where your children are living, and
- when it might help to talk to a lawyer.
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 positive 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.
Maybe you will 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.
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 assist 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’s workers names and contact numbers.
- 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 out on 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.
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 along 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. 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 a lot of calls and meetings to attend. 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 some 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, maybe one of these safe people would 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 maybe 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 placed
If your children are not living with you and you are not happy with where they are placed, it is important that you give the Department the names and contact details of any family members who are willing to care for the children while you make it safe for the children to return to your care. Speak to them first to check they are happy to help out. If they are able to help ask them to contact the Department as soon as possible to get the assessment process started.
The Department will need to contact and assess your family members. This may take time 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 speak to your lawyer about what you can do.
Talk to a lawyer
- 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.
Blurred Borders Fact sheet 26 Practical tips for parents on Child Protection. This fact sheet has more tips.
Reviewed: 19 December 2022