Child Abuse Intervention
Each State of Australia has laws that deal with child abuse and a Government Department responsible for administering it. In Queensland this is the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Care (DOCS).
Some child abuse cases do not come into the Family Court, and are addressed by the Department in the Children’s Court.
The processes are complex and each case requires specific legal advice. The purpose of this article is to provide a brief overview.
What happens in Queensland?
DOCS is empowered to intervene where a child is at risk of being harmed.
The purpose of the law is to provide for the protection of children and to return a child to their family (wherever possible).
What does ‘harm’ mean?
Harm includes any detrimental effect of a significant nature on the child’s:
- psychological; or
- emotional well-being.
Harm can be caused by abuse, neglect, exploitation or sexual abuse. A child needs protection where the child:
- is exposed to an unacceptable risk of suffering harm
- does not have a parent able and willing to protect the child from harm.
What steps can DOCS take?
Every day, the department receives a large number of child protection concerns from a range of sources, including service providers, relatives, family, friends and those mandated to notify, including doctors and nurses, and counsellors.
The Department can respond in 3 ways:
- Intake Enquiry
- Child Concern Report – Where the alleged harm is not serious enough for the Department to conduct an investigation.
- Notification – Where the Department reasonably suspects that a child is in need of protection. The Department can investigate and make an assessment that a Notification is required. Notifications are made via a Form 4 ‘Notice of Abuse’.
DOCS Action under a Notification:
The Department can intervene on an on-going basis to meet protective and care needs and toreduce the likelihood of future harm. This can be offered through a Support Service Case,Intervention with Parental Agreement or Child Protection Orders.
Departmental involvement requires that it must have a case plan in place. The Plan is goal directed and must clearly identify outcomes, key actions and progress measurements. A final child protection order cannot be granted by the Children’s Court unless the Plan has been prepared for a child.
An Initial Plan is developed at a Family Group Meeting which is an ‘inclusive and participative’process which includes the child, their family and other significant people (which can include the school, and foster parents).
If you have questions or require assistance in relation to a child abuse matter, contact us or phone 3221 4300 for a fixed cost initial appointment.