Apology given to carer who gave up care of infant
What was the case?
Michelle was caring for Lucy, a young child placed in her care by Child Protection. Child Protection told Michelle that Lucy and her parents were soon to resume face to face visits. Michelle expressed concerns about exposure to COVID-19 due to these visits. She was cautious as she had two medically vulnerable children. Concerned to protect the health of her children, Michelle relinquished care of Lucy. A Child Protection officer told her the decision to relinquish care of Lucy was ‘irreversible’.
Michelle complained to us, saying she felt she had no choice but to relinquish care of Lucy. She believed Child Protection had acted contrary to the Department of Health and Human Service’s policy. Under that policy, Child Protection Practitioners had options during the pandemic. Contact between a child subject to a court order and their parents could occur via:
- a ‘contact plan’ where face to face contact was considered safe
- a ‘connection plan’ where it is not safe for face to face contact to occur.
We asked Child Protection for file notes on Michelle’s case. In those notes, there was no evidence that:
- Child Protection had considered the option of providing ‘a connection plan’.
- Child Protection told Michelle this was an option.
Following our enquiries, we asked Child Protection to apologise to Michelle for:
- failing to consider other ways in which Lucy and her parents could have contact, as per the Department’s policy
- telling her that relinquishment was irreversible when they told us it might not be.
Child Protection apologised to Michelle. Part of the apology read:
I acknowledge that you were left with no choice but to relinquish the care of [Lucy] as you also needed to protect your children given their medical vulnerabilities, and that you felt your concerns were not being heard.
Child Protection agreed with Michelle that indirect contact between Lucy and her parents should have been sought. While its plan was to reunify Lucy and her parents, Child Protection told Michelle she could have confidence that if Lucy again needs out of home care, they will contact her to discuss, given: ‘the close bond you and your family formed with her and your ongoing commitment to her wellbeing’.
When asked to review this case before it was published, DHHS said Child Protection had attempted to broker an arrangement that fulfilled court orders while observing COVID-19 safety protocols.