1. Gather information about the child and family

1.1 Gather information from the notifier

The quality of the decisions made during the intake phase depends on the quality of information gathered about the child or unborn child, their family and the child protection concerns. A child and their family should receive a consistent response from Child Safety, regardless of the location.

Section 159MA of the Child Protection Act 1999 enables agencies and professionals to share information with CSAHSC  to help with intake decision making and assessment. Refer to Chapter 10.3 Information sharing for service delivery coordination, (PDF, 672 KB) 10.3 Information sharing for service delivery coordination, (DOCX, 53 KB)for additional guidance about information sharing.

The RIS provides the primary intake service delivery function during business hours and CSAHSC provides the statewide after hours intake function for Child Safety.

Any person may contact Child Safety with concerns for a child. Information can be received in person or via telephone, email or letter. In most instances, when information is received by correspondence, such as email (including the online reporting form) or letter, the intake officer will contact the notifier by telephone to confirm all relevant and contextual information available is gathered to assist the intake officer determine the most appropriate response. The intake officer must make reasonable attempts to contact the reporter, having regard to the circumstances. However, the intake officer may decide not to contact a person who has made a written report if the written report addresses the key areas for staff to gather information about and explore with a person making a report as outlined in the Practice resource: Information gathering guide (PDF, 95 KB), or it is evident from the report that no further information is available. 

The intake officer will gather information from the notifier to assess whether there is information to reasonably suspect that a child is in need of protection, that is, that:

  • the child has been significantly harmed, is being significantly harmed or is at risk of significant harm, and
  • does not have a parent able and willing to protect them.

When the information relates to an unborn child, the intake decision is whether the information indicates a reasonable suspicion that the unborn child may be in need of protection after he or she is born.

Any information received at intake that involves allegations of harm to a child that may involve the commission of a criminal offence relating to the child must immediately be provided to the QPS. Refer to Chapter 10.2 Statutory obligation to notify the Queensland Police Service of possible criminal offences and the practice resource Schedule of criminal offences (PDF, 84 KB).

Intake information may also be received via an Electronic Transfer of Court Result report. For further information, refer to Chapter 2, 19. What if information is received via an Integrated Justice Information Strategy automated email alert? and the practice resource Receiving Integrated Justice Information Strategy email alert information.

The confidentiality of a person recorded as a notifier is protected under the Child Protection Act 1999, section186, unless confidentiality exceptions apply. A notifier providing information that they reasonably suspect a child  has suffered harm, is suffering harm or is at risk of suffering harm or an unborn child may be at risk of harm after he or she is born, if acting honestly, is also protected from liability under the Child Protection Act 1999, section 197A. Provide information about these legislative provisions to the notifier.

The Child Protection Act 1999 mandates certain professionals to make a report to Child Safety, if they form a reasonable suspicion that a child has suffered, is suffering or is at an unacceptable risk of suffering significant harm caused by physical or sexual abuse, and may not have a parent able and willing to protect them.

Under the Child Protection Act 1999, mandatory reporters are:

  • teachers
  • doctors
  • registered nurses
  • police officers with child protection responsibilities
  • persons performing a child advocate function under the Public Guardian Act 2014
  • early childhood education and care (ECEC) professionals.

ECEC professionals are not prescribed entities and cannot refer families to Family and Child Connect or an intensive family support service without consent. If concerns about a family do not meet the legislative threshold for reporting to Child Safety, ECEC professionals are encouraged to refer families to support services, with their consent.

For further information refer to the practice resource Notifiers and mandatory notifiers (PDF, 266 KB):

All intake information must be recorded in ICMS and handwritten notes are to be stored in accordance with relation to record-keeping procedures.This does not include information recorded as a limited intake response. For guidance on how a limited intake response is to be recorded refer to 3.2 Record a Limited Intake Response.

A notifier should not be transferred from one RIS to another RIS or a CSSC. The intake officer who receives the child protection concerns is responsible for taking and recording the information, deciding the response and seeking approval from the senior team leader. When talking to the notifier, refer to the Intake prompt sheet and the practice resources the Collaborative assessment and planning framework:

