2. Assess the information and decide the response

2.1 Seeking cultural advice in relation to an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child and family

Decisions made under the Child Protection Act 1999 in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children must be made:

  • in consideration of the long-term effect of the decision on the child’s identity and connection with the child’s family and community
  • in a way that upholds the Child Placement Principle (prevention, partnership, placement, participation and connection)
  • in a way that allows for the full participation of the child and the child’s family group and creates a welcoming and culturally safe place for children and families that is appropriate to Aboriginal tradition or Island custom.

When making a decision at intake for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child, and it is assessed that cultural advice is required to inform the intake decision, consult with one of the following:

  • a Child Safety staff member able to provide cultural advice
  • a local Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander community representative - only share non-identifying information about the child and family.

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2.2 Complete the screening criteria

The consistency of response to child protection concerns received is dependant on the use of professional judgement and a thorough knowledge and understanding of the definitions of the screening criteria and the response priority assessments.

Completion of the screening criteria assists the decision making about whether the child protection concerns will be recorded as a child concern report or meet the threshold for recording a notification. The screening criteria is not used for intake enquiries or for concerns relating to harm reports or standards of care matters.

The screening criteria includes an overarching definition for neglect, physical harm, sexual abuse and emotional harm. It also includes screening criteria within these abuse and harm types and a separate screening criteria for unborn children. Professional judgement must always be used in the analysis of all known information and the decision-making process.

One screening criteria is completed for each household where harm has been reported. The screening criteria and definitions focus on the child's experience of the alleged harm, rather than on the parental behaviour or the environment that may impact on the child's safety.

To complete the screening criteria:

  • determine whether the concerns meet any of the overarching definitions for each alleged harm or abuse type and consult with the senior team leader as required
  • use the information gathered, including child protection history check, and the screening criteria definitions to select all applicable screening criteria within each identified abuse or harm type - refer to SDM: Screening criteria
  • for an unborn child, consider any previous history relating to the parents, the current circumstances and behaviour of the parents and the risk factors for the child once they are born.

For further assistance in completing the screening criteria, refer to the risk and protective factors as outlined in the Practice guide: The assessment of harm and risk of harm (PDF, 886 KB) and the practice paper Child sexual abuse.

If no screening criteria are selected, the matter is recorded as a child concern report and submitted to the senior team leader for approval.

If one or more screening criteria are selected, the response priority is completed.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children

When appyling the screening criteria, consideration is to be given to the different child rearing practices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, which include:

  • earlier independence of children
  • children taking responsibility at an earlier age
  • cultural authority within kinship/clan groups
  • cultural responsibility among the extended family and community (passing on of knowledge or skills).

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2.3 Complete the response priority

Completion of the response priority assists with the decision about how soon the department must respond to a notification (or additional notified concerns).

The response priority is completed whenever a notification, or additional notified concerns that meet the threshold for a notification, are recorded. The response priority guides consideration of the child protection concerns, the child's need for immediate safety and the likelihood of significant harm occurring to the child in the near future and recommends a response timeframe for commencing the investigation and assessment. The response priority is not used for harm reports or standard of care matters.

The recommended response timeframe will be one of the following:

  • 24 hours
  • 5 days
  • 10 days
  • 5 or 10 days for an unborn child notification - five days where the unborn child is likely to be born within five business days of the receipt of the notification, ten days where they are not.

All matters are to be commenced within the allocated timeframe. Matters that have a 5 or 10 day response timeframe are to be commenced within the prescribed number of business days.

One response priority is completed for each household. To complete the response priority:

  • work through the series of questions in section 1 that relate to each of the abuse or harm types selected in the screening criteria, until a recommended response timeframe is reached for each abuse or harm type
  • for an unborn child, identify the likely estimated date of delivery
  • refer to the response priority definitions in SDM: Response priority and consult with the senior team leader as required
  • where there is uncertainty about the appropriate response, respond to each question in the most protective way
  • where more than one timeframe is indicated, the recommended response timeframe is always the shortest timeframe
  • complete section 2 by determining whether a policy or a discretionary override is appropriate and seek senior team leader approval if an override is required (see below)
  • where a discretionary override is used to either increase or decrease the response timeframe, document a clear rationale for its use
  • record a policy override to 24 hours if the circumstances meet one of the two mandatory circumstances (see below)
  • submit the completed form to be approved by the senior team leader.

When the response timeframe has been determined, the RIS will transfer the open investigation and assessment to pending allocation tray of the relevant CSSC, within the following timeframes:

  • immediately - for a notification with a 24 hour response timeframe. In addition the RIS will telephone the CSSC senior team leader to inform them of the response required
  • within three business days - for an investigation and assessment with a five day response
  • within five business days - for an investigation and assessment with a ten day response.

Discretionary override

A discretionary override is optional and is only to be used in unique circumstances, which are not already captured within the response priority questions and definitions. For example, if there are concerns that physical evidence may be lost if a response is delayed or when the child is known to be in a safe environment (out of the home).

Policy override

There are two policy overrides, which are mandatory when one of the following two identified conditions exist:

  • the family is likely to move to avoid investigation and there has been a previous 24 hour priority notification which has not been investigated and assessed
  • the current notification involves a parent who has previously caused the death of, or serious injury to, a child due to abuse or neglect.

