Undisclosed placements - procedure

Follow this procedure when considering the need for an undisclosed placement, and for the tasks that need to be completed to arrange, and in response to, a placement being undisclosed.

Document ID number 1618, version 1, 6 March 2020.

Introduction

When a child is in care, parents are entitled to know their child’s whereabouts unless it would not be in the child’s best interests for a parent to know their child’s whereabouts.

These circumstances may include where a parent knowing the details of their child’s whereabouts may place the child, their siblings (or another parent), or their carers at risk, and steps need to be taken to mitigate this risk, consistent with the legal status of the child.

An undisclosed placement is usually made in the context of a Children’s Court order or a case planning decision dependant on the type of Children’s Court order.

Child Protection is also 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.

An undisclosed placement is different from only withholding an address in CRIS for privacy or safety reasons. An address may be withheld on CRIS by child protection to protect the address of one parent from another, for example in cases involving family violence, and to prevent address details auto-populating into court reports and other documents.

Section 265 of the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 (CYFA) provides that:

  1. A parent is entitled to be given details of the child’s whereabouts under an interim accommodation order unless the Court or bail justice making the order directs that those details be withheld from the parent.
  2. The Court or bail justice may only give a direction under section 265 subsection (1) if of the opinion that the direction is in the best interests of the child.

Procedure

Case practitioner tasks

  • Complete an assessment to support decision-making about whether it is safe or in the child’s best interest for the parent(s) to know the whereabouts of their child. Complete a new assessment if a child’s circumstances change during their time in care.

Consider the safety of the child, and those around them. It will not be in the child’s best interests to have their own safety, or the safety of their siblings, another parent, or carers, compromised.

  • Discuss your assessment and rationale with your team manager and seek their endorsement for the placement to be undisclosed.
  • Document the assessment, decision and rationale on CRIS

If the decision is made that child’s whereabouts needs to be undisclosed

For children subject to a protection application by emergency care, interim accommodation order (IAO), or family preservation order (FPO) to a specified parent

  • When a child is in emergency care prior to an IAO or FPO being made, communicate the decision and rationale as required (for example, to the child, parents, carers,) to provide the necessary protection to the child.

Emergency care: If child protection assesses that it would not be in the child's best interests 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'.

  • When seeking an IAO, recommend seeking a direction from the court that the placement be undisclosed or when seeking a FPO seek a condition to this effect.
  • If an IAO or FPO is already in place, apply to vary the IAO to seek a direction or add a condition to a FPO that the placement be undisclosed.
  • Record details of the IAO or FPO and conditions in the court screen and details of the Children’s Court or Bail Justice decision and rationale as part of the Court Activity Document.
  • If the child or parent disagrees with the order, tell them they may seek legal advice regarding appeal options.

For children subject to a family reunification order, care by Secretary order, long-term care order, therapeutic treatment (placement) order

  • When the child is subject to one of the above orders, recommend to the case planner the placement is to be undisclosed.
  • If circumstances change for the child, when subject to one of the orders above, recommend to the case planner a placement be undisclosed and the rationale for this change.
  • Discuss with the child why it is recommended the placement be undisclosed and seek their views.

Section 178 of the CYFA provides that:

  1. If a child is in out of home care because of a protection order or a therapeutic treatment (placement) order, the Secretary has a responsibility to provide information to the parents about the child, including the provision of personal information.

  2. The Secretary is not required to provide information to a parent under subsection (1) if –

    1. the child is over the age of 12 years and does not consent to the provision of information and the Secretary considers the refusal of consent reasonable; or

    2. the Secretary considers that it is not in the best interest of the child to provide the information; or

    3. the Court has made an order under section 531 dispensing with service of all documents on that parent.

For all children:

  • Discuss the reason for the placement being undisclosed with the child, their parents and carers.
  • Record on CRIS the placement is undisclosed and withhold the address in all relevant components. See the Withhold address CRIS guide.
  • Record the placement is undisclosed under ‘other significant decisions’ in the case plan.
  • Use the Children in Care portal, or My Health Record helpline (1800 723 471) to restrict the child’s My Health Record when the placement is undisclosed. See My Health Record table and My Health Record procedure for further information.
  • Inform child and parents they may request an internal review of the decision if it was a case planning decision for the placement to be undisclosed. See Internal review for further information.
  • Inform child and parents they can seek legal advice if it is a condition on a Children’s Court order for the placement to be undisclosed.

Supervisor tasks

  • Support the practitioner when considering if a placement should be undisclosed.
  • Support the practitioner to accurately record this information in the correct fields in CRIS and prevent unintended disclosure through the child’s My Health Record.

Team manager / practice leader tasks

  • Determine whether to endorse seeking a direction on an IAO from the Children’s Court or Bail Justice that an IAO be undisclosed and a condition on a FPO.
  • Determine whether to endorse a placement being undisclosed while a child is in emergency care or under a family reunification order, care by Secretary order, long-term care order and therapeutic treatment (placement) order.
  • Record the rationale for your decisions on CRIS or arrange for this task to be completed on your behalf.
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