In South Australia the main law concerning the protection of children is the Children's Protection Act 1993 (SA). All references in this section are to this Act unless stated otherwise.
The objects of the Act are to:
- ensure that all children are safe from harm
- ensure that as far as practicable all children are cared for in a way that allows them to reach their full potential
- recognise the importance of families to children and promote caring attitudes and responses towards children among families and all sections of the community so that the need for appropriate nurture and care and protection (including protection of the child’s cultural identity) is understood, risks to a child’s well-being are quickly identified and any necessary support, protection or care is promptly provided
What does the Act do?
The Act gives authority to the relevant Department (the Department for Education and Child Development/Families SA) to intervene when a child is at risk. This intervention can take several forms, ranging from referring families to appropriate support and services to seeking an order to remove a child from their parents’ care. However, in line with the objects of the Act, removal of a child should be done as a last resort when all other options have been exhausted or are not appropriate in the circumstances.
When is a child defined as being ‘at risk’?
The Act recognises three types of abuse and/or neglect:
A child is considered to be at risk if there is a significant chance they will suffer serious harm to their physical, psychological or emotional well-being and they do not have proper protection [see s 6(2)]. This risk may be as a result of abuse, neglect or the inability of a parent or guardian to care for and protect a child or to exercise supervision and control over the child. In making an assessment about whether a child is at significant risk or has been abused or neglected attention must be had not only to the current circumstances of the child’s care but also to the history of the child’s care and the likely cumulative effect on the child of that history [s 6(4)].
If a parent is unable (or unwilling) to provide this then the child can be considered to be at risk. A child under the age of 15 with no fixed address will also meet this criterion, as will a child of compulsory school age who has been persistently absent from school without satisfactory explanation.
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.