Protection order phase - advice

This advice provides additional information regarding the definition and purpose of the protection order phase.

Document ID number 2046, version 2, 1 March 2016.

Introduction

See procedure Protection order for tasks that must be undertaken.

The protection order phase commences when a protection order has been made in respect of a child by the Children’s Court. Either at this time or an earlier point, the Court will have found the protection application (PA) proven. This means that the child has been found to be in need of protection in accordance with the provisions of the CYFA and that the Court has determined an order is required to ensure the child’s safety and ongoing wellbeing.

Definition

The court may make any one of the following protection orders:

  • an order requiring a person to give an undertaking
  • a family preservation order
  • a family reunification order
  • a care by Secretary order
  • a long-term care order

Each of these protection orders have specific legal requirements and are to be utilised in specific circumstances.

The protection order phase can also commence upon transfer of a child and protection order from interstate and where an equivalent Victorian child protection order is made.

Purpose

The aim of the protection order phase is to:

  • reduce the level of risk to the child
  • promote the safety, wellbeing and positive development of the child
  • empower the family to function independently of statutory child protection intervention
  • achieve permanency for the child
  • prepare for the cessation of child protection involvement when the order expires
  • where permanency objective is reunification, provide stable care for the child until the objective is achieved or changes
  • where permanency objective is adoption, refer to the adoption program and provide stable care and case management as required until objective is achieved
  • where permanency objective is permanent or long term out-of-home care, arrange enduring home based care, or
  • support a child in residential care whilst continuing to work towards arranging home based care wherever possible, or
  • prepare the young person for independent living where the case plan is not for reunification with family.

The role of the practitioner

During this phase, the role of the child protection practitioner is similar to that in other phases. Wherever possible, the practitioner works to establish a partnership with the family, carers and other agencies and professionals. The primary role of the child protection practitioner during this phase is to continue to engage with the child and family to address the protective concerns.  The practitioner must ensure the case plan, the permanency objective and the order align and that any changes in the circumstances of the child or their family are reflected in an updated case plan.  The child protection practitioner is accountable to the Court for the management of the court order. Within this role, the child protection practitioner has several key responsibilities and functions.

The child protection practitioner's responsibility is the ongoing assessment of risk and providing for the safety, wellbeing and positive development of the child. It is important that the child protection practitioner continues to assess the safety and wellbeing of the child during the protection order phase and engages in vigilant monitoring and case practice. The overall guiding principle is for the child protection practitioner to promote the child's best interests (s. 10, CYFA).

Additionally, the child protection practitioner may be required to investigate new allegations of abuse of children subject to a protection order or allegations of abuse in care. See procedure Quality of care concerns for tasks that must be undertaken.

Case planning

Section 168 of the CYFA requires child protection to prepare a case plan when the protective concerns have been substantiated. The court report prepared to support the protection application must include a case plan.  If the order made by the Court aligns with the case plan and permanency objective, there will be no need to review the case plan once the order is granted.  However, if circumstances change or an order is made which does not align with the existing case plan, a new version of the case plan will be required.

The case plan contains all significant decisions for a child that relate to their present and future care and wellbeing, including decisions about permanency, placement and contact. For an Aboriginal child it addresses the child’s cultural support needs and case planning decisions reflect and are consistent with those cultural support needs.

The child's safety and development are central to all decision making and planning. The purpose of the accompanying actions table for the case plan is to identify the goals, tasks and timelines required to address the protective concerns and implement the case plan.  

For a child who is placed in out-of-home care, the case plan should be complemented by a care and placement plan which details the child’s needs and describes how these will be met while the child is in out-of-home care. See service description Looking After Children.

Legal considerations

During a protection order, the child protection practitioner may receive information that escalates the level of risk to the child. Alternatively, the parents may not be achieving the goals outlined in the actions table to address the identified protective concerns. In these situations, the practitioner needs to consider the possibility of serving a notice of direction, breaching, varying, revoking or extending or applying for a different protection order, as required and provided for by the legislation. This needs to occur in consultation with the team manager and where practicable with the Child Protection Litigation Office (CPLO) solicitor or rural legal representative.

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