Communities and Justice

Words and phrases you may hear and read

This guide and the child protection system use a lot of words and phrases that you might not have seen before. 

Aboriginal placement principles – the order in which consideration is given to children and young people placed within their family, community or Aboriginal community to stay connected with their Aboriginal culture.

Advocate - an advocate is someone who provides support on behalf of another person or group.

Affidavit – a formal written statement setting out what someone believes to be true, in this context for the Children’s Court. This becomes evidence in court.

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) – a process where a facilitator helps people to work out issues and disagreements before the matter goes to court.

Adoption plan – an agreement between those involved in an adoption about contact with a child’s birth family, sharing of information and how a child will develop their cultural identity.

Assessment tools – these provide a template for caseworkers to collect and understand information about a child’s safety and wellbeing. Caseworkers use assessment tools to help make decisions for children. 

Bringing a child into out of home care – the removal of a child from their family when they cannot stay safely living in their home. This can sometimes be called a ‘removal’ or ‘assumption of care’. Assumption is when a child is removed from their parent’s care when they are not at home. They may be in hospital or at school at the time and an ‘order for assumption’ is provided to the person in charge of the premises.

Care application – an application to the Children’s Court for a care order to protect the safety, welfare and wellbeing of a child or young person.

Care plan – a written plan that sets out how a child’s needs will be met in the future. Care plans are made as fair as possible with the agreement of the child, parents and carers. This plan is provided to the Children’s Court.

Carer – Someone who provides care for a child or young person. This may include a relative or household member or someone who is authorised as a foster carer.

Case plan – a written plan for a child in care setting out how to meet their care needs. Case plans are developed with the child, family, carers and other people significant to the child. The plan is a record of goals and desired outcomes and the tasks required to meet these.

Caseworker – the DCJ person responsible for working with children and their families to keep assessing if a child is safe and to help make plans to achieve this.

Charter of Rights for Children and Young People – the list of rights a child or young person has in out of home care.

Children’s Court – a special court that deals with cases involving children and young people. The court has the power to hear and decide cases related to the care and protection of children and young people aged under 18 years.

Closing the case – when DCJ decides that it no longer has to work with a family because their child has been assessed to be safe.

Community Services Centre (CSC) – locally based DCJ community services offices. There are about 80 CSCs across NSW.

Contact worker – a person whose job it is to be at a visit between parents or family members and a child to make sure the visit goes well and the child is safe. They may take notes and share these with the DCJ caseworker.

Culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) – in Australia this means people who were born overseas, or have a parent born overseas, speak a language other than English or practice a variety of religious beliefs. 

Cultural service – a service that may be able to support children and families from an Aboriginal or culturally and linguistically diverse background.

Cultural support plan – a plan that documents a child’s story of traditions, belonging and connection to family, community and country.

Danger – anything placing a child in a situation where they can be seriously hurt.

DCJ – the NSW Department of Communities and Justice (formerly FACS – Family and Community Services, formerly DOCS – Department of Community Services).

Direct representative – a child or young person’s legal representative, who acts for a child or young person who is able to provide their own instructions.

Eco-map – a diagram showing the important people for the child and parent. These people can form the family network and support structure.

Facilitator – a person that makes an action or process easier. For example, in an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) the facilitator is a person not employed by or connected to DCJ, whose job it is to help everyone reach an agreed family plan.

Family Action Plan for Change – a plan that is made when a child has been assessed as needing care and protection. The case plan for the child is supporting them to remain at home safely or to return home. It lists the risks for a child and what the family must do to reduce them.

Family Group Conference (FGC) – a family-focused form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR). Extended family members meet to work on a plan together to keep the child in their lives safe.

Family Support Worker - Are professionals who offer and deliver practical and emotional support, guidance and services to children and families in need.

Filing an affidavit – when a formal written statement setting out what someone believes to be true is given to the Children’s Court.

Genogram – a family tree that shows all the people in a family and their relationship to one another.

Guardian – someone over the age of 18 years who can give a child a safe and loving home. When a carer becomes your child’s guardian, they have full legal responsibility for the child and can make decisions about their life.

Guardianship – legal responsibility for a child given to the person who will make decisions about the child’s wellbeing and development. This includes decisions about education, health, medical care and much else.

Harm / Hurt – harm or hurt to a child that may be caused by physical, sexual, emotional or psychological abuse or neglect.

Immediate risk of serious harm – dangers for the child have been identified during the safety assessment and a safety plan cannot be developed to keep the child safely at home. If a child is at immediate risk of serious harm DCJ will remove the child from their parents. 

In need of care and protection– a legal decision DCJ makes. If a child is at risk of significant harm and DCJ needs to work with the family to keep their child safe into the future, a child is in need of care and protection. 

Interim (short term) parental responsibility – a decision made at Children’s Court after a child or young person has been removed from their family. The Children’s Court will decide who will have temporary powers to make decisions about a child, including where they live.

