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Childrens Court rejects bid to place youth under long-term guardianship

A child on the “cusp of adulthood” who has been in care since the accidental death of his father and imprisonment of his mother has been granted the right to rebuild his life without the need for a government-supervised “long-term guardianship order”.

Queensland Childrens Court President Deborah Richards recently dismissed an appeal by the state’s Director of Child Protection Litigation to overturn a magistrate’s decision to not issue a guardianship order for a child until the age of 25.

Judge Richards was told that ‘JYG’, who was born in 2003, had previously been the subject of an interim order granting temporary custody to Department of Child Safety’s Chief Executive and placed in care with his paternal grandmother.

However, the court was told JYG, who turned 18 last month, had “expressed very strong views” he no longer wished to engage with the Department of Child Safety or be the subject of an ongoing guardianship order; he wanted to live his life without ongoing supervision.

Judge Richards, in her nine-page decision, said: “This is an unusual case. (JYG) has expressed very strong views that he does not wish to engage with the Department (of Child Safety) or to be subject to an order of guardianship by the Department.

“He has resisted the Department’s assistance in regards to counselling and medical treatment.

“Despite all this, he has managed to finish school and obtain employment and live in a fairly stable situation. If his attitude was different, there are services that the Department could provide to him over the years that would be of significant use to him.

“However, given his reaction to a discussion about long-term guardianship, the continuing involvement of the Department in his life, in my view, can only lead to emotional instability and resentment given his clear dislike of the Department being involved in his life.

“The fact that he is nearly 18 means in my view that his attitude should be given significant weight. He is on the cusp of adulthood.”

JYG was first placed in the care of his grandmother in February 2014 and intended to remain living with her after turning 18.

The court was told the Department of Child Safety had mounted an unsuccessful application for a long-term guardianship order before a Childrens Court magistrate on 25 February.

The department subsequently appealed that decision in the District Court on the grounds the magistrate had erred in finding there was “no utility to an order being made” for continued guardianship of JYG.

Judge Richards said counsel for the Director of Child Protection Litigation had submitted JYG’s resistance of assistance was the result of his immaturity and consistent with a child of his age.

“Chiefly, it seems that the principal argument by the appellant is that whilst JYG is resistant to any assistance from the Department that this is an immature approach consistent with his age and that he may regret that decision given that the Department is able to offer him assistance in his transition to adulthood until the age of 25,” she said.

“To this end they rely on … factors (such as) a child protection order for JYG would maximise his chance for stability and permanency and … (and assist him with) unresolved complex trauma and grief which the Department could assist him with by obtaining counselling for him.”

In dismissing the appeal, Judge Richards said: “JYG has clearly expressed a wish that an order not be made in relation to him and he does not wish to avail himself of any assistance package from the Department designed to assist his transition to adulthood.”

“JYG is described as happy in his situation at the moment and there is no evidence to suggest that he is especially in need of care in the future.

“He presents on paper as a young man grappling with some significant issues but able to rise above them and plan a future for himself. The support of the Department is neither wanted nor necessary in his case.”

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