Communities and Justice

Restoration - bringing your child home

Bringing your child home will be a journey. How long it takes depends on what is happening in your life and the work you do with the support of the caseworker.

Getting your child back

Getting your child back home to you is the aim wherever this is safe. This is called restoration. The law requires DCJ to look at whether restoration is possible before looking at other long-term care options.

The caseworker needs to see you are making changes in your life and how these will make life safer for your child. What you need to change and how you will do it is written in your Family Action Plan for Change.

If the caseworker and their manager decide that restoration is possible, or the court orders restoration, the caseworker will complete a restoration assessment. This is after you have been working on your Family Action Plan for Change for three months.

A restoration assessment helps the caseworker decide the risk to your child if restoration occurs. 

The court requires DCJ to write a care plan for your child that includes:

  • how long they think parental responsibility of your child should be held by someone else
  • where your child will live until they can come home
  • your child’s views about coming home
  • the minimum outcomes to achieve for restoration, and by when
  • details of the services DCJ will provide to your family to support your child coming home
  • a plan for your child to slowly return from where they are living back to your home.

Restoration is an exciting and challenging time for families. Work with the caseworker to develop a strong Family Action Plan for Change to help prepare everyone for the changes they can expect, look at worries about your child’s safety, and keep up the positive changes you have made for your child.

What caseworkers look for when considering restoration

  • How committed you are to making the changes needed for your child to be safe
  • Whether things are changing for the better and will last a long time
  • The relationship between you and your child
  • Whether you want to be with your child and they want to be with you
  • Whether you are getting help from family, friends and services to make your life safe for your child
  • If needed, how committed you are to making change through mental health, alcohol or drug treatment
  • If you understand what was hurting your child and what you have to change
  • What your child says and feels
  • What visits look like and whether you are showing that you are a safe parent during family time

It is hard to make big changes

Working to get your child back is hard and stressful. You may be starting a new life away from violence, trying to change your use of alcohol or drugs, or getting counselling. You may make big changes and then take a step backwards. This is normal. Do not be too hard on yourself. Speak openly and honestly and get back on track to make the changes your child needs.

What your child might be feeling

Your child is going through a lot of change during this time, which can be upsetting, stressful or unsettling. How these changes affect them depends on their age and what they have been through in the past. Your child may be feeling:

  • sadness and loss being apart from you, family and community
  • anxious, fearful and confused about their new living arrangements
  • missing home
  • excited about positive changes in you and their family
  • scared about court or being taken from you forever
  • protective of you or their brothers and sisters
  • connected to new people in their life like carers or carer’s children
  • uncertain or untrusting about new people like carers
  • responsible for what has happened or like it is their fault
  • confused, angry, jealous and sad if a sibling is restored or stays with their parent when they cannot.

Speak to the caseworker about what your child may be feeling and how you can work with the caseworker and your child’s carer to make them feel loved, supported and less worried. Ask about your child’s routine, involvement with services, activities they like to do outside school and if they have a behaviour management plan. This will help your child feel safe and settled as quickly as possible. 

Managing stress

As you work through your Family Action Plan for Change, you will have to manage:

  • seeing your child
  • working with caseworkers
  • working with other services
  • everyday stresses like relationships, financial stress or work.

There may be meetings, courses, court hearings and counselling to go to. Grief and shame are normal too. As difficult as it is, try to stay hopeful. Stay motivated by your love for your child.

If you are losing hope or having trouble meeting the goals in your Family Action Plan for Change, speak honestly with the caseworker or ask to speak with their manager. The goals in your plan should never feel completely out of your reach. They should be realistic and well suited to what your child needs to be safe.

Every plan has a review date. If you think you will not be able to make the changes listed on your plan by that date, speak to the caseworker.

Making the move back home

As change happens and life becomes safer, your child may be able to spend time with you in your home. It could be a day, overnight or even for a weekend.

You need this time together to build the trust and safety your child needs in their life if they are to come home.

Going to court

When you and the caseworker think you are ready for your child to come home, you will need to make this clear to the Children’s Court if the magistrate has not already ordered restoration. The court will look at what the caseworker says about the changes you have made, what you say about the changes you have made and what your child says about where they want to live. The court may also have asked an independent person to complete an assessment.

Supervision orders

If the court agrees your child should come home, they will likely make a supervision order. This means your child lives with you but the caseworker still works with your family and reports your progress to the court.

You will complete a new Family Action Plan for Change with the caseworker. This is crucial at this time and will include requirements set out by the court. You will need to stick to the goals your family and caseworker have made.

Your child’s life after coming home

Your child has been through a lot. It can be exciting for everyone when your child is back with you and the home feels safe and full of hope. But it can be challenging too.

Many children deeply connect with their carer family and new friends. If they have been in care for a while, they may have started social activities and classes. It is important to step into your child’s shoes to see changes through their eyes. They may be worried about coming home because the last time they lived with you, home was not as safe as it needed to be.

Ask your child what will make them feel safe and happy now that they are home. Let them know it is okay to have lots of different feelings and miss things about the life they had while they were away from home.

They may want to stay in touch or spend time with their carer family and new friends, or stay on with activities. Try to do this. If the cost, travel or time for activities is a challenge, speak to the caseworker about getting some help.

This change is big for your child. They are coming back to a home that is different because of the changes you have made. It is normal for them to behave differently or test out the new routines or boundaries that you have put in place.

Life changes like coming home from care can impact a child’s mental health. If your child is feeling sad, has no interest in doing things, is quick to get angry or upset such as crying a lot and you don’t know why, is using alcohol or drugs or is having negative thoughts, speak to the caseworker, a support worker or call the Parent Line on 1300 1300 52.

Last updated:

27 May 2024