A child who is in out of home care may have contact with their parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, as well as other people important to their family, community or culture, such as elders, family friends and neighbours.
Contact may include:
- telephone calls
- SMS messages
- making audiotapes or
- skype / video conferencing
Contact may be:
- supervised by Child Safety
- supervised by another particular person, or ‘a person approved by Child Safety Services’
Contact between the child and family is required to be supervised when:
- there are legitimate safety or abduction concerns for the child
- Child Safety Services need to observe the contact to make assessments about safety and parenting ability
- a qualified professional recommends that contact be supervised because it is in the child’s interests
- the Child Safety Officer or another worker is working is a therapeutic capacity with the child and the family, such as training in parenting skills or managing the child’s behaviour.
Contact arrangements are important to the progress of your case because:
- Contact is important to your relationship with your child
- Often a case may progress towards reunification (the child returning to your care) by regular increases in contact. No increases in contact might mean that your case does not progress.
- Details of contact are often recorded by Child Safety Services. If you are regularly attending and having appropriate contacts with your child, then it will greatly support your case. If your contacts are not going well, or you are missing them, then this information may be given to the Magistrate and used in consideration of your child protection case.
If Child Safety Services is working with you towards reunification with your child, then contact arrangements should be reviewed every 4-6 weeks. This may be an internal review between the staff members, but you can request that you be included in that meeting, or have your lawyer included.
If contact is going well, then it may be changed:
- in quantity, such as for another contact each week
- in length, such as to overnights or weekends, or
- it may require less supervision or no supervision.
You can also improve the quality of the contact by changing the location, such as by making it in the home, or at a park rather than in Child Safety Offices, or the activities, such as going to the mall together.
If you are not satisfied that you are having enough contact and your child protection matter is before the Childrens Court, you can ask the Magistrate to make an order about contact when the matter is adjourned. Be prepared to describe the details of the contact that you have, and the reasons why you believe that it is in the child’s best interests to have more contact.
Getting a decision in writing
When Child Safety Services make a decision about contact or placements, it should be provided to you in writing and they should provide reasons for the decision.
If a decision has not been provided to you in writing, then you can request it.