As a family lawyer, I often speak to parents who are concerned about their child or children being harmed in the care of the other parent or persons connected to the other parent. Sometimes those parents have already made a complaint or a report to the Department of Child Safety (“the department”) expressing their concern. Often these parents report to me that no action has been taken by the department and they cannot understand why.
The Child Protection Act 1999 (Qld) (“the Act”) provides for the protection of children. The main principle for administering the Act is that the safety, wellbeing and best interests of the child, both through childhood and the rest of the child’s life, are paramount.
Section 10 of the Act defines who is a child in need of protection for the purpose of the Act. A child in need of protection is a child who:
1. Has suffered significant harm, is suffering significant harm, or is at unacceptable risk of suffering significant harm; and
2. Does not have a parent able and willing to protect the child from the harm.
Any person may make a report to the department if they reasonably suspect that a child may be in need of protection. You are able to remain anonymous. Your details are kept confidential and your identity is protected. The department will respond to the report in one of the following ways:
1. Record the report as a child concern report. A child concern report is when child protection concerns are received but do not meet the threshold to be recorded as a notification. In responding to the child concern report, the person who makes the report (called the notifier) may be provided with advice or referral to another agency for ongoing support or intervention.
2. If the report suggests that a child has been harmed or is at risk of being harmed and does not have a parent willing and able to protect the child the report will be recorded as a child protection notification.
a. If a notification is recorded the department will undertake an investigation and assessment.
If the department records the report as a child concern report, often no further action is taken by the department and the parent making the report may feel at a loss as to what to do to protect their child from the harm they believe exists in the home of the other parent.
Even if notification is recorded, sometimes as part of the investigation and assessment the department form the view that there is at least one parent who is willing and able to protect the child from harm. Often, in this case, the department will take no further action. The rationale from the department’s perspective is, that parent, who is willing and able to protect the child from harm, can take their own steps to protect the child from harm. For example, making an application to the Family Court or Federal Circuit Court for parenting orders designed at protecting the child from harm.
My recommendation, as a family and child protection lawyer, is always to seek legal advice prior to or contemporaneously with making a report to the Department of Child Safety.
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