Communities and Justice

Interim court orders and STCOs

If the Department removes a child from their home (section 43 or section 233), or assumes a child from another place (section 44), an application initiating care proceedings is required.

Short term care orders (STCOs)

If the Department proposes a permanency goal of restoration, guardianship or adoption, the application seeks an short-term care order (STCO) (section 45(1)(c)) for a maximum of up to 24 months.

The court may allocate aspects of parental responsibility to either the Minister and/or another suitable person (for example, a relative) for a period specified in the STCO (section 79(9)). It may not be necessary for the Minister to hold parental responsibility when the Department and the court determine it can be held by another suitable person.

The Department seeks an STCO when the permanency plan is:

  • restoration - an STCO is sought to provide sufficient time to gradually restore a child to the care of their parents
  • guardianship - an STCO is sought to provide sufficient time to:
    • demonstrate a stable, loving and nurturing relationship between the child and proposed guardians
    • support and consult the child and family about guardianship options, including through the use of Aboriginal family-led decision making
    • support the proposed guardians to satisfy eligibility criteria
    • conduct suitability and probity checks and a guardianship assessment
    • prepare an application for a Guardianship Order to be filed in the Children’s Court
  • adoption - an STCO is sought to provide sufficient time to:
    • conduct an adoption assessment, including whether or not adoption is in the child’s best interests
    • identify a suitable placement option[2] for the child (when adoption is a preferred permanency outcome)
    • prepare an application for an Adoption Order to file in the Supreme Court.

The period for which an STCO may be made by the Children’s Court is up to 24 months unless there are special circumstances warranting making a longer order (section 79).

The period of the STCO is the period necessary to achieve the permanency goal, after considering the care plan, evidence and submissions of all parties. An STCO may be a period of:

  • Say, six to 12 months, if the permanency plan is restoration or guardianship
  • Say, two years, if the permanency plan is adoption.

The 24 month period for an STCO is measured from the time of making the final order.

An STCO provides greater accountability. When a court has made an STCO, but the approved permanency goal has not been achieved within the timeframe, the Department will need to bring the matter back to court. The Department provides evidence of reasons why the permanency goal has not been achieved in the period of the STCO and seeks other appropriate orders.

Important: Except in special circumstances, an STCO allocating parental responsibility to the Minister is for a maximum period of no more than 24 months.

Adoption and Permanency Services maintain a pool of families dually authorised as proposed adoptive parents and carers and can therefore assist with seeking a suitable placement option. These carers have already been assessed by the department as suitable to adopt.

Interim orders

If the Department is assessing the permanency goal, an interim order allocating interim parental responsibility is sought. A PSP provider with primary case responsibility supports the Department in assessing the permanency goal. For example, by:

  • participating in ADR (if requested by the Department and with consent of the child’s parents)
  • through information exchange.

By seeking only an interim order, the Department can later propose a permanency plan to best meets the child’s needs:

  • based on assessment occurring during the interim order period
  • subject to approval of the Department’s permanency plan by the Children’s Court.

The court may allocate aspects of parental responsibility to either the Minister and/or another suitable person (for example, a relative) for the period specified in the order.

The period specified in an interim order is any period determined by the court as necessary for further assessment to occur, having considered submissions by all parties and evidence filed in the proceedings.

If a Children’s Court registry declines to file (stamp and seal) the application for an interim order only, the Department seeks an STCO as well as an interim order. If this occurs, the Department notifies Legal Services by emailing the Department’s Legal Inbox (

  • A record of the interaction between departmental and registry staff members and
  • A copy of the application.
Last updated:

19 Feb 2023