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Children and young people in care have the right to a safe and stable living environment that meets your needs and allows you to be prepared for leaving care when you're older.
The Charter of Rights for children in care sets out your rights and how you can be involved in decisions about your care.
If the court is making a decision about your care, then a ‘direct representative’ lawyer may be able to give the court information about what you want and argue for your point of view. A ‘separate representative’ lawyer appointed by the court to act in your best interests can also help make your views known to the court, but they must also tell the court what they think is best for you. Sometimes, what you want and what is best for you might not be the same thing.
If you have concerns about how you're being treated while in care, get legal advice.
The Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women is the Queensland Government department responsible for investigating and assessing children at risk of harm. They are sometimes known as 'the department', DoCS or Child Safety. Child Safety will become involved if they're concerned about your safety and whether anyone can look after you.
The My Journey in Care book (for 10-18 year olds) is for young people in care in Queensland, and gives them useful information about being in care, and how they can be involved in making decisions about their life.
Kid's Rights, a publication in a colouring book format, explains the charter of rights for children in care. Ask your child safety officer for a copy of these publications.
We also have a publication explaining the charter of rights called What are your rights if you are in care?
The charter of rights for children in care outlines what rights you have while in care. You must be:
You can find the charter in schedule 1 of the Child Protection Act 1999, which says you have a right to:
When Child Safety makes a decision about you, they need to consider what you want to happen.
The law says:
A case plan sets out what should happen while you're in Child Safety’s care, for example, where you will live, where you will go to school and what contact you'll have with your family.
If the plan is for you to return home to your parents, the case plan sets out what needs to be done to make sure it's safe for you to return home.
The case plan also sets out what's going to happen while you’re staying in out-of-home care (eg foster care).
When Child Safety is creating a case plan, you must be kept informed and be given a chance to tell people how you feel about what's happening (if you are of an age and ability to understand what’s happening).
It's also very important that you understand what's in the plan. For example, Child Safety should explain the case planning process to you using language appropriate to your age, language, skills and situation.
You should also have:
A family group meeting (PDF, 153KB) is where the important people in your life (including your parents) have a meeting with Child Safety to discuss the best way to take care of you.
You should be given a chance to attend some or all of the meeting to have your say, unless it’s not appropriate because of your age or your ability to understand what's going on. You can talk to the meeting convenor (the person organising the family group meeting) about how to attend and having your say.
You can also have someone else attend and be part of the family group meeting for support. For example, this could include a youth worker, an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander elder, a representative from your cultural community or a lawyer.
Child Safety must, giving consideration to your age and ability to understand:
The Childrens Court makes child protection orders and when making its decisions, must take into consideration your views and wishes (and other information) if they've been made known to the court. There are many different ways you can make sure your views and wishes are made known to the Childrens Court.
One way to have your say is through a separate representative - a lawyer appointed by the Childrens Court to act in your best interests and who lets the decision maker know your wishes or views. They are independent from everyone else in the court—they don’t work for Child Safety or your parents.
The separate representative may:
Part of the separate representative’s job is to find out your views and wishes (if you want to have a say) and to make sure they are known to the court. They must also look at all the evidence and make recommendations to the court about what's in your best interests. It's important to understand that what the separate representative making these recommendations may think is in your best interests can sometimes be different to what you want.
For example: you may want to go back and live with your parents, but there may be evidence to show it's not safe for you to do so just yet. In this situation, the separate representative is appointed to tell the court what you want, but they may also recommend to the court that what you want (to return home) isn't in your best interests (because it's unsafe).
If the court makes an order for a separate representative to act for you, Legal Aid Queensland will organise a lawyer to be your separate representative.
You may be able to get your own lawyer to act as your direct representative, who will tell the court what you would like to happen and stand up for your point of view. To be your lawyer, a direct representative will need to be sure you understand the court process and the decision you want to have a say in. Get legal advice.
If you're an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child or young person, the law also says:
If you have any questions about how this applies to you, you can talk to your child safety officer or someone from the recognised entity for your family.
When a decision is made about you (like where you should live or who you can have contact with), Child Safety should tell you about the decision and may give you a letter explaining their reasons.
If you disagree with the decision that was made, in some situations you can ask the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal to review the decision. This is called an ‘application for review’. Your foster carer, parents and other people affected by the decision may also be able to ask for a review.
The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) is a free service that is part of the Department of Justice and Attorney-General. It is independent from Child Safety and the Office of the Public Guardian.
You can ask them to review decisions about:
Child advocates from the Office of the Public Guardian may be able to help you to apply to QCAT for a review of a decision that affects you, or to make the application on your behalf. Contact them to find out if they can help.
The Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) is an independent body working to protect the rights and interests of children and young people in out-of-home care, such as foster care, kinship care, residential care, youth detention or other supported accommodation.
Community visitors and OPG child advocates are independent from Child Safety, and can help children and young people in the child protection system in different ways. Community visitors visit children and young people in out-of-home care to check if their needs are being met. They can help you get information and help solve problems you may be experiencing in care. They can also help you get the support services you may need.
Child advocates are lawyers who can help protect your rights and make sure you have a say in decisions affecting you and your care arrangements—including decisions being made by the Childrens Court or QCAT. They may be able to help you apply to the Childrens Court or QCAT to change a child protection order or review a decision by Child Safety.
To talk to a community visitor or a child advocate, contact the Office of the Public Guardian or ask a youth worker, foster carer, or your child safety officer to help you contact them.
Child protection orders finish once you turn 18. However, the law says Child Safety must make sure you are prepared to leave care and start life on your own.
The Charter of Rights for children in care states that before leaving care you have the right to be involved in planning for the kind of help and support you may need after leaving care—like where you will live, help from Centrelink, job training and education. Planning for your transition to independence when you leave care should start when you turn 15.
Child Safety should plan and help you do things like:
If you have questions about what is going to happen when you turn 18, talk to your child safety officer. You can also talk to the Office of the Public Guardian for help with having a say about your transition to independence plan.
If you have a legal problem and you need to talk to a lawyer, you may be able to speak to them directly or you can ask an adult to help you (such as a family member or a youth worker).
You may need legal advice if:
We may be able to give you legal advice about having a say in decisions that affect you if you're in care.
The following organisations may be able to give you legal advice.
Youth Advocacy Centre has a community legal and social welfare service for young people under 17.
South West Brisbane Community Legal Service offers basic help and advice on a range of legal matters including family law, domestic violence, child protection and youth criminal law advocacy services.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service (ATSILS) may be able to give legal representation and advice on child protection and family law matters for Indigenous people.
Queensland Indigenous Family Violence Legal Services gives legal and counselling services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples suffering from the direct and indirect effects of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Lawmail is a legal advice service for young people under 18. They can give free legal advice by email.
YFS Legal gives legal information and advice to young people under 25.
Community legal centres give legal advice on a range of topics. Contact them to find out if they can help.
Queensland Law Society can refer you to a specialist private lawyer for advice or representation.
These organisations may also be able to help. They don't give legal advice.
Kids Helpline has a 24 hour free and confidential telephone, online and email counselling service for children 5 to 18 years.
CREATE is the national peak consumer body representing the voices of children and young people with an out-of-home care experience.
headspace helps young people (12–25 years) access health advice, support and information.
Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women (Queensland Government) is responsible for protecting children and young people from harm or who are at risk of harm.
Office of the Public Guardian is an independent statutory body working to protect the rights of children and young people in out-of-home care (foster care, kinship care, residential care and youth detention).
The Childrens Court deals with matters involving people under 18, including youth justice matters, child protection and other family related matters.
Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal can review some decisions that have been made by Child Safety about children and young people.