by Ray Ferris, (This piece is one of a series Ray will write here. )
I think perhaps that the best way to illustrate some of the problems in the protection services is to look at some specific cases in which the practice inside and outside the courts has wandered far away from what was intended by the members of the legislative assembly when they enacted the Child, Family and Community Services Act or CF&CSA.
Our current system is based on the clauses of the CF&CSA. This act, for all its flaws, does have some good principles. Some are set out as guidelines and others as statutory requirements. We are reminded that the parents are the ones who bear primary responsibility and if they can make their children safe at home, then every help must be given to do so. Kinship contact must be maintained and, when care becomes necessary, that priority must be given to placement with relatives.
So the intention of those who framed the act is that cases must within seven days be made accountable to the court and that the presentation is swift and summary so that parents can start getting their day in court within 45 days. No temporary order can be made on children under five years of age for more than three months and temporary care may not exceed one year.
In cases where there is compelling evidence that a continuing care order must be made, it is especially important to proceed through court with dispatch so that planning can go ahead without harmful delays. In such cases there should be little parental contact and it should be supervised. In cases where a return home is the likely outcome, frequent parental contact should be maintained and for the most part there needs to be no supervision of visiting.
It must always be born in mind that the parents are primarily responsible for the protection of their children and they retain guardianship except when continuing care orders are made. In order to meet their responsibilities they must have full information and access to their children and they are entitled to all confidential information about their children. For instance if visits lead them to believe that the children are being abused in care, they have a right to take action to protect them and cannot be shut out.
Ferris retired after a career that included significant years with the MCFD. He has written a book entitled 'The Art of Child Protection.' You can order Mr. Ferris' book entitled 'the Art of Child Protection' by contacting the author directly at email@example.com.