The deadline for public submissions on planned reforms to laws governing children in the care of the Department for Child Protection and Family Support has been extended by one month to February 16, 2016.
Planned updates to the Children and Community Services Act 2004 will bring it in line with similar acts in other States and reflect current research on the need to provide permanency for children in care.
Child Protection Minister Helen Morton said that overwhelmingly, the department's main objective was for children to stay safely in their home with their parents.
"Only once all possible avenues to achieve that objective are exhausted will the department apply to the Court to remove these children from their homes to protect them from suffering further harm," Mrs Morton said.
"Even then, the department will provide all the support it can to reunify that child permanently with its parents.
"Certainty and stability for a child who has come into care can only begin after one fundamental question is answered: 'Am I going home?'."
Not having a timely answer to this question affects the child, their parents and families, and carers.
"In cases where all efforts have failed and it is not possible for a child to remain safely at home, we need a system that recognises that early, permanent decision-making is linked to better long-term outcomes for children in care," the Minister said.
Mrs Morton said she was aware that many people would like to care for a child long-term but were reluctant to commit because of the potential heartbreak of separation after years of caring.
"The proposed legislative changes will enable an out-of-home care system that provides a child with a 'forever home' and much-needed certainty and stability," she said.
"However, the concept of a 'forever home' was not necessarily the same as adoption, where a parent's legal rights were totally relinquished."
The legislative consultation is part of a two-year reform process to improve the out-of-home care system in Western Australia and provide a responsive system centred on the safest and best long-term outcome for children in care.
The department's initial Out-of-Home Care Strategic Directions in Western Australia Discussion Paper was released in 2014
The subsequent Out-of-Home Care Reform Legislative Amendments Consultation Paper, released in November 2015, sets out possible legislative changes
Public submissions can be lodged via OOHCReform@cpfs.wa.gov.au or to OOHC Reform Team, PO Box 6334, EAST PERTH, WA 6892
Minister's office - 6552 6900