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, 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. A ‘child advocate’ from the Public Guardian can also support you to express their views and wishes to the court.
Get legal advice if you’re concerned about how you're being treated while in care.
Please read our service promise to children and young people
The Department of Children, Youth Justice and Multicultural Affairs
The Department of Children, Youth Justice and Multicultural Affairs 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 be involved if they're concerned about your safety and whether anyone can look after you.
My Journey in Care or Kid's Rights publications
My Journey in Care (PDF, 1.71MB) (for 10-18 year olds) is a book 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 Rights (PDF, 2.47MB) 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.
If you live in out-of-home care, it can be difficult to keep track of things like personal mementos, photos, records and documents that make up your life story.
kicbox is a private, digital memory box that keeps everything safe and in one place. It also provides a more convenient way for you to communicate and share information with Child Safety.
For more information, see the Queensland Government website
Charter of Rights for children in care
The charter of rights for children in care outlines what rights you have while in care. You must be:
- told about the Charter of Rights and its effect
- given written information about the Charter of Rights
- told about the Office of the Public Guardian
You can find the charter in schedule 1 of the Child Protection Act 1999, which says you have a right to:
- a safe and stable living environment
- live in a place that meets your needs and respects your cultural background
- have contact with your family and community
- take part in making decisions affecting your life like where you live, contact with your family, school, and health
- be given information about the decisions and plans made about your life
- privacy, including, for example, your personal information
- have what's happening to you regularly reviewed (if you're being cared for by the department until you're 18)
- get the help you need, like dental, medical treatment or counselling services
- a school or education that's right for you
- job training opportunities and help to find a job
- be involved in planning the kind of support and help you may need after leaving care, like where you will live, help from Centrelink, job training and education.
Legal Aid Queensland has a publication explaining the charter of rights called What are your rights if you are in care?
Being involved in decisions about yourself
When Child Safety makes a decision about you, they need to consider what you want to happen.
The law says:
- a child or young person should be kept informed of matters affecting them in a way they can understand
- if a child or young person can form and express views about their care, those views must be given consideration, taking into account their age and ability to understand.
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). At the same time as a case plan is being developed, Child Safety should be working toward a future goal of permanent reunification (in most cases), or if this isn't possible, identifying alternative options for you.
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:
- An Education Support Plan that sets out what support you will get with school while in care. Your child safety officer or teacher may be able to help.
- A Child Health Passport with a health plan, medical records, and information on how to meet your day-to-day medical needs. For more information talk to your child safety officer.
- A kicbox account for you to store important documents, records, photos, information that makes up your life story, and for you to communicate and share information with your Child Safety team. For more information talk to your child safety officer.
Family group meetings and case plan review meetings
A family group meeting is where the important people in your life (including your parents) have a meeting with Child Safety to discuss the best care for you and develop a case plan. For more information see the Queensland Government website
Your case plan is reviewed at a case plan review meeting.
You should be given a chance to attend some or all of the meetings 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. See further information on the Create Foundation website
You can also have someone else attend and be part of the meetings for support. For example, this could include a youth worker, an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander elder or independent person, a representative from your cultural community or a lawyer.
Child Safety must, giving consideration to your age and ability to understand:
- give you a copy of the case plan; and
- explain the case plan to you.
Having a say when decisions are made by the Childrens Court
The Childrens Court makes child protection orders, and when making its decisions, must consider your views and wishes (and other information) if they've been made known to the court. There are many different ways for your views and wishes to be made known to the Childrens Court.
Child Protection and the Childrens Court
Having your say in the Childrens Court for young people in care
What to expect when you go to the Childrens Court
A separate representative is a lawyer appointed by the Childrens Court to act in your best interests. They are independent from everyone else in the court—they don’t work for the Director of Child Protection Litigation, Child Safety or your parents.
The separate representative may:
- meet with you
- arrange a social worker or another independent expert to write a report for the court after meeting you and your family
- talk to your school or other professionals who know you.
Part of the separate representative’s job is to find out your views and wishes (if you want to have a say). The separate representative makes your views and wishes known to the court.
The separate representative looks at all the evidence and makes recommendations to the court about what's in your best interests. It's important to understand that when the separate representative makes these recommendations, what they 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 evidence shows 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, Legal Aid Queensland will organise this.
What is a separate representative?
Do you have questions about a social assessment report?
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 would like to have a lawyer represent you in the Childrens Court.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people
If you're an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child or young person, the law sets out some principles that say:
- if you're taken into care, Child Safety must support you to maintain your connection to your family, culture, traditions, language, and community
- you can ask for someone of significance to you or your family, and who is able to speak about your culture, to support you and give information about your culture. Each person in your family can have their own independent person (PDF, 12.48MB) to support them, or the same independent person can support more than one person in the family. The information that the independent person gives can help to make sure that you have a connection to your family, culture and community
- a case plan should be prepared in a culturally appropriate way
- if you're in out-of-home care, you should be cared for in your own family or community if possible
- you should have a cultural support plan to make sure you maintain a connection to your family, community, and culture.
Talk to your child safety officer if you have any questions.
Disagreeing with a decision made about you
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, in some situations you can ask the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal to review it. 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 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:
- who you should live with?
- who should know where you're living?
- when and how you spend time with your family.
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. You can also contact Legal Aid Queensland for legal advice about making an application to review a decision.
Office of the Public Guardian
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 child advocates are independent from Child Safety, and can help children and young people in the child protection system.
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. For more information see the Office of the Public Guardian website
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.
Turning 18 and getting ready to leave Child Safety's care
While child protection orders finish when you turn 18, 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:
- sort out any financial issues
- get a Medicare card
- get a tax file number
- find somewhere to live
- find job and educational opportunities
- visit or reconnect with your family.
Talk to your child safety officer about any questions you have about what is going to happen when you turn 18. You can also talk to the Office of the Public Guardian for help with having a say about your transition to independence plan.
Getting help from a lawyer
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).
Do I need legal advice?
You may need legal advice if:
- you disagree with a Child Safety decision about your care
- you want to live somewhere else
- you want to see your family
- you want a lawyer to attend a Family Group Meeting or to represent you in the Childrens Court.
How to get legal advice
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.
Hub Community Legal 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 (QVILS) 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.
Who else can help?
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 Children, Youth Justice and Multicultural Affairs (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.