Undisclosed placements - advice

This advice provides additional information regarding decisions about and managing undisclosed placements.

Document ID number 2420, version 1, 6 March 2020.

Introduction

Where a parent is not to be informed of their child’s whereabouts, the child’s care arrangement is described as an undisclosed placement.

The Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 (CYFA) and departmental policy establishes that generally, parents are to be provided with information about their child when their child is in care. This includes information on where the child is residing.

Only in specific circumstances, the most common example being where a parent knowing a child’s whereabouts would pose a safety risk to the child, can details of the child’s whereabouts be withheld from their parents.

See procedure Undisclosed placements – procedure for tasks that must be undertaken.

Emergency care

If child protection assesses that it would not be in the best interests or safety of a child taken into emergency care to inform the child’s parent of the whereabouts of the child’s emergency care placement, child protection may place the child in an undisclosed placement until the emergency care application is brought before the Court (or bail justice if a bail justice hearing is required for other reasons). Refer to ‘Bail justice hearing guide – advice’.

Interim accommodation and family preservation orders

When a child is subject to an interim accommodation order (IAO) placing them with a specified parent or in care (any placement type), or to a family preservation order to a specified parent, child protection may apply to the Court (or bail justice if a bail justice hearing is required for other reasons) seeking a direction for the placement to be undisclosed (on an IAO) or seek a condition that a placement be undisclosed to the parent with whom a child does not reside (on a FPO). This is the expected course of action where Child Protection believes this would be in the child’s best interests for their placement to be undisclosed.

Parents have a legal right to know the whereabouts of their child under an IAO (s. 265 CYFA) unless the Court or a bail justice directs the details be withheld from the parent.

A family preservation order does not affect a person’s parental responsibility for a child and provides for the child to be placed with one or both parents. It gives Child Protection responsibility for the supervision of the child to support and assist the family maintain the child safely at home.

Under an IAO or a family preservation order, child protection cannot determine that a placement is to be undisclosed and cannot withhold information regarding the whereabouts of a child from a parent without a direction by the Court or condition on a court order.

Other orders where children are in care

For all other orders which place a child in care (family reunification order, care by Secretary order, long-term care order and therapeutic treatment (placement) order) a decision for the placement to be undisclosed can be made by the child protection case planner (team manager and above).

Child Protection is not required to provide information about the child to their parents where: a child under a protection or therapeutic treatment placement order is over 12 years of age and reasonably refuses consent; or the court has dispensed with service of documents to a parent.

Role of agencies

Community Service Organisations (CSOs), Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCOs) (unless authorised under s 18) and Placement and Co-ordination Unit (PCU) do not have the authority to determine a placement is undisclosed and should not record this on CRIS or CRISSP without child protection endorsement.

If a CSO, ACCO or PCU considers a placement should be undisclosed, either when a child first enters care, or if there is a change in circumstances later, they should articulate their concern to the allocated child protection practitioner and team manager, or contracted case management team.

It is then the responsibility of child protection to assess the information, determine whether the placement should be undisclosed, and act if required. See undisclosed placements – procedure.

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