Interpreter – a professional person who speaks English and another language well, communicating information from one language to another. This means that people who do not speak English or who use sign language can communicate and understand what is being said. The role of the interpreter is to make clear exactly what is being said between the worker and the child or family.

Kinship care – where a child is cared for by a person who is not a relative but has an established relationship with the child or is the child’s family, and they share a cultural, tribal or community connection that is recognised by the child’s family and community.

Legal support – these are services that can give you information and advice about the law.

Magistrate – a person in the Children’s Court that makes decisions and orders about a child or young person.

Mandatory reporter – people in particular jobs or roles who the law says must report to DCJ about a child they suspect or know is being abused or neglected. Mandatory reporters include teachers, police officers, nurses and doctors.

Minister for Families and Communities – a member of the NSW Government responsible for running the Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ).

Model litigants – a litigant is someone or some group that is taking part in a court dispute between individuals or organisations (this is called civil law). A model litigant is one that is committed to behaving ethically, fairly and honestly. Model litigation is a policy designed to provide best practice guidelines for government agencies in civil law matters.

Neglect – When a child’s basic needs are not met. This may include not being given enough food, not going to school regularly, not being given attention, not being taken to the doctor when sick or not getting support for disability. It can also be when they are often not clean or supervised properly or having a safe home to live. 

Open adoption – a legal process that transfers all legal rights and responsibilities for a child to the adoptive parents.

Parent responsibility contract (PRC) – a voluntary agreement which helps parents understand what DCJ needs them to do to keep their child with them safely.

Parental responsibility – all the duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which, by law, parents have in relation to their children.

Parental responsibility of the Minister – when the NSW Minister for Families and Communities has full legal responsibility for a child and can make decisions about their life.

Parent capacity order (PCO) – an order made by the Children’s Court that requires a parent or carer to attend or participate in a program, service, course or treatment to help them keep the child in their life safe.

Person causing harm (PCH) – a person who has been identified as hurting a child or young person.

Placement – where a child lives when they are in the care of DCJ.

Restoration – reuniting a child or young person with their parents when it is safe to do so after they have been in care.

Restoration assessment – an assessment DCJ uses to decide if there is still a risk to a child or young person before they start living with their parents again. This assessment also considers a family’s progress towards case plan goals and the quality of the time spent between parents and the child.

Risk assessment – an assessment to determine the likelihood of future abuse or neglect of a child or young person in the next 12 to 18 months. This information is used to guide decisions about a child and whether their family needs ongoing help.

Risk of significant harm -A child may be at risk of significant harm if there are current concerns for their safety, welfare and wellbeing, to a significant enough extent to warrant a response from a statutory authority (Police and/or DCJ).

Safety assessment – an assessment to determine whether there are any dangers to a child right now and whether the child can remain safely in the home.

Safety plan – a plan made with the caseworker and your network to look at immediate dangers and what tasks need to be completed in order to keep the child safe at home.

Secretary – the person who leads DCJ and reports directly to the Minister for Families and Communities.

Section 90 - When the Magistrate or Judge is asked to reconsider the current order for a child in care it’s called a section 90 application. Depending on what is in the best interests of the child, the order may stay the same, be changed, cancelled or a completely new order may be made.

Separate representative – an independent person, usually a lawyer, appointed to represent a child at Children’s Court.

Significant harm – any substantial or serious injury to a child’s physical, psychological or emotional wellbeing, demonstrated by the child’s presentation, functioning or behaviour.

Statutory authority – a government body or approved group which has the power to act on behalf of the government to enforce legislation or laws. DCJ is a statutory authority.

Step-parent - a step-parent of a child is someone who is not a biological parent of a child in their care. They are or were married to, or a de facto partner of, one of the child's biological parents.

Summary of proposed plan for the child or young person – a plan for the Children’s Court that sets out the key points about a child that the court needs to know and what changes need to happen for a child to go home to their parents.

Supervised visit – when a parent is only allowed to visit their child under the supervision of someone else, such as a family member, DCJ caseworker or contact worker.

Supervision order – an order made by the Children’s Court that allows DCJ to supervise a child or young person to help keep them safe with their family.

Taking a child into care – removing a parent’s legal responsibility for a child and placing the child in the care of the Minister for Family and Community Services.

Temporary care arrangement (TCA) – a formal arrangement that places a child in the care of the Secretary of DCJ while the parents continue to have parental responsibility and some decision-making power. Under a TCA, parents keep the right to be involved in making decisions about the child.

UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) – the most comprehensive international instrument on the rights of Indigenous peoples. The UNDRIP establishes a universal framework of minimum standards for the survival, dignity and wellbeing of the world’s Indigenous peoples. It recognises the right of Indigenous families and communities to retain shared responsibility for the upbringing, training, education and wellbeing of their children, consistent with the rights of the child.

Last updated:

05 Jul 2024