At Nicholes Family Lawyers we possess experienced advocates who provide guidance and representation in relation to:
- Initial investigations and contact with Child Protection workers
- Protection applications including the removal of children
- Your rights in relation to case plan appeals
- Family Court proceedings
- Child Protection matter involving Koori families
- Variations, extensions, and revocations of Children’s Court Orders
Child protection matters are typically dealt with by engaging the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). As of 1 February 2021, the DHHS will be separated into two new departments: the Department of Health (DH) and the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (DFFH).
The Department of Health (DH) has been established to advance the government’s policy priorities in improving patient outcomes, and is responsible for the Health and Ambulance Services, Mental Health and Ageing portfolios. The DH will also lead the government’s public health response and recovery of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (DFFH) will include the previous DHHS portfolios of Child Protection, Prevention of Family Violence, Housing and Disability. This new department will also be responsible for the key policy areas of Multicultural Affairs, LGBTQI+ Equality, Veterans, and the offices for Women and Youth.
While there has been a structural change to the Department in the above way, the procedure for dealing with Child Protection matters remains unaffected.
Reports to Child Protection
Child Protection staff within the DFFH operate under a different jurisdiction to the Family Court and are guided by the Children, Youth and Families Act. Being notified that your child is subject to a report or investigation can be a difficult and confronting experience for any family.
Many professionals are legally compelled to make a report to Child Protection if they form a belief on reasonable grounds that a child is in need of protection from physical injury or sexual abuse. Reports are undisclosed and are made to their Intake Hotline. Once a report is made, it does not necessarily mean that the case will progress to Court. Removal of a child should always be the last resort, and Child Protection should work with families to avoid this as much as possible.
Children’s Court Matters
The following orders can be made by the Children’s Court for the protection and permanent care of children: temporary assessment orders, interim accommodation orders, protection orders and permanent care orders.
It can often be difficult for a family to know their rights in these situations or to navigate the Children’s Court process. We understand the urgency of Children’s Court matters and seek to resolve child protection issues as quickly and efficiently as possible, and to help make decisions in the best interests of the child and the family. It is important to seek legal representation as soon as possible, as Protection Applications by Emergency Care are able to be heard within 24 hours.
Grandparents and non-parents
We understand that grandparents, other relatives and third parties are often involved in disputes over the primary care and placement of children removed from their parent’s care. We can provide detailed advice to grandparents and non-parents involved in Children’s Court proceedings or who may be uncertain of their rights when dealing with the DFFH. Whether this support is representation in Children’s Court proceedings or an explanation of the relevant orders and Court process we can cater our services to you.
Nicholes Family Lawyers are ready to assist in child protection and Children’s Court matters, including former Senior Child Protection Practitioner at the former Department of Health and Human services, Alastair Noakes.
For those involved in community organisations it can be different to navigate the competing responsibilities owed to child or adult members, against the obligations or requests from the Department. We can assist Community Organisations to understand their obligations regarding children who may be at risk, or involved in Children’s Court proceedings.
This can include providing advice as to whether a report may be needed and how to go about doing this, how to respond to requests for information from the DFFH, or assistance with drafting relevant policy.
If you or someone you know needs support or counselling we recommend the following services:
Child Wise National Child Abuse Hotline: 1800 99 10 99
Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800
The Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention and Legal Service Victoria: 1800 105 303
Salvos Care Line: 1300 36 36 22
Opening Doors: 1800 825 955
If you believe that a child is in immediate danger call police on 000