The ACT Law Society has described a "critical failure" in the ACT government's internal mechanisms to review complaints about decisions relating to children in foster care.
In a submission to an ACT government discussion paper, the Law Society said they wanted to draw attention to the fact that while the discussion paper asks for comment on existing internal review mechanisms, those mechanisms do not exist, or can't be accessed.
The government has maintained there is an internal review process for families who want to fight decisions like changing a child's school, changing care placements or placing children with particular carers, however when asked by the Law Society's Family Violence and Children's Committee, a government employee said there was no "coherent set of documents" that outlined how that process could take place.
ACT Law Society President Chris Donohue said Child and Youth Protection Services is relying on an illusory review process.
"This critical process failure is of wide-reaching concern. It shows that the review's discussion paper was written on the basis of an internal review process that is not identifiable because it does not exist in a coherent form," Mr Donohue said.
"It also shows clearly the reason for the many complaints by parents and other parties about the lack of information about their children provided to them, and the lack of response to their enquiries."
The government pointed the Law Society to a publicly-available web guide supposedly designed to help the process, but the Law Society found the guide discouraged people from making complaints and seeking reviews of decisions.
The ACT government released a discussion paper on review of child protection decisions in April, calling for community submissions.
"There may be times during your involvement with Child and Youth Protection Services when you would like to have a decision that has affected you or your family reviewed by the area responsible for making it - this is a right you have," the discussion paper reads.
"A request to have a decision reviewed is not the same as a complaint."
Mr Donohue said basic information about a child's status is being kept from parents, and that information included things like why a child might be moved from foster home to foster home, why a close relative can't care for a child and why planned visits are cancelled or varied.
"The absence of information about their children leaves parents powerless and distressed," he said.
"After the Children's Court makes a child protection order in favour of the Director-General, there is no avenue for parents or other properly interested parties to obtain any review of parenting decisions made by the Director-General."
"The ACT Government needs to take very seriously its responsibility to rectify these omissions. There is a significant imbalance between the power of the Directorate and the vulnerability of the children and their families. Any such imbalance, when supported by secrecy, has a tendency to allow abuse. The imbalance needs to be addressed, and the review process coherently described."
The ACT Human Rights Commission had said in their submission to the discussion paper that the government is not adequately held to account for its decisions in care and protection matters, in a situation described as incompatible with human rights.