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Out-of-Home Care, Contact Orders and Infant Mental Health: Recognising a Unique Developmental Stage in Law, Policy and Practice


Rachel Gregory-Wilson, Elizabeth Handley, Liesel Spencer and Toby Rayburn

Child protection legislation in New South Wales (‘NSW’) has the advancement of the best interests of the child as a fundamental objective. This article argues that advancing the best interests of one group of children – infants (ie, children under 12 months of age) – involves recognising needs that are so distinct and important that infants should be treated as a discrete category of children under all legal instruments, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child and child protection legislation. The article examines how the status of ‘infancy’ influences contact orders for infants in out-of-home care (‘OOHC’) in the NSW jurisdiction and proposes law reform to recognise the unique developmental status and vulnerabilities of infants who are placed in OOHC. The lack of legal identification and regulation specific to infants as a sub-category in existing legal frameworks represents a deficit in the child protection regime; the best interests of infants require unique legal protection.

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(2024) 47(1) UNSWLJ 68: