Can parents have continued contact with their children?
The Chief Executive determines arrangements for contact between children and young people who are in the custody or under the guardianship of the Chief Executive and those from whose care they have been removed, and may determine for any reason that there is to be no contact at all between the child or young person and another person [s 93(2)].
If the Chief Executive is satisfied that reunification is likely, contact arrangements should be made with a view to maintaining attachment relationships between the child or young person and the person or persons with whom they will be reunited [s 93(3)(a)]. If unlikely, contact arrangements should be made bearing in mind the need not to undermine or compromise the ability of the child or young person to establish attachment relationships with their guardian or guardians [s 93 (3)(b)].
A determination of contact arrangements must be by notice in writing and must set out all of the following[s 93(5) and reg 24]:
The Chief Executive must take reasonable steps to provide a copy of any contact arrangement determinations to each person affected by the determination and explain to them the right to have contact arrangements reviewed [reg 24(2) and s 95]. The Chief Executive must also record and keep a copy of the reasons for any determination [reg 24(e)].
The Chief Executive may change or stop contact arrangements at any time by notice in writing [s 93 (6)].
Can the contact arrangements be reviewed?
Yes, the person allowed or refused contact with a child or young person or the child or young person themselves may apply to the Contact Arrangements Review Panel (the Panel) for a review of the contact arrangements [s 95(1)].
The application for review must be made within 14 days of the Chief Executive’s determination of the contact arrangements, unless the Panel is satisfied that special circumstances exist and that time frame should be extended [s 95(2) and (3)]. The Panel may affirm, vary or set aside and substitute the determination or send it back for re-determination together with directions or recommendations [s 95(5)]. Once a determination has been reviewed by the Panel, it cannot be further reviewed by them [s 95(7)].
What if a parent removes a child from their placement?
It is an offence for a person to induce or encourage a child or young person to leave a placement, or to harbour, conceal or take a child or young person from a placement, without lawful excuse [s 88]. The maximum penalty for this offence is imprisonment for 12 months.