Removing children and young people from their parents' care
Staff from Communities and Justice (DCJ) firmly believe that the best place for a child is in their family home. They want children to stay home whenever possible.
Most families can get help to cope with difficulties while the children remain at home. Sometimes children spend time away as part of a plan to help them and their family. They can go home when the family issues are addressed.
But there are times when DCJ or the police have to remove a child or young person from their parents or carers. This step can only be taken when:
- there are reasons to suspect that the child or young person is at immediate risk of serious harm, and
- an Apprehended Violence Order will not be sufficient to protect the child or young person from harm.
A child or young person can also be removed where it is suspected that the child or young person is in need of care and protection and:
- is, or has recently been, on premises being used for prostitution, child prostitution or pornographic purposes, or has been participating in prostitution or used for pornographic purposes, or
- in relation to a child, he or she is not subject to the supervision or control of a responsible adult, and living in or habitually frequenting a public place and is in need of care and protection.
Generally, in these circumstances a child or young person will be removed without a search warrant and DCJ will be required to make a care application in respect to that child or young person in the Children’s Court within three working days.
However, sometimes DCj or the police will obtain a search warrant to remove a child or a young person where the child or young person is at risk of serious harm.
A search warrant can also be obtained to:
- search for and remove a child from premises and present that child or young person to a medical practitioner where there has been a failure to comply with a notice requiring medical examination, or
- locate and return a person who is under the parental responsibility of the Minister who has left or been removed from the care responsibility of the Minister.
If the child or young person is at risk of serious harm, but currently safe (for example in a hospital) their care might be assumed by the Secretary without the need for them to be physically removed from where they are.
If a child or young person is removed or assumed into care without a court order, DCJ must advise the Children’s Court about the removal or assumption within three working days.
Where a child or young person is already the subject of care proceedings and cannot remain in the care of their parents or carers, an application for their removal and placement in the care of the Minister can be made even where Children’s Court proceedings are already underway.