In 2014, Sharynne Hamilton and Valerie Braithwaite authored a charter for parents and family members with children in the care of child protection services in Australia. This is a guiding document that sets out the rights and responsibilities of parents and family members for when they are dealing with child protection services.
Charters of rights and responsibilities exist within many other areas where livelihoods are regulated by public administration, including health, tax, and transport. Here, a charter is a useful way of thinking about how parents and family members can have relationships with child protection services which are fair and balanced, and which consider the rights of everyone involved in the process.
This charter was developed in response to research of how child protection interventions are carried out in Australia. In some situations, parents are exposed to unfair, non-transparent and unsupported processes where they are given inadequate information, not treated respectfully, not empowered but marginalised and stigmatised. This creates harm in communities and erodes trust in the child protection system. Interviews conducted by Sharynne and Valerie show the unhelpfulness of child protection interventions that traumatise families and use threatening tactics, particularly when family members are already likely to face stress and pressure in other areas of life.
The charter clearly sets out the rights of parents and family members going through the child protection process, but also their responsibilities. It is premised on developing relationships of mutual respect, open and honest communication, and making sure that there is clear information being transferred at all stages of the process. Parents and family members need to know their rights, and what support is available to them.