Child protection work is guided by policy, procedure and best practice models. Courts are guided by legislation and case law.
Legal and court processes are bound by procedures which aim to ensure procedural fairness is afforded to all parties in a proceeding. Procedures are:
- defined in the Acts that govern the area of law and the operation of the court
- established in common law
- set out by the practice instructions issued by the President of the Children's Court of Victoria
- established by subordinate legislation, such as Children, Youth and Families (Children's Court Family Division) Rules 2007 and Children, Youth and Families Regulations 2007.
Primary responsibilities of the child protection practitioner in court proceedings
In court proceedings, child protection practitioners are responsible for:
- informing the child and family about the court process, including the availability of legal advice for them, before the matter proceeds to court.
- bringing applications before the court where necessary in the best interests of the child.
- ensuring they are aware of and act in accordance with the correct procedures and meet legislative requirements, including the filing and service of necessary paperwork, preparation, filing and service of court reports and coordinating witnesses to be called on behalf of the department.
- providing the department's legal representative and the court with relevant information to enable the court to make an informed decision.
- making decisions and taking actions in the child's best interests (approved and directed by supervisors and team managers), in the context of dispositions being recommended to the court and negotiations at court.
- being the primary witness in evidentiary matters.
- rural area practitioners will also assume responsibility for representing themselves in some mention hearings.
Responsibilities of supervisors and team managers
In court proceedings, supervisors and team managers will:
- provide practitioners with direction, advice, support and monitoring regarding practice and procedure.
- exercise delegations to make decisions regarding applications and dispositions.
- give evidence on case planning decisions (team managers).
Responsibilities of the divisional solicitor and the CPLO
In court proceedings, the divisional solicitor and CPLO will assume responsibility for:
- arranging legal representation for the department in the Children's Court, County Court and Supreme Court of Victoria, the Family Court of Australia, and VCAT
- providing legal advice
- providing direction and ensuring that child protection practitioners are acting within the guidelines and procedures of the court and the law.
- acting on the client's instructions (the Secretary is the client).
- ensuring the court is informed of all relevant matters that have been provided in instructions and relevant legal matters.