Care and protection/assessment orders
The court may make care and protection orders if they think it is in the interests of the child so to do (s42, CYFPA). The court must also be satisfied that a child is at risk, and that the order must be made to secure the care and protection of the child. ‘At risk’ has a particular meaning, but can generally be understood to mean that the child is likely to be harmed or neglected.
When a person contacts Child Protection because they are worried about the safety of a child/young person, Child Protection makes a decision about what to do with that information. If it appears that the child has been harmed or is at risk of abuse or neglect, there needs to be a judgement made about how to make sure that the child is safe. This is called an assessment. An assessment usually involves speaking with the child, parents, other services and professionals. It may also include a medical examination of the child if they have been harmed.
So that this assessment can happen, an assessment order may need to be made. This order gives legal authority to certain authorised Child Protection staff and police officers to request specific things and actions from people in order to assess the safety and possible ongoing risk to a child. A police officer assisting the Secretary of the Department of Health, who has obtained a warrant may enter or break into, remain in and search any premises or place and seize and remove items (s19). In addition, such a police officer who has not obtained a warrant may also exercise these powers if entry to the premises or place has been refused or cannot be gained and the police officer believes on reasonable grounds that delay would prejudice the assessment or the safety of the child whose circumstances are being assessed (s19(4)).
An authorised officer may ‘require’ a guardian (or person with whom a child is living) to take the child to a place or person, specified by the authorised officer, for the assessment to happen (s20).
On occasions, children may be placed into the short-term custody of Child Protection under a requirement or warrant if (s21):
- the child is at risk; and
- further assessment is required; and
- the child could not be properly assessed unless they were in a safe place away from the normal place of care.
The difference between care and protection orders and assessment orders
Staff from either Child Protection or the Tasmania Police will use an assessment order:
- when a child needs to be kept safe because of immediate danger or danger in the near future, and
- time is needed for the gathering, confirmation and analysis of information.
A care and protection order will be applied for by Child Protection where:
- a child needs to be kept safe for a specified period of time; and
- the family needs ongoing support.
Child Protection staff will only apply for a care and protection order after they have gathered as much information as possible and talked to the child/young person, the family and other relevant people. Sometimes a family meeting, called a family group conference, is called to help decide what type of a care and protection order needs to be sought.
Sometimes a guardian or parent may oppose the request for a care and protection order. Then the court may grant an interim care and protection order so that the child is safe until all of the evidence can be heard.
Page last updated 27/02/2022