  • ascertain whether the report is a mandatory report, refer to the practice resource Notifiers and mandatory notifiers (PDF, 266 KB)
  • record details of the notifier and how they may be contacted, where the notifier is willing to provide this information
  • advise the notifier that under the Child Protection Act 1999, section 186, a notifier's identity cannot be disclosed unless confidentiality exceptions apply
  • obtain accurate identifying information about the subject child, family and household members and other relevant persons, including given names, surnames, aliases, nicknames, ages and dates of birth, gender, cultural identity, Indigenous status, addresses and relationships
  • ask questions of the notifier to determine whether there are any other children or unborn child in the home. Record all children who the concerns relate to as subject children. Examples of where you would record a child as an ‘other child’ are: 
    • where the concerns received do not relate to all of the children in the household, giving careful consideration to cumulative harm and unobservable harms
    • where there are concerns received that indicate that both a baby and their adolescent mother are in need of protection, two separate notifications should be recorded. One notification would record the baby as the subject child and the adolescent parent as the parent, and another notification would record the adolescent as subject child and the baby as the other child. This allows for a clear distinction between the assessment of the baby’s protective needs and their parent's ability and willingness to protect, and the protective needs of the adolescent and her parent’s ability/willingness to protect
    • where children are named by the notifier as being present in the house during a particular event, but actually belong to a different household
    • where children are part of a family that reside in the same house as the parents and children being notified, however these children have different protective parents 
  • use your knowledge of the framework for practice information gathering guide and the screening criteria and response priority definitions to guide the discussion with the notifier
  • obtain details of the concerns and the contextual situation for the child, including risk and protective factors relating to the child, the parent, the harm and the environment
  • clearly identify risk factors commonly contributing to harm to very young children, who have greater levels of vulnerability.

A parent and their child cannot be subject children in the same intake event. In this circumstance, two intake events are required to assess the specific protection and care needs of each individual subject child. For further information refer to Chapter 2, 3.2 Determine whether the child is in need of protection.

In addition, a subject child cannot be recorded as a person responsible for abusive action towards another subject child in the same investigation and assessment. Where there are allegations of harm or risk of harm for a child (aged 10 years or over) who is recorded as a person responsible for abusive action towards another subject child, a separate notification will need to be recorded for the child as a subject child.

For further information, refer to the resource Physical and Cognitive Developmental Milestones (PDF, 24 KB) and the practice resources Communicating with the notifier (PDF, 57 KB), The role of the CSO at intake (PDF, 161 KB) and Regional intake services workflow.

When the notifier is from a government or non-government agency:

  • ask the notifier if they require feedback about the intake response decision by the department, refer to 4.2 Provide feedback to government and non-government agencies and 4.3 Provide feedback to SCAN team core member agencies.
  • determine the notifier's role as a service provider to the child and family, the extent and nature of any current or previous intervention with the family and whether there are particular considerations that need to be taken into account if the department intervenes
  • ascertain whether the notifier has informed the child or family that a report has been, or is to be, made to Child Safety.

Respond to a notifier in contact with a CSSC

While the RIS provides the primary intake function for the department, a person may contact a CSSC to provide concerns about a child. To progress a timely response to this information, obtain basic details to ascertain if the information is an intake matter.

The CSSC will undertake all intake procedures when:

  • a child, young person, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person or vulnerable or distressed person presents at the CSSC
  • new child protection concerns are received at the CSSC regarding a current case, including an open investigation and assessment, concerns for an unborn child and concerns received about the care of a child in care
  • a CSO is advised of new child protection concerns about another family when they are undertaking casework or an investigation and assessment in the community.

For all other matters, respond in one of the following ways:

  • engage and support a notifier who presents at the CSSC and provide them opportunity and privacy to contact the RIS directly, prior to leaving the CSSC
  • forward all intake telephone calls to the RIS, irrespective of whether the person is from the community or a government or non-government agency, using warm telephone transfer where possible
  • electronically scan incoming intake-related letters, email the information to the RIS via the RIS team mailbox, confirm receipt of information and file the original documents at the CSSC.

Receive concerns about a child subject to ongoing intervention

When child protection concerns are received about a child subject to ongoing intervention, take action to ensure the child's immediate safety and determine the most appropriate response. For further information, refer to Chapter 3, 2. What if new child protection concerns are received?

Receive concerns about the quality of care provided to a child in care

Where concerns are received by the CSSC about the quality of care provided to a child, or about harm to a child in care, refer to Chapter 9. Standards of care.

When the information is received by the RIS, the RIS will record a case note in the placement event in ICMS and telephone the relevant CSSC senior team leader.

Where the CSAHSC receives the concerns, the CSAHSC will either record a case note in the placement event and telephone the relevant CSSC or assess the concerns and decide the response. The CSAHSC will advise the relevant CSSC of the concerns and transfer the standard of care review or harm report to the pending allocation tray of the relevant CSSC.

