CHILD WELFARE/REMOVALS (DOCS)
In Queensland the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services (“DOCS”) can intervene in, among other things, child welfare matters.
In the context of the criminal law, where either an allegation has been made against a parent/carer, or that parent or carer has been convicted of an offence related to children, that intervention can include the serious step of removing a child from that parent or carer. Indeed, intervention may be instituted even if there have been no charges laid, but where there has simply been a “notification” to the Department.
If DOCS have become involved to the point of attending at a client’s home with an intention to remove children, then there is a very real prospect of a police investigation that will run parallel to the DOCS investigation. Consequently, any lawyer advising the parent(s) will need to have one eye on the DOCS issues, and another on any possible criminal charges or other proceedings that may result.
Department of Child Safety matters tend to be very emotional matters, given the real and potential implications for parents and their children. During this time parents often feel baffled about child protection decisions and processes, and as such the role of lawyers in the early stages of DOCS process is vital for both the protection of the parent’s rights and to assist in the engagement with the Department.