NM, DOHS & BS 2004 VChC 1

An expert described an attachment bond as a psychological bond between a child and a primary carer in which the child looks to the carer for comfort and soothing in times of stress and anxiety. The expert contrasted this with a bond in which one person enjoys the company of another.

The case involved a boy of 4 years who had been in foster care for 33 months.  An expert reported that the boy showed beginnings of a secure attachment to the foster parents, while the likelihood of a secure attachment with the mother was very low.  If the boy were to suffer another attachment trauma there was a high risk he may not be able to form a secure attachment later in his life.

The judge reported a growing recognition in the past decade of the complexities of infants’ and children’s attachment to their carers. The understanding of these complexities has become an important part of decision making for children’s wellbeing. The emphasis on making assessments about where a child’s attachments lie, the nature of attachments and the impact upon the child of disruptions to attachments is now a regular feature of decision making in court. Making assessments of attachments is recognised as a field of expertise outside the ordinary expertise of men and women. Further it is accepted that there is a recognised and organised body of knowledge and learning which therefore brings it within the rules of expert evidence upon which those suitably qualified can give opinions to the court.  The judge accepted the expert opinion.

The judge ordered that the boy remain in the care of the department.


Changed Circumstances

A mother was aged 19 years when she gave birth to a son who was subsequently removed from her care for 33 months (young parent).  The mother submitted that there were changed circumstances since the order was made and requested a review of the order.

The mother noted the following changes.  The mother was in a new stable relationship.  The couple had moved from a caravan park to renting a 3 bedroom house.  The partner was in full-time employment.  The couple had a baby.  The mother had completed a parenting course and was successfully parenting her young child.

The judge accepted that a prima facie case had been established that the circumstances had changed sufficiently for the case to be reviewed.