The CSSC will complete all other tasks and provide feedback to the notifier where relevant. For further information refer to Chapter 9. Standards of care.

Receive information about a child death

When information is received about a child death, gather sufficient information to determine the most appropriate intake response, considering the safety of any other children in the home. For further information, refer to 15. What if the information is about a child death?

Receive information about fabricated or induced illness

When information is received about fabricated or induced illness, refer to 16. What if concerns are received about fabricated or induced illness?

Receive information in an emergency or crisis about a child with disability

A number of emergency or crisis situations may arise for a child with a disability prompting a parent (or another person) to contact Child Safety, for example:

  • serious escalation of challenging behaviours related to the child’s disability
  • deterioration of the mental or physical health of the parent affecting their capacity to provide care
  • immediate or critical need for equipment, equipment repair or services related to the child’s disability.

If information is received about a child with a disability, gather sufficient information to determine whether child protection concerns are present.

Proceed with intake processes as usual where child protection concerns are identified.

If no child protection concerns are identified, refer to Maintaining critical supports during NDIS transition: decision tool (PDF, 608 KB)

Receive information from the Family Court of Australia or Federal Circuit Court of Australia

When a Form 4 - Notice of Child Abuse, Notice of Risk Family Violence or Risk of Family Violence (PDF) or a Notification under section 67ZA Family Law Act 1975 is received from the Family Court or Federal Circuit Court of Australia, refer to 8. What if child protection concerns are received from the Family Court or Federal Circuit Court of Australia?

Receive a request for information from a Queensland court

When a request for information is received from a Queensland court under the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012, Report to the Court pursuant to section 55, refer to 17. What if a request is received from a Queensland court under the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012?

Unaccompanied humanitarian minors

When the information received from the notifier refers to a child who is an unaccompanied humanitarian minor (UHM), refer to 7. What if the child is an unaccompanied humanitarian minor? and the Practice guide: Unaccompanied humanitarian minor wards.

Child subject to a long-term guardianship order to a suitable person or a permanent care order

In addition to the procedures for responding to an intake, additional requirements apply to a child subject to a long-term guardianship order to a suitable person or a permanent care order. For further information, refer to 10. What if an intake relates to a child subject to a long-term guardianship order or permanent care order?

Adoption enquiries

When information is received or requested about adoption matters, including adoption care agreement matters, refer to Chapter 10.4 Providing adoption services and the and the Adoption Practice Manual.

If information is received which indicates that the child is part of an adoptive family, consideration should be given to contacting Adoption Services and/or the Post Adoption Service.

Information received about a reportable offender

When information is received about a reportable offender, refer to 19. What if concerns are received about a reportable offender?

Information received about sexting

When information is received about sexting refer to 20. What if concerns are received about sexting?

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1.2 Determine if a matter is a limited intake response

There may be occasions where information received at intake does not relate to departmental core business and does not require any further action by the department. These matters can be recorded as a limited intake response.

A limited intake response must only be recorded if the following criteria are met:

Examples of where a limited intake response may be appropriate:

  • information is received that a father has breached a no contact provision of a domestic violence order by contacting the mother through a text and the text contained no threats   
  • a child is displaying sexualised behaviours within the normal parameters for the child’s age. For example a 15 year old has been observed on one occasion watching adult pornography on his home computer and there is no evidence that this is a regular occurrence. Refer to the Practice Paper: Child Sexual Abuse If outside of normal parameters a limited intake response would NOT be appropriate 
  • the intake relates to a person seeking advice regarding what services are available in the area  
  • the intake relates to custody arrangements being breached in the absence of any indication that there is an allegation of concern for the safety or wellbeing of a child.

 For further information on recording a limited intake response, refer to 3.2 Record a limited intake response.

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1.3 Determine if a matter is an intake enquiry

Two categories of information received at intake are recorded as an intake enquiry:

1. The first category relates to information received, or advice given, where there will be no further action by the department. This includes when:

  • information is provided from the Family Law Court or an IJIS report in relation to a child but there are no allegations of harm or risk of harm
  • information is being requested in relation to child protection matters but there are no allegations of harm or risk of harm to a specific child or unborn child.

