The Department for Child Protection (DCP) (formerly Families SA) is responsible for protecting vulnerable children from harm. Under section 41 of the Children and Young People (Safety) Act 2017 (SA), DCP can remove children in certain circumstances. Once a child has been removed DCP must apply to the Youth Court of South Australia for a guardianship or custody order to keep your children for a specified time period. The first order is usually for the minimum 3 months but in some cases DCP will ask for a guardianship order until your child turns 18 years old.
After children are removed they are often placed with family members such as their grandparents, aunts, uncles or family friends. Sometimes this is not possible though and children go into foster care or residential care facilities with other children who have been removed from their parents care.
In some cases, DCP will pursue reunification with the parents (usually on a six or 12 month order) and on occasion will withdraw their application entirely if there is no risk. In other cases DCP will ask the parents to enter into a safety plan so further intervention is not necessary. The Youth Court has a dedicated Reunification Court to check on the progress of reunification matters. The Youth Court can also convene a Family Group Conference to discuss your family’s case.
If DCP wishes to pursue a guardianship order and you do not agree with it, you can defend the matter in the Youth Court and some matters can end up going to trial with a Judge or Magistrate of the Youth Court deciding whether the children should be in your care or DCP’s care.
It is vital that you obtain legal advice as soon as possible if your children are removed as these matters are dealt with very quickly in court and can have life-long consequences for you and your children. Most parents are entitled to legal aid assistance for little cost (the usual cost is $50.00 if you are not working). We can also arrange fixed fee or payment plans if you are ineligible for legal aid assistance.
Please contact our office on 8470 0313 for a free appointment to discuss your case.