Communities and Justice

About this guide

Reading this guide

Words and phrases you may hear and read about the child protection system are underlined. Follow the link to see what they mean.

The DCJ caseworker can read through this guide with you. Or you might choose to read it alone or with another person. This could be a support worker, friend, family member or someone from your mob.  

Your involvement and work with DCJ may include only some of the things in this guide. You may choose to read parts of it, or you may want to know everything and read it all.

If you have questions you want to ask the DCJ caseworker, it can help to write them down or ask someone to write them down for you. You could also record them in other ways such as a voice memo on your phone or device.

DCJ wants you to understand this information about child protection, as it will help get the best possible outcome for your child. It is also your right to know this information and how the child protection system works. It is normal that it may make you feel worried.

Learn more about support services that can help you and your family.

When the term ‘parents’ is used, this means anyone who has care of a child and is responsible for looking after them. This may be a step-parent or another carer. A child may have only one parent, same-sex parents or be raised by a number of family members, mob or those who love and care for them. The information in this guide is for all types of parents and families.

About DCJ

In NSW, children and young people are protected by law under the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998. DCJ is the main government department in charge of helping families keep children safe from abuse and neglect. You might know DCJ by previous names like DOCS or FACS.

The role of DCJ is to build relationships with families and communities that help children be safe and cared for. DCJ caseworkers commit to:

  • treating families with dignity and respect
  • sharing information with you when DCJ is worried about children and working in partnership to reduce these worries
  • making sure the information we give you is easy to understand
  • working with you and your community to share knowledge and skills to keep children safe
  • listening to your ideas and responding when you ask for help
  • being honest with you.

Any DCJ caseworker you meet should take their responsibility seriously and treat you and your family, home and culture with dignity and respect. Their priority is always to keep your child safely at home with you. If your child is taken from you because they are at risk of being hurt, DCJ will work hard with you to bring your child safely home. The law tells DCJ to look at this as the first option, but for some families it is not possible for their child to return home. 

Learn more about what else might happen if your child is taken into care.

The Practice Framework Standards set out what is expected of DCJ when working with children, their families and the community. You can find these Standards as a translated version here on the DCJ website.

If you have feedback or worries about working with DCJ

You have the most important role in keeping your child safe. It is important you and the caseworker work together, and you feel they listen to you and your child.

If you feel DCJ has made the wrong decision or has not treated you fairly, you can:

Learn more about support services you can call to get help.

For Aboriginal parents

DCJ acknowledges the fear for Aboriginal families when child protection is involved in their family. DCJ acknowledges the huge impact that colonisation and the forced removal of children from Aboriginal families has on Aboriginal people today. You have the right to ask for an Aboriginal caseworker. All parents have the right to have family attend meetings with them. You are able to get help from Aboriginal support services when you work with DCJ. You can find a list of Aboriginal support services here.

The Aboriginal Case Management Policy applies in all cases where DCJ is working with Aboriginal children, families and communities. This policy supports the right of Aboriginal people to autonomy and self-determination and outlines ways for Aboriginal families to be involved in decisions that affect them. It can be found online at the DCJ and AbSec websites.

For parents from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds

DCJ understands that families from refugee or migrant backgrounds may find it hard to understand the NSW child protection system. DCJ acknowledges that your experiences may make you scared to work with a government organisation. Parents from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds have the right to ask for an interpreter to explain things in a language you understand. An interpreter can be present in person or on the telephone when DCJ visit you at home, at meetings and to explain written documents. You can have a support person from a community group, friend, or family member with you to help you understand what is happening.

For parents with disability

DCJ recognises parents with disability have their own strengths, challenges and fears when working with us. Caseworkers have a responsibility to build on the existing strengths and support systems of your family. DCJ cannot decide that parents are unable to provide care for their child based only on a parent’s disability.

If you do not understand some of the things the caseworker is telling you, please ask questions. It is important the caseworker knows what you need, such as how you like to get information or how you need information explained. You have a right to ask for help with your disability and to have someone advocate for you. You can bring a support person, or advocate, to all meetings to help you in the ways that suit you.

For parents who were in out of home care as a child

DCJ recognises that parents who have an experience of out of home care may find working with a caseworker very stressful. DCJ understands that you will be worried your child will be taken into care. DCJ will work with you to keep your child with you when it is safe to do so. You have a right to ask for help and have a support person with you at all times.

For LGBTQIA+ parents

DCJ recognises that families come in all shapes and sizes. They include same-sex families and gender-diverse families. DCJ understands that children may have two mums or two dads; single, gay, lesbian, bisexual or gender-diverse parents; and that surrogates and donors may be involved. DCJ knows that children and young people may identify across a range of sexualities and genders and will be respectful of how family members identify. Please let the caseworker know the pronouns that you use.

Last updated:

09 Jul 2024