Queensland's child protection system

How Queensland’s child protection system works

The Department of Child Safety, Seniors and Disability Services (Child Safety) is the lead agency for child protection in Queensland. The Child Protection Act 1999 gives Child Safety the mandate to protect children from significant harm or risk of significant harm and whose parents are unable and unwilling to protect them. This Act also provides the legal framework for decision making by Child Safety staff, such as decisions to:

  • place a child in care with the parent’s consent, under a care agreement
  • apply to the Childrens Court for an assessment order and have custody of a child
  • place a child in the care of an approved carer where the Childrens Court has given the department custody of the child
  • place an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child
  • approve and renew, or refuse, the approval of carer applicants
  • ensure that a child in care is cared for in a way that meets the standards of care.

A child may come into care either through a care agreement or as a result of an order made by the Childrens Court.

About care agreements

A care agreement is a time-limited agreement between Child Safety and the child’s parents to place their child in care for a short time. There are 2 types of care agreements:

  1. lasting up to 30 days
  2. lasting up to 6 months.

The Childrens Court is not involved.

Parents retain certain rights, when they sign a care agreement. This means they:

  • remain the child’s legal guardian and can still make decisions about their child
  • will be given your name, address and phone number
  • may have contact, as agreed by Child Safety, with their child
  • will be consulted about particular decisions
  • can end the arrangement at any time with 2 days’ notice.

Childrens Court process

The Childrens Court process is a complex one, involving a range of legal processes and rules relating to how the Childrens Court operates.

The Office of Child and Family Official Solicitor (OCFOS) is a team of legal officers based in Child Safety who provide legal advice and support to Child Safety staff. They apply for urgent orders such as assessment orders and temporary custody orders, and prepare referrals and briefs of evidence for the Director of Child Protection Litigation.

Child Safety staff work with OCFOS to decide the most appropriate type of child protection intervention needed for a child, and OCFOS will, if needed, refer the matter to the Director of Child Protection to recommend an order be sought from the Childrens Court.

The Office of the Director of Child Protection Litigation (DCPL) is a statutory office within the Justice portfolio. They are responsible for deciding whether an application for a child protection order should be made, and the type and duration of the order. They make applications for orders and conduct the proceedings in the Childrens Court.

Also, the Office of the Public Guardian’s child advocate legal officers can support the child or young person by presenting their views and wishes to the Childrens Court. They can also make submissions, test evidence and call witnesses (including cross-examining witnesses). The Public Guardian has a right of appearance in a proceeding on an application for an order for a child or young person. Their role is not diminished even if there is a direct representative instructed or separate representative appointed for the child or young person.