Contact with family and kin
Most children and young people in care will have some sort of time with their parents, brothers and sisters, grandparents, other family members or close friends. This can be called ‘contact’ or ‘time with family and kin’. Contact can involve planned face-to-face visits, telephone conversations, email messages, social media connections and exchanging letters, gifts or photos. Your agency will generally cover the costs associated with maintaining contact.
Who makes decisions about contact
Decisions about the type and frequency of time spent together are made by a court through a Court Order, or by your agency. These decisions always take into account the safety and best interests of the child or young person.
These decisions identify who should have time together, the type of time spent together, how often this time should occur and if this time together needs to be supported, for example, through supervision. A Court Order may also prevent certain people having any time or connection to the child or young person.
Arrangements for time with family and kin are tailored to meet the child or young person’s needs. The child’s age and whether they’re likely to return to their parents are key factors in these decisions. Face-to-face contact is generally more frequent for kids who are likely to return home. If a child or young person is in long-term care, face-to-face get-togethers may be less frequent and contact may involve exchanging letters and phone calls.
Contact arrangements are part of a child’s Case Plan and are reviewed regularly to ensure they continue to meet the child or young person’s needs. Your agency will talk with everyone involved and consider their views when making contact arrangements.
Varying a Contact Order
A Contact Order can be varied by agreement between the carer, the parents, the child and the caseworker. To have effect, this agreement must be registered with the Children’s Court. Disputes around contact should be resolved by agreement where possible, however if this cannot occur an application must be made to the court to change an existing Contact Order or seek a new Contact Order.
Your agency will decide whether or not to apply for a ‘variation or rescission’ of a Contact Order as part of the child or young person’s Case Plan. A ‘variation’ will change the details of the order; a ‘recission’ will cancel the order. Parents and carers may also make an application to vary or rescind Care Orders, which include Contact Orders.