2. The second category is information reported about alleged harm or risk of harm to a child that:

  • relates to extra-familial abuse, where the parents are assessed as able and willing to protect the child - immediately provide this information to the QPS for a response (Child Protection Act 1999, section 14(2) and (3))
  • relates to a child who lives in another jurisdiction, and the information will be forwarded to that jurisdiction for the appropriate response - for further information, refer to 1. What if the child protection concerns are about a child in another jurisdiction?
  • relates to the non-accidental or suspicious death of a child where there are no siblings, or the accidental death of a child where there are no suspicious circumstances - recording this ensures the information is available as part of the family’s child protection history. For further information refer to 15. What if information is received about a child death?

Undertake a child protection history check for all matters in the second category, to inform the assessment and determine that an intake enquiry is the appropriate response - for further informatin refer to 1.3 Conduct a child protection history check.

For further information on recording an intake enquiry, refer to 3.3 Record an intake enquiry.

Respond to harm by a person living outside the home

Child Safety does not automatically investigate and assess significant harm or risk of significant harm to a child if the alleged person responsible lives outside the child's home (extra-familial abuse). The focus of the decision is on the information available to the department about the ability and willingness of the parents to act protectively towards the child.

When making a determination about the parent's ability and willingness, the following questions need to be considered:

  • Are the parents aware of the harm or risk of harm?
  • What is the parent's protective capacity?
  • What is the parent's response to the child, have they rejected the child or are they refusing to take action to ensure the child's safety?
  • Do the parents support the child, believe the child or blame the child for the abuse?
  • Do the parents have an ongoing relationship with the alleged offender or person responsible that will affect their ability to protect the child?
  • Are the parents willing to protect the child, but not able to do so, due to factors impacting on their capacity to respond, for example, due to addiction or psychiatric illness, disability or fear of the alleged person responsible?
  • Are the parents willing to protect the child, but not able to do so because of parent/adolescent conflict?
  • Are the parents willing to protect the child, but not able to do so because of existing parenting orders under the Family Law Act 1975?

While Child Safety responds to alleged significant harm or risk of significant harm to a child within their home environment, the QPS is responsible for investigating any possible criminal offence, for example, allegations of serious neglect, assault, kidnapping or sexual exploitation.

Where the information received by the department contains allegations of harm that may have involved the commission of a criminal offence relating to the child, regardless of who is allegedly responsible for the harm and irrespective of the intake response, immediately provide the information to the QPS, using a Police referral and include any relevant attachments (Child Protection Act 1999, section 14(2) and (3)). Where the notifier states they are going to provide information to the QPS about the alleged concerns, the department is still required to immediately provide the information to QPS. For further information refer to Chapter 10.2 Statutory obligation to notify the Queensland Police Service of possible criminal offences and the practice resource Schedule of criminal offences (PDF, 84 KB).

Record the information provided to the QPS in the related intake enquiry, child concern report or notification in ICMS.

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1.4 Conduct a child protection history check

Previous child protection history provides important contextual information, highlights patterns of cumulative harm and risk and protective factors present in the family that may not be known or identified by the person contacting the department.

A child protection history check is the consideration and analysis of all records of previous contact by the department with the child, family or other members of the child's household as part of the decision-making process.

The analysis of the check is to occur prior to deciding the appropriate intake response to information reported about alleged harm or risk of harm to a child.

To complete a child protection history check:

  • access all ICMS records and where indicated, any other relevant records such as SCAN team records
  • create a 'Departmental history report' in ICMS
  • review all relevant documents and analyse the extent, nature and outcome of previous intervention by the department with the child or family, including whether the history:
    • indicates cumulative harm, that is, a series or combination of acts, omissions or circumstances that may have a cumulative effect on the child’s safety and well-being
    • indicates a pattern of harm or escalating concerns
    • confirms or highlights additional risk factors, including any previous child deaths or serious injuries or current alerts, such as suicide risk alert.

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1.5 Conduct a pre-notification check if required

A pre-notification check is an enquiry that is made only when child protection concerns are received from a notifier, and further information is needed to assist completion of the screening criteria and determine if a notification response is required. The Child Protection Act, section 159MB enables agencies to share information with Child Safety for this purpose. The Child Protection Act 1999, section 159N may also be required if Child Safety needs to make a formal request of a particular prescribed entity to share information. Refer to 10.3 Information sharing for service delivery coordination (PDF) for guidance about requesting information.

Pre-notification checks:

  • are not routine for all intake matters
  • are not required for all intake matters
  • are not used for intake enquiries, harm reports
  • are not made once a decision has been made to record a child concern report or notification.

Relevant information about a family can be sought via a pre-notification check from:

  • an external agency, including both government and non-government agencies, or service provider, including the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) and National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) providers, or health professionals, such as a general practitioner
  • an interstate or international child protection jurisdiction.

