Family Court child protection expertise acknowledged

The Law Society has supported comments by the Principal Family Court Judge that there are many children in need of care and protection and everything possible should be done to ensure their needs are met and risks identified and properly managed.

Judge Peter Boshier’s comments were made at the Public Health Association conference in Wellington.

Family Law Section chair Garry Collin says New Zealand’s Family Court has developed a strong body of expertise in child protection.

“While we need to continue to be vigilant in protecting the interests of vulnerable children, the issues are not with the powers which the Family Court has or with the expertise of Family Court judges or lawyers,” he says.

“They are all well versed in dealing with care and protection issues. It is the issues related to the under-resourcing of Child, Youth and Family Services and the inability of social workers to properly access community support that more profoundly impact the Court’s ability to meet children’s needs in care and protection situations.”

Mr Collin says the Family Law Section supports the current model of the Family Court. This looks at the family in an integrated and holistic way.

“One example of the problems which can arise with removing that integration can be seen in Australia. They have a separate child protection court and we know there is a real desire to replace this with New Zealand’s integrated Family Court system,” he says.

“The Australian system is fragmented and results in a division between care and protection and issues of family violence and day-to-day care.”