Cara has a diagnosis of autism, emotional unstable personality disorder, PTSD, depression, and anxiety. Cara arrived in WA with her daughter, having escaped a domestic violence relationship in another state. Due to lack of supports in a new place, Cara’s mental health deteriorated, she was admitted to hospital and her daughter was taken into care. Ruah Legal Services (RLS) began working with Cara whilst she was an inpatient in hospital. Cara was eventually discharged into a therapeutic refuge and RLS were able to advocate to the Department for supervised contact between Cara and her child. A NDIS application was completed which gave the client funding for a support worker to assist Cara with transport. The RLS lawyer later made requests for Cara’s contact with her daughter to be increased to include an overnight stay at the refuge once a fortnight and further weekly contact, which was approved by the Department.
On subsequent occasions, the RLS lawyer made requests on Cara’s behalf for overnight contact with her daughter to be increased but each time the Department denied this request. On each occasion the lawyer was able to negotiate increased contact.
The Department’s main concerns with Cara’s ability to have her daughter in her care full time were about Cara’s inability to assess risk for herself and her daughter. Over the course of the support period with the Care and Protection service, Cara acknowledged that she needed support for the care of her daughter and would like that to be with interstate family. The lawyer and Key Worker liaised with the Department to arrange an interstate carer assessment to be done for Cara’s mother. It was agreed that Cara’s daughter would be placed with her grandmother as the guardian, which would allow Cara to still live with her daughter full time, surrounded by the support of her family.
After two years, the Department made the decision to withdraw their involvement, satisfied that Cara’s support network would be sufficient to ensure the wellbeing and safety of her daughter. Originally the Department had planned on gaining an Order until 18, however due to the support and advocacy of the CAP service, the result was vastly improved.
In providing feedback at the conclusion of her support Cara stated, ‘If I didn’t have Ruah, I would have been chasing alcohol and drugs, wallowing in self-pity and I don’t think I would have gotten [my daughter] back.’
*Name changed to protect client privacy.
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We support thousands of people every year – ensuring vulnerable people, and particularly people experiencing mental illness or impacted by the trauma of family violence, receive high-quality advice, advocacy and legal representation.
Read more about Ruah Legal Services and the Mental Health Law Centre in our annual reports. From 2020-21, we report on our operations as ‘One Ruah’ reflecting our merger with Ruah Community Services in 2019 and the expansion of our integrated legal and non-legal support to families.