What is the Authority's process for the removal of a child from a Children's Home?

The Authority is specifically mandated under Section 5(1) (c) of the Children's Authority Act Chap. 46:10, "to investigate complaints made by any person with respect to any child who is in the care of a community residence, foster home or nursery", that the said residence, home or nursery failed to comply with the requisite standards prescribed under the Children's Community Residences Foster Care and Nurseries Act, 2000 and any incident of mistreatment of children in such places.

Where, following the Authority's investigation of the matter, the Authority considers the allegation of mistreatment of the child to be substantiated, the child will be deemed to be a child in need of care and protection, within the meaning of the Children's Authority Act. Once the child is so deemed, the Authority will determine, based on all of the circumstances of the case, what interventions are necessary in the best interest of the child.

Where the Authority deems that the child would be in "imminent danger", meaning at the risk of physical, emotional, mental or psychological harm, if he/she remains in the Children's Home, the Authority may remove the child from the Home and seek an appropriate order from the Court to facilitate the placement of the child in a safe and appropriate environment, having regard to all of the child's circumstances and needs.

In order to determine the circumstances and needs of the child, the Authority will conduct an assessment of the child. In some instances, if the child is not removed from the particular Children's Home, the Home must submit a safety plan to the Authority, to ensure that no further harm comes to the child. The Authority's Licensing and Monitoring Unit will usually conduct announced and unannounced visits to the Home, to monitor the implementation of the safety plan.

The philosophy of the Authority is to promote family reintegration, and placement with the child's family/close relative is amongst the first placement option. Attempts are then made to contact the child's parents during the investigations and assessment. If the Authority is unable to contact the parent and the child has to be placed in alternative care, for instance Foster Care, the Authority would make an application to the Court for a Foster Care Order in accordance with Section 25(1) of the Children's Authority Act.

In making this application to the Court, the Authority must convince the Court that this placement is the best option for the child. The child's parents are usually formally joined as parties to the proceedings.

The Court will then order that the application be served on the parents. The Court may have an inter partes hearing, which would involve the attendance of the parents to the Court hearing. The Court may also, at its discretion, make an ex parte Order, which is made without having a formal hearing involving the parties.

At the hearing, all the parties, including the parents are engaged, before a final decision is made with respect to the future care of the child.

The Authority wishes to reiterate that all attempts are made to contact parents before and after, an application is made.

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Does the Authority have to get permission from/inform the parent(s)? What notice, in terms of time, does the Children's Authority give to the child in question, the Children's Home and or family members when a child is to be moved from a Children's Home?

Yes, the Authority makes all attempts to inform the parents. However, in many instances, it is difficult to locate the parents.

The Authority has the power to remove a child under Section 5(1) of the Children's Authority Act which provides that the Authority upon investigation, may remove a child where it is shown that the child is in "imminent danger".

The Authority operates in a family-focused and child-friendly manner and the child is counselled before any move takes place. The notice of the move, which is given, is usually determined based on the particular child in question where the following factors are considered: the child's stage of development, age, past trauma and experience.

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What is the Authority's protocol with respect to contact from family members?

Prior to making an application to the Court, the Authority engages the child's parents during its investigative and assessment processes. Once the matter is before the Court, the Court in its discretion, will determine whether a family member should be permitted access to a child.

In fact, though not one of the Authority's mandated responsibilities, given its philosophy of maintaining family ties and reuniting children with their families, the Authority has facilitated close to 100 supervised visits between children and family members from all over the country.

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Is there some kind of transitional process when a child is removed from a place or people with whom they are comfortable i.e., family who visited, workers at the Children's Home? Is separation anxiety a consideration?

Yes, a Social Worker and/or Psychologist from the Authority is usually involved in this process. 

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If a child is sexually or otherwise abused by another child at a Children's Home, what would be the Authority's next step?

Once a report about sexual abuse of a child against another child is received, an investigation is initiated. If the children are under 12 years of age, they will be deemed incapable of committing a sexual offence, pursuant to Section 26, Chapter 11:28 of the Sexual Offences Act.

In such a case, the Authority will assess both children and where necessary "liaise with support services and agencies for counselling, investigations and continued management" of the case, in accordance with Section 14(2) (b) of the Children's Authority Act.

If the alleged "perpetrator" is over 12 years of age, the Authority, in accordance with the mandatory reporting provision of the Sexual Offences Act Section 31, makes a report to the Police.

