Preventing Infant Removal
FIN Victoria advocates have been involved in cases where newborn infants were at risk of removal from mothers with intellectual disability, direct from the maternity ward, following birth.
When parents can access an advocacy service the advocate works with the parents, their extended family, their support network and relevant services to develop a documented support plan for bringing baby home. Advocates also assist parents to challenge any incorrect information recorded by child protection, or medical staff, and to collate their own evidence of their capacity to parent their child.
The support plan and documented evidence is then used in court. It is used to prevent the infant being removed and placed in care whilst parents are placed on waiting lists for psychological assessments or a bed in a parenting assessment facility. Waiting lists for these services can be more than 6 weeks. Separating an infant from parents for this period of time following birth disrupts attachment, bonding and breastfeeding. It causes grief, distress and trauma to parents.
FIN Victoria advocates have been successful in preventing the removal of infants in these circumstances. The magistrates involved have allowed parents to bring their babies home, with the documented supports in place. Child protection has then fast-tracked the parents' into parenting assessment services.
Unfortunately, the majority of parents in this situation don't currently have access to an advocate. FIN Victoria is actively working to build a network of advocates throughout the state.
Reunifying a teenager
FIN Victoria advocates meet many parents who have never given up on trying to get their kids back. These parents have done years of counselling, parenting courses, personal development courses - whatever was asked of them. But despite these efforts, there is often no effective assessment or monitoring of the changes they have made or the knowledge, skills and personal insight they have developed.
Our advocates were working hard to help one mum have child protection recognise the massive improvements in her life. Contact between this mum and her daughter was only monthly, and it was supervised. Clearly, there was no need for supervision and advocates were helping mum fight for unsupervised contact. During these negotiations with child protection there was a break down in the child's foster care placement. The child was then shuffled from one short-term carer to another. Advocates supported this mum to apply for a full case review. During the review meeting it was immediately ordered that contact increase, and that supervision cease. The final outcome of the review process was a reunification plan. Mum and daughter have now been reunified for over 3 years.