Can parents or guardians have continued contact with their children?
Before applying for custody or guardianship of the child or young person, the Chief Executive must first assess the likelihood of a reunification occurring between the child or young person and their parents or guardians, and, if likely, the period within which reunification is likely to occur [s 50(4)]. If the Chief Executive is satisfied that reunification is likely, contact arrangements should be made with a view to maintaining attachment relationships between the child or young person and the person or persons with whom they will be reunited [s 93(3)(a)]. If unlikely, contact arrangements should be made bearing in mind the need not to undermine or compromise the ability of the child or young person to establish attachment relationships with their guardian or guardians [s 93 (3)(b)].
The Chief Executive determines contact arrangements for children and young people who are in the custody or under the guardianship of the Chief Executive and may determine for any reason that there is to be no contact at all between the child or young person and another person [s 93(2)].
A determination of contact arrangements must be by notice in writing and must set out all of the following[s 93(5) and reg 24]:
- the Chief Executive’s consideration of the likelihood of reunification and how that influenced the contact arrangements
- the Chief Executive’s reasons for making the contact arrangements
- the frequency and duration of contact visits in a specified period
- the venue or venues at which contact visits are to take place
- the methods by which contact visits may or may not be undertaken (for example, face to face contact visits, telephone calls, written communication, social media)
- the persons who may and may not be present during contact visits
- whether the visits are to be supervised by the Department
The Chief Executive must take reasonable steps to provide a copy of any contact arrangement determinations to each person affected by the determination and explain to them the right to have contact arrangements reviewed [reg 24(2) and s 95]. The Chief Executive must also record and keep a copy of the reasons for any determination [reg 24(e)].
The Chief Executive may change or stop contact arrangements at any time by notice in writing [s 93 (6)].
Can the contact arrangements be reviewed?
Yes, the person allowed or refused contact with a child or young person or the child or young person themselves may apply to the Contact Arrangements Review Panel (the Panel) for a review of the contact arrangements [s 95(1)].
The application for review must be made within 14 days of the Chief Executive’s determination of the contact arrangements, unless the Panel is satisfied that special circumstances exist and that timeframe should be extended [s 95(2) and (3)]. The Panel may affirm, vary or set aside and substitute the determination or send it back for re-determination together with directions or recommendations [s 95(5)]. Once a determination has been reviewed by the Panel, it cannot be further reviewed by them [s 95(7)].
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