Saying sorry means we try not to do it again

Proposed changes to Child Protection Law

The NSW Government has recently introduced a Bill to amend child protection law in NSW.

If passed, the Bill will mean that:

  • a child who has been out of the care of his/her parents or the primary care giver by court order for 2 years can be permanently removed and adopted.  At the same time, the Government is not required to provide support services to parents or primary care givers.
  •  FaCS will not be required to prove that there is no realistic possibility that a child will be restored to his/her parents or primary care giver to allow guardianship orders by consent to be granted.
  • in some circumstances, if an application to adopt is made by a guardian, the consent of the parents or primary care givers will not be required.
  • additional barriers to seeking a variation of care and protection orders

Imposing a 2-year time limit on parents or primary care givers to prove they are able to care for their children is arbitrary, unfair and fails to recognise barriers to accessing support services, including a lack of services, particularly in regional, rural and remote areas and long waiting lists where services do exist. Time limits should be removed and the government should be required to provide families with services that are meaningful, available, accessible and at very low or no cost to them.  There should also be access to early legal support.

Women’s Legal Service NSW is concerned that the time limits and changes to guardianship and adoption will lead to many children being fast-tracked into adoption, despite the child’s best interests.

We endorse the Open Letter to the Premier about forced adoptions. As the Open letter states “Saying Sorry means we try not to do it again.”

We are also concerned by the lack of meaningful consultation and call on the government to refer the bill to Parliamentary Committee for a thorough review.

Read the Community Legal Centres NSW Briefing Paper on proposed changes

Read the CLC NSW media release (26 October 2018)

Background

In October 2017, the Department of Family and Community Services released a Discussion Paper – Shaping a Better Child Protection System. Women’s Legal Service NSW made a submission.

In September 2018, we endorsed an Open letter to Minister Goward calling for the release of an Exposure Draft Bill and further consultation.

On 23 October 2018, the Bill and a brief report summarising the outcomes of the consultation were tabled in Parliament. The report indicates the majority of submissions opposed any changes to seeking to vary a care and protection order (Section 90). Some other changes that are proposed were not flagged in the Discussion Paper.

Read WLS NSW submission response to the Discussion Paper (30 November 2017)

Read the FaCS Report on the outcome of consultations (October 2018)

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