Making Complaints and Managing Disputes.

It is very difficult and challenging having a child removed from your care. You can feel that everyone is judging you and treating you badly. You already feel bad enough about yourself and the last thing you need is more judgement.

The worker was really aggressive. He brought his past into the situation and believed every allegation that came up.
— Parent
The worker was so judgemental, so unhelpful and constantly told me there was no way I was going to get my son back because of what I’d done
— Parent
There’s only one agency that lets me be part of the case plan
— Parent
When you are acting on high emotions, it’s hard to be professional when the worker is being judgemental.
— Parent

You can complain if you feel you or your child are not getting a fair go. You can complain about a range of issues to do with your child and you including:

  • Family contact decisions
  • other decisions about your child including where they are placed
  • if your children are not able to see their siblings or are not placed together
  • issues to do with their education and healthcare
  • your participation in case planning
  • behaviour by caseworkers or other staff such as rudeness or disrespect.

The first step is to talk to the caseworker. If this doesn't help, ask to talk to the team leader or manager from the agency or FACS.

If this doesn't work then consider making a formal complaint. If you decide to make a formal complaint put it in writing if you can. If you can't put it in writing tell the staff member clearly that you want to make a formal complaint. Your options are:

  • Calling or writing to the most senior person in the agency. This is likely to be someone with the title Chief Executive Officer (CEO) or principal officer.
  • If you are complaining about FACS go to the Community Services website and contact them using the email or postal address they have provided or call them on 1800 000 164.
  • You can also complain to FACS about what agencies do as they receive funding from FACS. Use the same link above to do this.
  • Calling or writing to the NSW Ombudsman on 1800 451 524 or email: nswombo@ombo.nsw.gov.au
  • Write to the Minister for Community Services. The current Minister is the Hon Brad Hazzard MP

Some tips for making complaints

  • always keep a record of all your communication with agencies and FACS. This may come in handy if you ever need to make a complaint and for other reasons.
  • communicate in writing so you can clearly explain what your concerns are. Take your time in writing out your complaint to make sure you are happy with it
  • ask for responses in writing
  • always be respectful and focus on the problem or the concern not the person. Eg: if you are complaining about the behaviour of a worker then clearly describe the behaviour you don't like - not the person.
  • offer to take part in alternative dispute resolution processes such as mediation. See below for more information about alternative dispute resolution.

Managing disputes.

It can be helpful to get outside support to manage disputes and disagreements when your children are in out of home care. There are a few alternative dispute resolution (ADR) processes you can ask for if you are having problems coming to an agremeent with an agency or with FACS. It is fine for you to suggest this - you dont have to wait for the agency or FACS to offer it.

  • Disputes over family contact - you can ask for an ADR process to help come to an agreement. This agreement can then be lodged in court and becomes a legal document.
  • Disputes over where your child should be placed including whether or not they can live with you. A family group conference can be a good way for decisions to be made about who will care for your child long term and what support may be needed. Ask for a family group conference if you think this will suit you and your child.
  • Any other dispute you have about your child and how they are being cared for.

Get legal advice if you need more information about ADR and what process would suit you and your child.