If your child or a child in your family has been taken into care by Territory Families (known as TF), or if you get any papers from TF, it is important that you talk to a lawyer straight away. Call us on 1800 684 055 to make an appointment to see a lawyer. We can also talk with you over the phone if you can’t come into our office – and will refer you to other lawyers if we can’t help.
What is child protection law? How does it work?
The Northern Territory has laws to make sure children are protected, healthy and kept safe from harm. Territory Families (TF) is responsible for making sure children are safe and healthy.
The Northern Territory has ‘mandatory reporting’. This means that any adult must tell TF or the police if they think that a child is being treated badly, or has been treated badly in the past. This includes physical and emotional abuse, sexual abuse and neglect.
When TF or the police get a report about a child being treated badly, TF has to assess the report. Sometimes TF will decide that everything is ok. Other times TF might talk to the parents and family to find out ways to help them care for the child and keep the child safe.
If TF are really worried about the child, and think that it is not safe for the child to stay where they are living, TF will remove the child and take them into care. If TF think that it is urgent, then they can remove the child immediately for up to 72 hours so TF can investigate what’s going on. TF might then remove the child for another 14 days.
After this, TF might ask the court to allow them to remove the child for longer – it could be a couple of months or a year or sometimes longer. If it is very serious this might be till the child is 18 years old. When TF want to keep a child for any time that is longer than 72 hours, they have to ask the court for permission.
Agreements with TF
TF workers will sometimes ask parents and family to agree to the children going into care for up to 2 months. This is called a Temporary Placement Agreement. This might be so the parents can have time without the children to sort out problems that are going on, or to help a sick child get well. TF workers may also talk to parents and family about going to a Mediation Conference. This is a meeting between TF and the parents and family of the child, to talk about any worries that TF has about the child, and how the parents and family can work with TF to fix the worries.
Sometimes, TF will talk to parents and family of children that are in care about a Safety Plan. This plan will talk about their worries and who will make sure the children are safe and healthy.
If TF ask you to sign an agreement about your children, or attend a conference, it is a good idea to talk to a lawyer first. You can talk to a lawyer by calling 1800 684 055.
If TF ask the Court for an order about your children, it’s important that you talk to a lawyer straight away – call us on 1800 684 055 or come in and see us as soon as you can. TF should give you a copy of the application that shows the day that you should be in Court.
TF have to prove to the Court that your children are in need of care, and need to show the Court a plan for how your children are going to be looked after while in care, and how they will have contact with you.
A lawyer can help you to talk to TF about this plan, and to help make an agreement with TF about seeing your children while they are in care.
If you don’t go to Court on the day that’s on the application, the Judge might make an order for your children to be in care even if you’re not there. It’s good to try to talk to a lawyer before that court day, but it doesn’t matter if you didn’t – it’s never too late to talk to a lawyer and ask them to help.
How can CAWLS help?
We can give advice about how Child Protection law works, and explain what is happening with your matter. We can also help by talking with TF and giving TF your side of the story. We can also support you at any meetings that you have with TF. Remember you have the right to have a lawyer present at any meeting that you have, if you want a lawyer to support you.
You don’t have to wait until a matter is in court to talk to a lawyer. Come and see us as soon as you get papers from TF, or at any time you are worried about what is happening. It’s often better to talk to us earlier, then we can sometimes help sort things out before Court.
If your matter does go to Court, we can represent you at Court and make sure you can have a say about what happens with your children.
Call us on 1800 684 055 to make an appointment to talk to a lawyer.