The Authority will also assess the children involved and prepare a Treatment Plan which will inform the appropriate interventions.

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1. What does assessment mean?

An assessment is an evaluation of the child’s health care needs, mental state, and emotional and social functioning. This is done in an attempt to determine the child’s needs and the best way to support his/her well-being.

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2. What does the assessment process entail?

The assessment process comprises a social work intake, a medical examination, a psychological assessment and/or a psychiatric evaluation. These processes will be conducted by a team of professionals which may include but may not be limited to a Social Worker, Nurse, Psychologist, Medical Doctor and Psychiatrist. The professionals will engage in a Multidisciplinary Case Conference, which will result in the development of a Treatment Plan. Each plan will be tailored to address the child’s needs and will detail the interventions required for the child’s rehabilitation. A recommendation for placement will also be included in this Plan.

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3. How long does the assessment process take?

The process may take approximately four hours, but can take less or more time depending on the needs of the child and family.

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4. What if I refuse to have my child assessed?

The importance of consent, the assessment process and its benefits to the child and family will be explained to the parent or guardian. It is only when such consent is refused, and it is determined that the assessment is necessary to determine if a child is suffering harm or is likely to suffer harm, that the Authority will make an application to the Court for an Assessment Order which authorises the organisation to conduct an assessment of the child.

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Foster Care
1. What happens after I submit the application and all supporting documents?

The Children’s Authority begins to review and verify the information and documents submitted with the application form. This will be followed by any necessary investigations, which include background checks of the adult members of the household, in-depth interviews and home assessments. Once this stage is completed, the applicant will undergo all necessary training. After this, the Board of Management of the Children’s Authority must give final approval before the applicant can be placed on the Register of approved Foster Care providers.

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2. What qualities are required to become a Foster Parent?

Foster Parents need to have the desire to love and parent a child, the ability to nurture, have an understanding of children, have patience and flexibility, the ability to provide a safe and stable home, and to provide daily care for children with diverse life experiences and needs. 

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3. How long will a child stay with me?

The duration of the child’s stay will be dependent on the needs of the child, and this will be determined through the assessment process done by the Children’s Authority. However, both short term and long term placement options are available. The intention of Foster Care is to have the child reunited with their family where appropriate, possible or in the best interest of the child or until other suitable long term living arrangements can be made.

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4. Do Foster Parents have a choice about which children they want to foster?

At the time of assessing the suitability of a foster parent, discussions will be held with the foster parent on the age and gender of the children they have a preference in fostering. We will try to match the child’s needs with foster parents strengths as best as possible.

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5. If children are placed in foster care, are parents allowed to visit?

Yes. If the Court determines that parental visits will not be harmful to the child, then parents may be allowed supervised or unsupervised visits. As a foster parent you will be advised by the Children’s Authority when and how to encourage and facilitate communication between a foster child in your care and his/her biological family. However, the location of the foster home will not be disclosed to the birth parents/relative, therefore access to the home of a foster parent will not be allowed.

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6. What kind of support will foster parents receive from the Children’s Authority?

Over time the Children’s Authority will aim to provide ongoing support to all foster parents in the form of supervision, monitoring, training, counselling, peer support groups and an online library.

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Licencing and Monitoring
1. What happens after a Residence Licence is issued?

After the issuance of a residence's licence, the Authority will monitor the Community Residence's compliance through regular inspections. These inspections will include both scheduled and unscheduled visits.

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2. How long is a Residence Licence valid?

The Residence Licence is valid for one (1) year and must be renewed annually upon application to the Authority by the licensee.

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3. Can my licence be revoked?

In cases where the Authority recognises that the Community Residence has either failed to maintain the requirements of the licence, or is dissatisfied with the conditions, rules, management or superintendence of a Community Residence, a notice will be served on the licensee or the manager requesting that corrective measures be undertaken within a specific timeframe.

Where a notice has been served on a licensee and the licensee has failed to take the stipulated corrective measures, the Authority may serve notice on the licensee or manager of the decision to revoke the Residence Licence. The Residence Licence may be revoked from such time as specified in the notice; this date not being less than six (6) months after the date of the notice.

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4. What happens to the children if my licence is revoked?

When a licence is revoked, a Community Residence ceases to be a licensed residence, and the Authority shall transfer the children housed at that residence to alternative accommodation.

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5. Can I appeal the decision of the Authority to revoke my licence?

