A JUDGE reviewing a child- protection case for two young siblings has criticised the Department of Child Safety for regularly changing its mind about who should have custody, with the case dragging on for more than three years.
District Court Judge Helen Bowskill said the sister and brother, aged 9 and 8, had been subject to revolving temporary custody orders since a child-protection officer first lodged a court application in 2012 and would now have to wait longer because of errors made by a magistrate.
In a judgment published this week, Judge Bowskill noted the children were removed from their mother and cared for by their aunt for most of their life, due to concerns over the mother’s ability to parent, given their disabilities and behavioural challenges.
Despite initially asking the court for long-term guardianship orders for the children in March 2012, the department turned up to Children’s Court in Beenleigh in February — three years later — saying it had reached an “agreement” with the mother to seek only short-term custody of the girl for 12 more months and the boy for two years.
“There is something extremely unsatisfactory about the entity ... that is seeking, on behalf of the state, child-protection orders in respect of these two young children, changing its position quite so fundamentally and regularly,” Judge Bowskill said.
“In the context of an application for child-protection orders for two young children, that is not just unfortunate, but inconsistent with the Act ...”
The magistrate at Beenleigh dealing with the case expressed “surprise” about the change in orders but then went on to make them despite no “case plan” being tendered and strong opposition from the children’s lawyers.
Judge Bowskill ordered the case be heard afresh by a different magistrate in Brisbane.