In NSW, child protection laws allow the Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) to become involved with families to protect children and young people from harm. A child’s surroundings, environment and family directly impact the way a child is able to grow and develop. Child protection laws allow DCJ to ensure that children and young people are not at risk of harm, and are able to grow and develop to the best of their ability.
DCJ may become involved in your family when a report is made to a child protection hotline that a child or young person is at risk of harm. DCJ can investigate any report made to the child protection hotline. In investigating the report DCJ may attend your home, speak to your children at school or day-care or hospital if they are in hospital, obtain records from Police, health and education departments and speak to other people involved with the children such as teachers and counsellors.
Factors affecting children and families which could lead to DCJ becoming involved may include but are not be limited to:
o Family violence
o Sexual or physical abuse
o Financial hardship and poverty
o Mental health
o Illicit drug use or alcoholism
Children and families suffering from any of the above may become involved with DCJ. If a report is made to a child protection hotline that a child or family is experiencing any of the above listed factors, DCJ will make decisions on how to assess or investigate the report.
If a child protection caseworker visits your home or contacts you about your child or a child living in your household, it is likely that this is because a report has been made to a child protection hotline that the child is at risk of harm. If a caseworker visits your home it may be because it has been determined that there is a level of harm to the child in your household.
If a caseworker discusses with you the factors affecting the safety and wellbeing of a child in a household, you should take this information seriously and action any recommendations that the caseworker may advise to immediately address the risk issue. If you are unable or unwilling to address the factors causing the child to be at risk it is possible that DCJ could remove the child or children from your care.
If you are contacted by a DCJ caseworker, you should not panic or act defensively, though this is sometimes easier said than done when it is your children who are involved. You should immediately contact a lawyer for legal advice following the caseworker’s contact with you. Many people who are involved with DCJ leave it too late to obtain legal advice and don’t consult with a solicitor until after the children have been removed. This is not the best course of action because if parents obtained legal advice when DCJ first contacted them, the child or children may not have been removed as the lawyer could have given the parents advice about how to best handle the situation.
If DCJ has recently become involved with your family you should seek legal advice as a matter of priority. Make an appointment with our family law solicitors today to discuss your matter with DCJ by calling (02) 4050 0330 or book an appointment online.