An applicant or licensee can appeal the revocation of a Residence Licence to the Office of the Prime Minister and Gender Affairs, setting out the grounds for the appeal. This appeal must be done within 14 days of the applicant receiving a notice of refusal or revocation of a Residence Licence. Where the Minister dismisses an appeal made to him, the aggrieved person may, by Fixed Date Claim serve on the Authority and the Minister, an appeal to a judge.

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6. Surrender of a licence

If a licensee wishes to surrender their Residence Licence, he/she may do so by giving the Authority six months' notice in writing. At the expiration of six months from the date of the notice, the residence will cease to be a Community Residence.

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7. Does the Children’s Authority provide financial aid to Community Residences?

No, the Children’s Authority does not provide financial aid to Community Residences. Financial Aid can be obtained through the Office of the Prime Minister and Gender Affairs individual donors.

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1. Who is considered a child?

A child is any person under the age of 18.

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2. What is child abuse?

Child abuse is the assault, ill-treatment, neglect or abandonment of a child in a manner likely to cause that child suffering or injury to his physical, emotional or mental health.

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3. To whom should I report child abuse or neglect to? Reports of all matters involving the abuse or neglect of a child must be made to the Police and the Authority.

Reports of all matters involving the abuse or neglect of a child must be made to the Police and the Authority.

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4. Can a report be made anonymously?

Yes, reports to the Authority can be made anonymously. When a report is being made there is no requirement for the person making the report to disclose his/her identity. The Authority places a priority on dealing with all reports confidentially. The Authority treats every case with strictest confidentiality and treats each referral that we receive with the highest priority.

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5. What is mandatory reporting?

There are certain categories of individuals who are required by law to report any suspicion that a sexual offence has been committed against a child. These categories of persons are: 

  • The parent or guardian of the child.
  • Any person who has actual custody, charge or control of the child.
  • Any person who has temporary custody, care, charge or control of a child for a special purpose, such as the child’s attendant, employer or teacher, or in any other capacity.
  • Any person who is a medical practitioner, or a registered nurse or midwife, and has medically examined a child.
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6. Are reports made to the Authority confidential?

Reports made to the Authority are treated with the highest level of confidentiality and the identities of children who are the subject of a report of abuse are protected. This confidentiality extends both to how reports are dealt with internal to the organisation and to how information is shared with investigating agencies. Case numbers are assigned to reports instead of the names of children, in order to safeguard the child's right to privacy.

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7. How is the Authority different from National Family Services?

The National Family Services offers a range of services to persons who have been investigated and where it has been determined that the child and family would benefit from a range of social support programmes. The Authority has responsibility for protecting the rights of the child and safeguarding them from harm. In situations where the Authority has assessed a child and has determined that the child and family are in need of psycho-social and social work support, the Authority would refer the child and family to the National Family Services to contribute towards the overall care for the child.

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8. Should I contact an Attorney if the Authority becomes involved in a matter which involves my family?

The Authority is required to investigate all reports of child abuse and neglect. The Authority's investigation will determine whether Court intervention is required and in such cases the parents or guardian of the child will be involved in all proceedings. The child's parents or guardian have a right to independent legal advice and/or representation at every stage of the Authority's involvement in a matter affecting their child.

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9. If children are removed from their family home, do they automatically get placed with another family member?

The Authority will always act in the best interest of the child and where possible promote contact between the child and his/her family. If upon investigation, the Authority determines that the child has a relative who is fit, willing and able to care for him/her, then the child may be placed with that relative.

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10. Are children who are the subject of a report always removed from the home?

No. The Authority will only remove a child from his/her home if the child is in imminent danger of suffering physical, mental or emotional harm and the immediate removal of the child is in his/her best interest.

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11. When children are removed from their homes do they ever return?

The Authority attempts to facilitate, as far as possible, the rehabilitation of the child and his/her family. This is done with the aim of reintegrating the child into a secure family environment. If the Court deems at any time after the child’s removal that it is safe for him/her to return to his/her family, the child may be reintegrated into his/her family with the Authority’s support.

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12. Can I get into trouble if I report something which turns out to be false?

No. The Authority strongly encourages persons to report any suspicion of child abuse or neglect. All reports will be investigated. If when investigated, it is determined that the child is not in imminent danger, the person who made the report will not be prosecuted. However, any report that is made with malicious intent or fabricated can result in legal action being taken against the person making the report.

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