The new law recognises that the best outcomes for children and young people are achieved when the Department for Child Protection and other services work in partnership to support parents and families.
Family group conferences
From time-to-time, families have difficulties caring for their children and this can be for many different reasons. Family group conferencing is a way to bring family members together in a positive way with an independent facilitator to make a plan for their child or young person.
Families have found this to be a really helpful way to work out a plan that everyone has participated in and agrees to.
Before the family group conference is held, the facilitator will spend time talking with you to find out who is important in your child’s life and who should attend the conference. This could include members of your family, extended family and kin, a support person or a community elder. You may also want to invite agencies that have been working with you.
Children and young people may attend the family group conference. This will depend on their age, maturity and what needs to be discussed. They can also write down their thoughts and someone else attending the conference can read this out for them.
The new family group conference process will:
- support families to explore and understand the concern for their children
- support families to identify solutions to keep their children safe and well
- promote early intervention
- identify what supports would assist the family to keep the child or young person safe
- embed family-led decision-making processes.
Rights to be heard in court
Sometimes the Youth Court will need to make decisions about a child or young person’s care, such as where they should live. Family members, carers, and other people who are involved in a child’s life have the right to make a submission to the Youth Court on matters related to a child or young person’s safety, stability and wellbeing. The submission process can be made without the person needing to attend court in person.
If you would like to make a submission to the Youth Court regarding a child or young person, speak with the Department for Child Protection case worker representing them to help you make a submission.
Examples of submissions that can be made:
- your views about the child or young person returning home to your care
- any ongoing safety concerns or risks
- your views of the child or young person’s needs
- any concerns you have about the child or young person in relation to the court application.
If a child is at risk, the Department for Child Protection can now make someone their temporary guardian. This will usually happen in an emergency or under urgent circumstances. When this occurs, the department will try and find someone the child knows who can provide a safe and nurturing place for them to live. You may want to suggest someone who could look after your child. In circumstances where this cannot be achieved, alternative arrangements such as foster care will be identified.
Drug and alcohol assessment, testing and treatment
One of the major changes to the laws is the ability for the Department for Child Protection to direct a parent or guardian of a child or young person to undergo one or more of the following:
- drug and alcohol assessment
- random drug and alcohol testing
- drug and alcohol rehabilitation.
The Department for Child Protection will work closely with drug and alcohol clinicians from Drug and Alcohol Services SA (DASSA) to decide on the most appropriate assessment and intervention pathways.
The department is committed to using these new powers responsibly. The department will work with individuals to encourage any required assessment, test or rehabilitation to be undertaken voluntarily.
As part of the new laws, the Department for Child Protection is responsible for deciding what a child or young person’s contact with their family and community looks like. Some of these decisions were previously made by the court.
Determining contact arrangements
The Department for Child Protection will determine family contact arrangements. Before making a decision, the department will take into account the views of the child or young person, their parents and family, their carer and other relevant people involved in the child’s life.
Upon completion, you will be provided with a written letter called a ‘contact determination’. This will outline the approved contact you can have with the child. For example, the contact determination may specify:
- how often you will have contact with your child
- where contact will take place
- if any other people will be there to supervise the visits.
In some cases the Department for Child Protection may determine that, in the best interest of a child or young person, contact with certain family members should not occur.
Disputing contact arrangements
If you do not agree with decisions made about contact arrangements, you should raise these concerns directly with the child’s case worker or alternatively with the Manager of the local Department for Child Protection office.
If you are still unhappy with the arrangements, you have the right to apply to the Contact Arrangements Review Panel within 14 days of receiving your contact determination letter.
The review panel is made of people who do not have direct involvement with your case such as psychologists, health professionals and other child protection professionals to ensure an impartial review of your arrangements. An independent Aboriginal representative is also present for all reviews that involve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. Upon review of your contact determination the review panel may do one of the following:
- agree with the current contact arrangements and recommend they remain unchanged
- change some parts of current arrangements
- make a new determination and new contact arrangements.
You will be told once the panel makes a final decision. If a new determination is made, these changes will happen immediately.
Parenting capacity assessment
The new laws allow the Department for Child Protection to direct a parent or guardian of a child or young person to undergo a parenting capacity assessment without court intervention.
Being able to undertake parenting capacity assessments without a court order might mean that the Department for Child Protection has more information to make decisions about your child’s safety and needs.
Parenting capacity assessments are undertaken with several providers both internal and external to the department. Ideally, participation in parenting capacity assessments will be encouraged and undertaken voluntarily rather than ‘by direction’.