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Department of Community Services - DOCS

"DOCS" find child is at a "Significant Risk of Harm". Procedure?

I have raised my twin children since they were 3 months old until they were nearly 8. The mother was inactive in the children's lives for 7 years.
I went away for 2 months, and left the children with my parents.

While I was away, their mother performed a hostile takeover of the children from the paternal grandparents, and filed an initiating application seeking Soul Parental Responsibility.
Her affidavit was full of lies,which doesn't worry me to much because I have evidence to the contrary, but it has greatly complicated recovery.

The mother is seeking I only have supervised visits. I have been accused of all manner of abuse by the mother, physical, sexual, and psychological. I am not guilty of these things.
She has not filed a "Form 4 Notice of Child Abuse". 

I have had no time with the children in 15 months. 

I have just become aware of an assessment made by DOCS

The Department of Community Services - DOCS has found my son to be at a "significant risk of harm" in his mothers care.

The report stated; "The child's basic necessities are unmet by his mother to such an extent that the child's
                                   health and development are at an unacceptable risk of harm".

                            "The concern is that child's physical and emotional well being is endangered as a result of his
                                     mother not maintaining essential medical services and that this may be due to her own mental health issues".

There has been a psychiatric assessment, which was ordered by the Independent Children's Lawyer, which diagnosed the mother as follows;

AXIS 1 - Post-traumatic Stress Disorder; Major Depressive Disorder; Bipolar Affective Disorder; Substance Abuse in Remission.

AXIS 2 - Borderline Personality Disorder.

AXIS 3 - Nil Significant.

AXIS 4 - Current Litigation 

In addition, the Family Report Writer said;

"the writer holds reservations about (mother's) capacity to be child focused. By involving the
  children in adult matters, (mother) is elevating her personal needs above that of her children's
  psychological needs",
amongst other things.

I am wondering how to proceed now. I am not conversant in law matters. I have read the "Family Law Act", and the "Family Law Rules" but do not feel much wiser.

In my initial response I agreed that the children could live with her, because I felt it was the children's right to know their mother, and I didn't want to traumatize the children with another move.

But after receiving the information above, I feel I have to act.

Should I file an "Amended Response to Initiating Application" with a Form 4, in light of the new information above?

Reading your post I think you know what the right thing to do is regardless of your ability to digest the Family Law Act and the rules, if something doesn't look or sound right its not right and will be covered in the Family Law Act. You say you have evidence to the contrary, but you need to make sure the evidence is relevant and admissible. This case is simple, do what you know is the right thing to do, you owe it to your twins. 

Executive Member of SRL-Resources, the Family Law People on the site (Look for the Avatars).   Be mindful what you post in the public areas
jimbxb22 said
I have had no time with the children in 15 months.
It seems perplexing to me. You say you were only away two months and I assume you have good reason, but why have you waited so long to take action to recover the children from the mothers care? That is some 17 months since you have seen the children? I would have thought you would have immediately been in court on your return OR returned early to sort the situation out. If there is a risk of harm you immediately file a Form 4 and by pass mediation but what happened in the 17 months you have been back?

As my very learned friend has said you had better have adequate relevant and provable evidence of the issues you raise. PROOF that things happened is required unless you are filing a case after June 2012 and you are alleging family violence or abuse and then no standard evidence is required on face value only a "belief" something happened or is happening.

I don't believe that DOCS would not have acted, had they believed the children were at risk and with such a report as detailed. I would be making calls to the DOCs management to discuss that issue firstly. Why were the children not returned to your care by DOCs begs a response. It does not seem to all add up.

You say should you file a response to an initiating application. Are you already in court? which court? who are the parties? Mother ? Father ? Docs? Paternal Grandparents?. ALL would need to be parties to this matter. If the children are in immediate risk of harm and or abuse step one is the local Police for an immediate response.

Executive Secretary - Shared Parenting Council of Australia
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Thank you for your comments. This is all very perplexing for me as well. The DOCS report I referred to is part of the "Subpoenaed" material the other side requested.
It is the only substantiated report by DOCS and the most recent. The mother has made allegations to DOCS in the past but they were recorded as unsubstantiated. 

The strangest thing for me to get my head around is that the "Family Report Writer" and the "Psychiatrist" both of whom were commissioned by the "I.C.L.", did not mention
the substantiated DOCS finding in either of their respective reports. They did mention some of the other ones.

I would have thought that DOCS would have acted also. The report is dated 1 June 2011. The only reason I know about it now, is because I have finally viewed
the subpoenaed material. It has completely knocked me sideways. I assumed the professionals would do the right thing. My first call on Monday will be to DOCS, and the I.C.L.

The only parties at present are myself, and the mother. We are not in court, we have just had a mediation. I reluctantly agreed to a very slow transition period because they said
if I didn't, that it would take ages before we got to court and then even longer before I got to see the kids. I basically got railroaded.

The family report writer gave me a glowing report and said that the kids were fine with me, that overnight visits should begin immediately, and so on and so on.
After the report, the other side said kept sending me emails saying they were drafting a consent proposal that reflected the report writers recommendations, but they never did. Then when we got to mediation I got railroaded.

The reason I have been so slow to do anything is quite simply because I didn't want to engage in litigation. I figured it would be a couple of years of life that I wouldn't get back, and in the end, NOBODY REALLY WINS. NOT EVEN THE KIDS.
I thought that as long as the kids are happy, then I don't mind. They need to know their mum. As long as they get to see me as well. But since mediation the mum has already contravened our consent orders 3 times, and it hasn't even been a month.

The kids phone that I bought for them as part of the orders has been off 3 times, at scheduled phone call times.

Anyway the long and short of it is, that I now realize that like it or not, I have to act. I just wanted some advice before I do. 15 months is correct sir, with the exception of the day we spent with the report writer, which was awesome.

Hi jimbxb22

I can understand why you have been a little "slow" to act. My hubby has done the same, expecting that things will get better, and sadly they don't. And I can sympathise with your frustration about being railroaded by mediation.

Keep plugging away. Good luck with your phone calls tomorrow. Let us know how you get on.

On another note, are they final orders that you have, or just interims (and you have a further court date)? Or is it a parenting plan drawn up by the mediators?
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