information about the Family Inclusion Network (FIN)
FIN began in Townsville in Queensland (FINTV) and now has a presence in Western Australia (FINWA), South Australia (FINSA), Tasmania (FINTAS), Victoria (FINVIC), Australian Capital Territory (FINACT) and New South Wales (FIN-NSW). The national body is FINAustralia (FINA). The intention is for all states and territories to have an active FIN branch.
FIN-NSW is not connected in any way to the NSW Department of Family and Community Services, Community Services division.
The new amendments to the NSW Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection ) Act 1998 came into effect late in October.
Intoduced into the Act is a new Parenting Capacity Order that can be made by the Children's Court.
If the Deparment indicates in writing, which they must do, that they are seeking a Parenting Capacity Order you should seek legal advice before the matter goes to Court.
A Parenting Capacity Order is in addition to a Parent Responsibility Contract. A Parent Responsibilty Contract is simply a contract between a parent and the Department. It is not an order of the Court although it is registered with the Court and evidence of a breach of a contract can be used at a later date in a care application to the Court.
Other changes to the Act relate to the introduction of Guardianship Orders and under section 10(3) a new codification of the permanent placement principles which makes restoration of a child to family the first priority, The next two principles are guardianship by family or kin and then adoption (see below). The last option is parental responsibility to the Minister.
It is too early to say what impact these changes will have on Departmental practice.
Important - Adoption from care
The Child Protection Legislation Amendment Bill 2014 was recently passed by both houses of Parliament without amendments. It will become law once the Governor-General signs and the Act is proclaimed. These amendments will make it easier for children to be adopted from care possibly against the wishes of parents. The changes are as below.
Section 10A (3) (c) now reads,
if it is not practicable or in the interests of a child or young person to be placed in accordance with paragraph (a) or (b), the next preference is (except in the case of an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child or young person) for the child to be adopted.
Section 10A (a) (b) and (d) relate to the placement priority, which are (a) restoration to parents or placement with kin, (b) permanent guardianship, (d) departmental foster care.
Adoption now has priority over departmental foster care which where ever possible will now be short-term.
Section 84 (5) now read,
The Children's Court is to decide whether to accept the Director-General's assessment of whether or not there is a realistic possibility of restoration:
(a) in the case of a child who is less than 2 years of age on the date the Children"s Court makes an interim order allocating parental responsibility for the child or young person to a person other than a parent - within 6 months after the Children's Court makes the interim order, and
Section 84 (5) (b) now reads,
(b) in the case of a child or young person who is 2 or more years of age on the date the Children's Court makes an interim order allocating parental responsibility for a child or young person to a person other than a parent - within 12 months after a Children's Court makes the interim order.
In effect, this means that if child under 2 years of age is removed from parental care and not restored after 6 months the child may be made available for adoption.The time line for a child over the age of 2 years is 12 months.
FaCS are already writing the adoption option into care plans. The likely-hood is that if a child has been in the same foster care placement for 2 years then the foster carers will be 'invited' to adopt the child.
In the recent Cabinet reshuffle Pru Goward who was the Minister for Family and Community Services was moved from that position and is now Minister for Planning and the Environment.
Gabrielle Upton who was the Minister for Sport and Recreation is the new Minister for Family and Community Services. She is the parliamentary member for Vacluse.
See revised advice leaflet number 10 with names of solicitors and barristers who do not act for Community Services.
If you ring our advice line telephone number (0405 019 450 (M) (see services) and the call is not answered please leave a name and contact number and we will return your call.
The advice line operates 9 am to 5 pm Monday to Friday only. It does not operate on public holidays.
Revised 4 November 2014.
The aim of FIN-NSW is to give parent and families of 'children in care' a voice. These parents should not be characterized as 'dead beat parents' as many are not. Birth parents and families have a useful ongoing contribution to make to the lives of their children and to the debate about how to protect children's well-being. FIN promotes best practice in child protection and works from the belief that birth families are important to children's well-being. In keeping with this view FIN aims to promote family inclusive child protection practice.
research request from Christine Marsh, PhD student, University of Canberra
Have you had a baby removed from your care at birth by NSW Department of Family and Community Services?
Can you spare a small amount of time to participate in important research that can help women who have been in a similar situation to you?
I'm looking for women/mothers to share their experience and involvement in the process of the non-voluntary removal of a baby from its mother at the time of birth, also known as Assumption of Care (AOC).
This is a very difficult situation that impacts significantly on all people involved in the process. Currently there is no research on how taking a baby away from a mother at birth (known as Assumption of Care) affects the mother of the baby. To be able to improve this I would like to hear about your own experience, what was good and what was bad about it.
Your identity will be protected and what you tell me will be confidentially recorded by me in a personal interview. I will also be interviewing midwives, doctors, social workers and case managers.
If you would like to tell me about your experience please contact me on my mobile 0417 713 974 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org I will then contact you and provide more information.
an ethical code of practice
The FIN-NSW ethical code of practice for child protection aims at transparency in child protection cases. The code of practice protects child protection caseworkers from allegations of unfairness and deception, stops parents from being able to claim that they were not properly informed about the stages in the child protection process and 'the best interests of the child' for whom socially just practice, if they are removed from parental care is vital, are safeguarded by this code.
A child protection code of ethical practice
This code of ethical practice observes the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The singular term 'child' is used throughout the code of ethics. It can refer to more than one child.
The paramount concern at all times is to protect and respect vulnerable people with due regard to cultural practices and sensitivity.
