Lawyers' Views of Decision-Making in Child Protection Matters: The Tension between Adversarialism and Collaborative Approaches
journal contributionposted on 2019-10-29, 09:06 authored by Tamara Walsh;Heather Douglas
Outcomes in child protection cases impact substantially on children and families. Decisions in child protection matters must, therefore, be made with due caution and sensitivity. In order for the best outcomes to be achieved for children and their families, research suggests that decisions should be made collaboratively, and proceedings should be less adversarial in nature. At the same time procedural rules should be rigorously adhered to when decisions of a serious nature are being made, particularly where State interference in individuals’ lives has occurred or is being contemplated. Thus, there is a tension in the child protection context between the use of informal dispute resolution methods, and the need to safeguard the rights of children and families. This tension is explored in this paper, with particular reference to the principles of natural justice and the rules of evidence. The discussion is informed by empirical research undertaken with child protection lawyers in Queensland. The authors conclude with some suggestions for reform which reflect the ideal of collaboration without compromising the need for procedural fairness.