Whether children are sent to live with one parent after a separation, or the state Child Protective Services office has become involved, children expect to live in a safe, appropriate home environment. This isn’t always the case. Due to an institutional “disconnect” between Protective Services and the federal Family Courts, there is little, if any communication between the two.
The Disconnect Between Child Protective Services and the Family Courts
The Australian Law Reform Commission reported that children are “falling through the gaps between the federal family courts and state-based child protective services.” As the system is currently set up, children are placed into unsafe living situations, often being placed with violent or abusive parents.
The federal courts have limited capacity to investigate any allegations of child abuse. This means that children were forced to live with parents who ultimately began to abuse them.
James remembers trying to tell adults in charge that he was being abused by his father—but the family court system that made decisions about his custody and care didn’t believe his allegations. He told his mother and she reported the allegations of abuse to the New South Wales Department of Family and Community Services. However, those allegations were found to be “malicious.” Former partners also reported sexual abuse against James’ father.
After experiencing abuse almost as soon as he was placed with his dad, James made several outcries to authorities and his mother. At 12 years of age, he began running away to the police, showing them his injuries. The police took out an Apprehended Violence Order against James’ father, but he still couldn’t leave.
Because of the disconnect between the federal family courts and protective services, staff at Family and Community Services (FACS) didn’t check the physical file on James.
Findings of the Australian Institute of Family Studies Report
Most young people who participated in the Australian Institute of Family Studies survey didn’t feel they were listened to. They wanted to be heard and believed. Also, 76 percent of the young people wanted their parents to listen to their viewpoints as they discussed living arrangements.
About 62 percent of the young people spoke to counselors and psychologists who guided them through the decision-making process.