Advice Leaflet 4: What parents need to know if FaCS, Community Services division has previously removed a child from their care
1. Deciding to have another child after the removal of a child from your care is a major decision. If a mother becomes pregnant it is advisable for both parents to consult a social worker at a pre-natal clinic about the situation and see if there can be discussions with the FaCS to prevent the removal of the new child.
2. FaCS has the power to remove other children from parents who have previously had a child removed and in some cases they do this shortly after the birth of the new child.
Section 106A of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 allows the CS to remove babies from parents who have had previous children removed.
3. The FaCS sometimes remove a child from a mother while the mother is still in hospital following the birth of a child
This is an immensely distressing experience for both parents.
4. FaCS may remove a child, even if you have a new partner and the new partner has no previous history with the FaCS. This applies to both male and female partners as the FaCS can remove a child from a mother with no previous FaCS history but where the father does have such a history, and the reverse.
Your new partner needs to know about your FaCS history if you plan together to have a child.
5. How will the Community Services division know you are pregnant and how will they know when you have given birth?
There is an agreement between the Health Department and the FaCS which means that hospital staff (especially pre-natal clinic staff) report your pregnancy to FaCS if they suspect that you have had a child removed from your care or, if they have concerns about your ability to look after a new child. Hospital personnel are 'mandatory reporters' and are legally compelled to report to the FaCS 'serious risk of harm' situations.
6. What happens then?
An 'alert' notice is placed on your medical file. This requires medical staff to report the birth of your child to the Community Services division so that they can remove your child from you, if necessary.
7. Our understanding is that the instruction to hospital staff from FaCS is that hospital staff must not tell parents that there is an alert notice on the mother's medical file. Hospital staff sometimes ignore this instruction.
An expectant mother should not avoid pre-natal care. To do so will be seen as evidence that the mother is not caring for her unborn child. This is not the message a parent wants to send.
8. FaCS caseworkers and Health personnel hold meetings about the potential risk of harm to unborn babies. If FaCS caseworkers and hospital personnel agree that a baby should be taken into care immediately following birth they will not necessarily tell the mother about the plan to remove the baby.
As a patient the mother is legally entitled to read her medical file and any other hospital file. Make a request to see your file. This is one way you can learn about the existence of an 'alert' notice.
9. In NSW there is an increase in the number of babies that are being removed from their mother soon after the baby is born. This is an immensely distressing experience for both the mother and father of the child.
Avoid this distress.
10. In November 2008 the NSW parliament passed amendments to the Adoption Act. These amendments will allow foster carers who have looked after a child for 2 years to go to the Supreme Court to adopt the child. The Court can dispense with the parent's consent. The Court can also allow the child's surname to be changed to that of the adoptive parents.
This is what might happen to a child removed from parental care by FaCS. The Minster responsible for DoCS (Now FaCS) Linda Barney, introduced this legislation into the NSW Legislative Assembly in September 2008.
11. Seek legal advice immediatelly should you become pregnant if you have a had other children removed from your care.
Section 106A of the Children's and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 places responsibility on parents to prove that they are capable of providing 'good care' for a new child. To retain custody of a new child parents must prove to the Children's Court that they will on this occasion be 'good parents'. If the parents do not prove this the Children's Court may give parental responsibility for the child to the Minister for Family and Community Services, invariably until the age of 18 years. If this order is made the FaCS will place your child initially in foster care but at a later date a plan may be made for the baby to be adopted, without your consent.