Follow this procedure to prepare for and complete the process of directing a parent to resume full parental responsibility during a family reunification or care by Secretary order to reunify a child in care by an administrative change to the nature of the order. Note: Do not follow this procedure where there is, or will soon be, an application before the Children’s Court in relation to the child.

Document ID number 1040, version 2, 11 November 2020.

Introduction

Under a family reunification order (s. 288A) or care by Secretary order (s. 289A), a direction may be given by Child Protection to a parent or parents to resume full parental responsibility for their child.

The Court, child and parents are provided with a copy of the direction and, from the date of the direction, the family reunification or care by Secretary order is taken to be a family preservation order. The family preservation order then continues for the duration of the pre-existing order.

Changing the nature of the order in this way is only appropriate where:

Assessing the safety of, and preparing for, reunification will typically include gradually increasing periods of unsupervised and overnight contact with the parent or parents intended to resume parental responsibility for the child.

Once changing the nature of the order is determined to be appropriate, the parents, the child, and the carers are to be formally advised. This must occur at least six weeks before the intended date of the direction to allow time for a request for an internal review of the decision should any of the parties disagree.

As successful reunification seems increasingly likely, return to placement may no longer be pre-arranged. A direction to resume parental responsibility should be issued no later than six weeks after a parent is allowed by Child Protection to have care of their child (if not, an appropriate application should be made to Court instead, seeking a disposition of a family preservation order – see Variations and revocations).

From the date of a direction to resume parental responsibility, the order becomes a family preservation order without returning to Court for the remaining duration of the original order.

This administrative process changes nature of the order from the date of the direction. The Court, child and parents are provided with a copy of the direction.

Where conditions need to be included, an application to Court should be made for that purpose only. The Court may determine that the order is to include conditions without requiring parties to attend or be represented.

A direction to resume parental responsibility can only be given where the case is not before the Court because, where there is an application on foot, the Court’s jurisdiction takes precedence and it would be inappropriate to resolve matters by the department exercising this administrative power.

This type of direction cannot be undone. An application to court in relation to the family preservation order resulting from the direction is required, such as an application to breach or revoke the order.

Procedure

Case practitioner tasks

  • Prepare the child, parents and carers in the course of your case practice for returning the child to parental care, monitoring closely, and assessing progress towards safe reunification.

This will typically include gradually increasing periods of unsupervised and overnight contact with the parent or parents intended to resume parental responsibility for the child.

  • When you have assessed that it is safe for a child to be reunified with their parent or parents, work with the family to prepare a revised case plan with a permanency objective of family preservation, including the intended date for changing the nature of the order by issuing the direction to resume parental responsibility (the direction). Submit for endorsement.
  • Provide a copy of the new endorsed case plan to the child and parents, along with the requisite information regarding internal reviews, within 14 days of its preparation and at least six weeks before the intended date for changing the nature of the order.
  • Inform the carers.

This time period enables children, parents and carers to request a review of the decision under section 331 of the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005.

  • If a request for review is made by any party, without disrupting the care of the children and progress towards reunification (unless for the children’s safety) advise all parties the direction cannot proceed until the internal review outcome is known, and the decision upheld.
  • Monitor carefully while the child is in parental care for a final period of assessment of whether reunification is likely to endure – no longer than six weeks (unless delayed awaiting an internal review outcome).

Consult with CPLO or your divisional solicitor. See under ‘Family preservation order’ in Protection order descriptions.

A direction to resume parental responsibility should be issued no more than six weeks after a parent is allowed by Child Protection to have care of their child in the absence of a planned return to care and with a view to reunification being achieved.

The date of the direction is the date upon which Child Protection ceases to have parental responsibility for the child, and the parent resumes full parental responsibility as specified in the direction.

The change in nature of order direction needs to specify whether the child is being placed in the care of one or both parents, consistent with section 280(1)(c) of the CYFA re family preservation orders.

The order becomes a family preservation order and continues in force with the same expiry date as the original order.

Remember that, unless action is taken, any conditions included in a family reunification order continue to apply as conditions of the family preservation order, and there will be no conditions if changing from a care by Secretary order. Consider whether you need to apply under s. 288A(3) or s. 289A(3) to include conditions on the family preservation order (Form 32).

Note that under s. 288A(4) or 289A(4), the Court may determine that the order is to include conditions without requiring parties to attend or be represented.

Where an issue of concern is not addressed by an existing condition and a decision has been made not to apply to include conditions on the family preservation order, consider whether a notice of direction under section 282(2) may be appropriate and sufficient. Such a direction may be given where it is both reasonable and lawful.

  • Prepare a direction to the parent/s to resume parental responsibility using the endorsed template. See Forms - Case planning – Direction to resume parental responsibility s288A and s289A.
  • Prepare letters to accompany the copies of the direction to resume parental responsibility. See Forms – Case planning – Change in nature of order. Include the relevant information sheet about family preservation orders.
  • Give the direction to resume parental responsibility and associated paperwork to the parents and to the child, if age appropriate, to coincide with the date of the direction, and no later than 14 days after the date of the direction.
  • Provide a copy of the direction to resume parental responsibility to the Court, no later than 14 days after the date of the direction.
  • Apply to include conditions to the family preservation order (if applicable) using Form 32. See Forms – Court - Events.
  • Issue a notice of direction under section 282(2) if required.
  • Record the change in the nature of the order in the Court screens. Be sure to record the date of the direction to resume parental responsibility accurately so that the accumulation of time in out-of-home care is correctly counted in CRIS.
  • Place a copy of the direction and letters provided to the Court, child and parents in the child’s paper file and in CRIS.
  • Revoke any existing carer authorisation, following the relevant procedure.

Supervisor tasks

  • Provide support and supervision.
  • Monitor progress towards reunification
  • Support preparation of a revised endorsed case plan to be provided six weeks ahead of the intended date of direction
  • Monitor the six-week timeframe from resuming care to the issuing of the direction to resume parental responsibility.

Team manager tasks

  • Endorse decision to prepare for reunification when a child is subject to a family reunification order and the revised case plan for family preservation, at least six weeks before the intended date of direction, noting time must be allowed for a request for internal review to be made.
  • Obtain the signature of the area operations manager/director on the notice of direction to resume parental responsibility form.
  • Determine whether an application should be made to include conditions on the family preservation order.
  • Sign revocation of carer authorisation.
  • Support the area operations manager/director, as required, with their tasks.

Area operations manager/Director tasks

  • Endorse decision to prepare for reunification when a child is subject to a care by Secretary and the revised case plan for family preservation, at least six weeks before the intended date of direction, noting time must be allowed for a request for internal review to be made.
  • Determine whether an application should be made to include conditions on the family preservation order.
  • Sign the direction to resume parental responsibility and letters for all relevant parties.

Practice Dictionary Definition

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