In cases of serious abuse or neglect it may not be possible for children to return to their parents. In these situations the Department for Child Protection will apply to the Youth Court for an order to place a child in care.
The Children’s Protection Act 1993 sets out the types of orders the Youth Court can make for children and young people.
The department must have sufficient evidence to satisfy the Youth Court that this is in the best interests of the child.
Although the department may remove a child from their parent or guardians in dangerous situations, it is the Youth Court judge who makes the final decision for the removal to be longer term.
Investigation and assessment orders are most often used when parents are unwilling to work cooperatively or when the concerns raised are so serious that only a court order can ensure their child’s safety during an investigation.
The department will seek an IA order to:
- investigate the allegations of abuse or neglect
- review the family’s circumstances
- ensure the child is safe.
If after the investigation and assessment period the child still cannot return home, the department may then apply for a care and protection order.
In situations where the department believes reunification cannot be achieved within a 12 month period, they may apply for a care and protection order to 18.
- 12 month custody or guardianship orders
- supervision orders
- guardianship until 18 years
In certain circumstances, another person can become the child’s guardian instead of the minister.
Parents usually have the right to be informed about where their child is placed and how they are being cared for.
The only time this won’t happen is if it is not in the best interests of the child to do so. If this is the case, parents will be told and able to discuss the decision with the child’s social worker.
Although parents may no longer be the primary decision-makers for their child, they are encouraged to work in partnership with the department and the child’s carers to maintain a relationship with the child.