Part of conducting a comprehensive investigation and assessment of a protective intervention report includes the verification of information provided by the parents. This incorporates the verification and clarification of alleged legal orders, particularly when they affect case practice.
Child protection risk assessment and decision-making may be informed by orders made by courts other than the Children's Court, such as, parenting orders made by family law courts, intervention orders made by the Magistrates' Court, or bail or parole orders made by the Magistrates' or County Courts. It is therefore important for child protection practitioners to verify the existence and details of any orders made by other courts that may affect the care of a child.
Purpose of verifying and clarifying court orders
Where a significant child protection decision is based on a finding made by an external body such as a court, or on an order allegedly made by a court, it is imperative that all reasonable steps are taken to verify the details of the finding or order.
The purpose of verifying the existence and content of an order is to determine the significance of the order and any conditions attached to it to inform child protection risk assessment, decision making and planning.
The information that a child protection practitioner is able to obtain from a finding or order may be critical in assessing the risk to, and safety of, a child. For example, if a Family Court order stipulates that the child return to the care of, or have contact with, an alleged perpetrator, and the child's safety cannot be ensured, consideration may need to be given to initiating an application in the Children's Court, or intervening in the Family Court proceeding. Therefore, child protection practitioners should take reasonable action to verify information and alleged court orders, particularly when risk assessments, case practice decisions and recommendations to court are based on this information.
Implications of not verifying court orders
Failure to verify the existence and details of findings or orders made by a court or other authority, may lead to conclusions and decisions that are not in the child's best interests.
Where child protection relies on, or refers in court reports to, the existence of findings or orders made by a court or other body, the findings or orders must be directly confirmed and verified by the child protection practitioner. For example, if a decision to close a case is based on a parent's assertion that an intervention order has been issued, the existence of this order must be verified by the practitioner directly with the registry of the court that made the order. Where such information has not been independently verified, it should not be relied upon and any reference to it must make its unconfirmed status clear.