A pre-notification check relating to an unborn child can be conducted by requesting information from a prescribed entity or service provider under section 159MB. Before conducting the pre-notification check, consider the specific information required and the rationale for obtaining it. Also consider that any ongoing intervention or support to a pregnant woman requires her consent.

If necessary, a pre-notification check can also be undertaken under section 159N from the following entities:

  • the public guardian
  • a prescribed entity
  • a licensee
  • the person in charge of a student hostel.

For section 159N requests, complete a Section 159N information request and obtain approval from the senior team leader. If information is sought under section 159N, the requested entities are compelled to provide the information. 

Once sufficient information has been obtained to determine the intake response, no further pre-notification checks will be undertaken. When a notification response is determined, any further information obtained from external sources becomes part of the investigation and assessment.

Contacting other Child Safety staff, including the Principal Child Protection Practitioners, checking SCAN team documentation or recontacting the notifier is a part of information gathering and is not to be recorded as a pre-notification check.

A pre-notification check must be initiated as soon as possible and within 24 hours of receiving the child protection concerns, in order to allow as much time as possible for the professional or agency to respond.

The decision about whether to record a notification must be made by Child Safety within 48 hours of receiving the initial information. If there has been no response to the pre-notification check within the 48 hour timeframe, make the decision about the appropriate response based on the information already gathered.

Where information is received after the 48 hours has elapsed, this information must be re-assessed, and where required, the information may need to be re-assessed using the screening criteria and response priority assessments.

When completing a pre-notification check:

  • contact the relevant professional or agency
  • provide your name and delegation, the purpose of the contact and the legislative basis for seeking information (Child Protection Act 1999, section 14 and 159A, 159MB, 159N)
  • where requesting information under section 159N of the Child Protection Act 1999, it may be necessary to explain to the professional or agency that they are required by law to provide the information requested
  • advise the relevant profesional or agency of confidentiality provisions 
  • request information about:
    • any contact their agency has had, or currently has, with the child or family
    • the nature and duration of contact with the child or family
    • any child protection concerns they may currently have, or have previously had
    • presentation of the children and their interactions with others
  • inform the relevant professional or agency of the timeframe in which they need to respond
  • use the information received to assist decision-making about the response by the department
  • record the information in the 'pre-notification check' form in ICMS, maintaining the confidentiality of the professional or agency providing the information
  • when appropriate, reference or attach any Queensland Police Information in the ‘Info received from QPS’ case note (in addition to recording this information in the ‘pre-notification’ form).

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1.6 Conduct urgent criminal and domestic violence history checks, if required

Requests for criminal history are not routine for intake decision making. Criminal history checks should only by requested if considered critical to deciding whether to record a notification. In some circumstances, an urgent request for criminal and domestic violence records held by the QPS may be required. QPS may provide a written report of criminal history and a summary of domestic violence protection orders and their in relation to:

  • a parent of the subject child
  • an adult member of the parent's household
  • an adult who may be a person responsible for the alleged harm.

The request can be made at any time a decision is being made in relation to a child, under the authority of the Child Protection Act 1999, section 95(3).

Requests for the purpose of a pre-notification check are considered urgent as the information is required within 48 hours of receiving the initial information to meet screening requirement standards and determine the intake response.

To complete an urgent QPS criminal and /or domestic violence history check:

  • seek the CSSC manager or a senior team leader's approval to request a criminal and/or domestic violence history check
  • complete a QPS - Urgent Request (Business Hours) form
  • include a rationale to explain the urgency for the request such as, a pre-notification check to determine if a notification response is required
  • provide the approving officer's name and signature
  • forward the form to the Central Screening Unit (CSU).

The CSU undertakes a quality assurance role prior to forwarding requests to the QPS. QPS will not process requests that are sent directly to them. Relevant results will be emailed from the QPS to the CSU for forwarding to the requesting officer.

The CSU is unable to forward the request to QPS if the mandatory fields are incomplete. The local QPS Child Protection and Investigation Unit (CPIU) may assist in providing relevant information, such as a person’s full name, to enable the spreadsheet to be completed if details are not known. If information has not been received from QPS within 48 hours of receiving the initial information, a decision must be made about the appropriate response based on the information already gathered. Interstate checks by QPS require a longer timeframe for completion.

Non-urgent requests for criminal and domestic violence history may also be made in certain circumstances. For information on non-urgent requests refer to Chapter 2, 2.7 Gather information from other sources.

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