1. A child protection caseworker will at all times respect the rights and dignity of parents.
2. This respect will be maintained by the child protection caseworker regardless of any suspicion or reports they have that suggest that the parents have abused or neglected their child.
3. In the course of an investigation a child protection caseworker will never address a parent dismissively or sarcastically.
4. A child protection caseworker will not raise their voice to a parent or threaten a parent emotionally or physically in any way that might frighten or humiliate them.
5. A child protection caseworker who intends to meet with another agency (i.e. pre-natal clinic) about the need for a child to be removed from parental care must inform, and invite the parent to all such meetings. There will be no secret meetings.
6. Should an inter-agency meeting decide that a child should be removed at birth from a mother and that an 'alert' notice to this effect should be placed on the mother's medical file then the child protection caseworker must inform the mother about this action. At the same time the child protection caseworker must tell the mother that she has a right to inspect her medical file.
Note: An 'alert' notice is a notice that tells medical staff that they must inform the child protection authority once a mother gives birth. This then enables a child protection caseworker to attend the medical centre and remove the child from a mother's care.
7. If an 'alert' notice is placed on a mother's medical file hospital staff must be free to discuss this matter with the unborn child's parents.
8. At the first contact with parents a child protection caseworker will inform the parents of their right to legal representation.
9. The child protection caseworker will provide parents with a written statement as to their legal rights.
10. Prior to questioning parents a child protection caseworker must inform parents of their right to have a support person with them throughout the investigative process.
11. Until the issue of legal representation and the presence of a support person have been resolved the child protection caseworker will not proceed with the investigation.
12. . Should the issue of legal representation and support for parents remain unresolved after 'in good faith' negotiations the child protection caseworker may exercise the power given to them by legislation and proceed with the investigation albeit in the presence of a support person.
13. A child protection caseworker will not take photographs of a parents' dwelling unless they have specific permission from the parents and the parents legal representative.
14. Should the issue of legal representation and support for parents in regard to photographing a parents' dwelling remain unresolved after 'in good faith' negotiations then the child protection caseworker may exercise the power given to them by legislation and proceed with the photographing of the dwelling albeit in the presence of a support person.
15. The child protection caseworker will within 24 hours provide parents with a copy of any photographs they have taken,
16. In order to ensure transparency in the child protection process a child protection worker will provide parents with a copy of any notes she/he made, and those of an accompanying worker, within 36 hours of the investigation being undertaken.
Parent-child contact visits
17. If a child is removed from parental care the child protection caseworker will immediately tell the parents when and where they can next have contact with their child and for how long. This information must be provided in written form.
18. When supervising a contact visit between a child and his/her parents a child protection caseworker will make certain that the place where the contact is to occur will be a comfortable child and family friendly setting.
19. A child protection caseworker will not threaten a parent with termination of contact with their child before a meeting has been called to resolve any contact visit issues that are causing concerns about the continuation of contact. The parent will be entitled to have a legal representative and a support person at any such meeting.
Restoration or reunification
20. Within 48 hours of the removal of a child from parental care, and before any court action has been initiated, the child protection caseworker will provide the parents with a detailed list of the issues that caused the child to be removed and indicate in detail what actions the parents must take for restoration of their child to their care to be a realistic possibility.
21. Once the child protection caseworker has provided a list of the required actions no variation or additions to the list of actions will be made by the caseworker, or any other person.
22. If a baby or very young child is removed from parental care and an order is sought that gives the Minister parental responsibility for the child until the age of 18 years, the FaCS (formerly DoCS) adoption option must be openly discussed with the parents before a Care Plan is filed in the Children's Court
A child protection caseworker, like an expert witness, has an overriding duty to assist the Court impartially on matters relevant to the case that is being heard.
23. A child protection caseworker will never submit to the Children's Court papers that contain rumour or innuendo about a child parents. Only substantiated facts are to be presented in Court.
24. When submitting material to the Children's Court a child protection caseworker will make certain that the material is verifiable and is neither inaccurate nor misleading.
25. A child protection caseworker will not make a statement in materials submitted to the Children's Court about the parents medical condition unless they have evidence from an accredited medical expert that confirm this condition.
26. A child protection caseworker will not make statements in material submitted to the Children's Court about the parents psychological state unless they have evidence from an accredited psychological expert that this is an issue.
27. Throughout the child protection process and after final orders have been made a child protection caseworker will remain courteous and respond in reasonable time to a parents telephone calls and other enquirles about their child.
The rights of parents affected by the child welfare system
In some jurisdictions the rights of parents are being codified. This is not so in Australia. This code from the US is offered to encourage thinking about parental rights.
1. I have the right to not to lose my child because I am poor.
2. I have the right to services that will support me to raise my child at home.
3. i have the right to speak for myself and be heard at every step of the child protective services process.
4. I have the right to be informed of my rights.
5. I have the right to a meaningful and fair hearing before my parental rights are limited in any way.
6. I have the right to quality legal representation.
7. I have the right to support from someone who has been in my shoes.
8. I have the right to have my child quickly placed with someone I trust.
9. i have the right to frequent, meaningful contact with my child.
10. I have the right to make decisions about my child's life in care.
11. I have the right to privacy.
12. I have the right to fair treatment regardless of my race, culture, gender or religion.
13. I have the right to services that will support me to reunifying me with my child.
14. I have the right to offer my child a lifelong relationship.
15. I have the right to meaningful participation in developing the child welfare policies and practices that affect my family and community.
From Tobis D. (2013). From pariahs to partners. New York: Oxford University Press. p 146-147.