When this override is selected, a 5 or 10 day response is changed to a 24 hour response.

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2.4 Use your professional judgement

Professional judgement draws on the professional knowledge of the departmental officer, which is based on their theoretical, research and procedural knowledge and their practice and personal experiences.

At intake, use the framework for practice and professional judgement to critically analyse the available information and decide the appropriate response. Refer to the Strengthening Families Protecting Children Framework for Practice for further information. 

The officer's professional judgement is supported by the completion of the structured decision making assessments which aim to ensure the consistent gathering and consideration of relevant risk factors when determining whether a matter meets the threshold for a notification.

Threshold for recording a notification

The threshold for recording a notification requires that there a reasonable suspicion that the 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 from harm(Child Protection Act 1999, section 14). Harm in this context, refers to any detrimental effect of a significant nature on the child's physical, psychological or emotional well-being. The harm may be caused by a single act, omission or circumstance or a series or combination of acts, omissions or circumstances that may have a cumulative effect on the child's safety and well-being (Child Protection Act 1999, section 9).

Where there is discrepancy between the outcome of the screening criteria and the workers assessment, consultation with the senior team leader is required.

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2.5 Consult with the senior team leader

Senior team leaders are the delegated officers for approving the decision about the response to information received from notifiers. Consultation with a senior team leader is a key component of gathering and assessing information at intake, and should occur at any stage of the intake process and whenever they are required to approve an intake decision.

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2.6 Decide the response

Response options

Based on an assessment of available information about a child or unborn child, consideration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child rearing practices, where applicable, use of professional judgement and completion of the screening criteria, the response by Child Safety will be recorded as either:

  • a child concern report
  • a notification
  • additional notified concerns.

Child concern report

A child concern report is the appropriate response when:

  • allegations of harm or risk of harm are received about a child, or an unborn child after he or she is born, that do not meet the threshold for a notification, that is, the child is not reasonably suspected to be in need of protection, or it is not reasonably suspected the unborn child may be in need of protection, after birth
  • there is alleged risk of harm to an unborn child prior to, or during, the birth process, but there is no identified risk of harm to the child after birth that would meet the threshold for a notification
  • allegations of harm or risk of harm received about a child do not meet the threshold for a notification, but the alleged harm to a child may involve a possible criminal offence in relation to a child that must be reported to the QPS (Child Protection Act 1999, section 14(2) and (3)).
  • allegations of harm or risk of harm received about a child meet the threshold for a notification, but are duplicate concerns that have already been received and recorded by the department- for further information, refer to 11. What if duplicate child protection concerns are received that have previously been recorded?

To provide the most appropriate response to a child concern report, the CSO may need to gather further information about the child and their family. The CSO can provide one of the following responses to a child concern report:

  • information and advice
  • referral to another agency
    • referral to Family and Child Connect
    • referral to an intensive family support service
    • referral to other
  • information provision to the police or another state authority.

In all cases, the notifier is to be encouraged to re-contact the department if they have further concerns about the child in the future.

Information and advice

An information and advice response refers to the provision of general information and advice to the notifier which aims to prevent the need for further departmental involvement in the future. It may include discussion with the notifier about the concerns raised and strategies to deal with the situation, or ways to talk to the family to encourage and assist them to explore alternative sources of support.

Referral to another agency

A function of the chief executive is to provide, or help provide, preventative and support services to strengthen and support families and to reduce the incidence of harm to children (Child Protection Act 1999, section 7). The purpose of a referral to another agency response is to assist children and families access prevention, early intervention and support services. This may be appropriate where it is assessed that the family may benefit from access to such services, or where the child and family have had previous involvement with, or are at risk of progressing into, the statutory child protection system.

Where considered appropriate and where the eligibility criteria are met, refer the family to a Family and Child Connect or intensive family support service, including an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Family Wellbeing service or to another support service.

The preferred process for a referral to another agency is to first discuss the referral with the family to seek and gain their consent for the referral.  However, if this cannot occur, the department can make a referral to a support service without the family’s consent in order for support to be offered to the family to prevent the child from becoming in need of protection. This should occur in limited circumstances, for example where it is not practicable to contact the family to seek their consent.

When a child concern report is recorded for an unborn child, a referral cannot be made to any service, without the consent of the pregnant woman.

Once referred, Family and Child Connect and intensive family support services can only work with families with their consent. Therefore, in cases where the family is contacted by the service and they decline any involvement, the service will cease contact.

For further information about Family and Child Connect and intensive family support services, refer to Chapter 10.14 Referral for active intervention services (PDF, 672 KB) Chapter 10.14 Referral for active intervention services (DOCX, 53 KB). For more information about the location of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Family Wellbeing Service, refer to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Family Wellbeing Services

Referrals to Family and Child Connect should occur only when further assessment is required to determine the family’s needs. Where the family has a clear need that can be met by a particular service, such as intensive family support, then a direct referral should be made to that service. If unsure, contact Family and Child Connect to seek advice on appropriate services.

Where a child concern report relates to a child subject to a long-term guardianship order to a suitable person, inform the CSO with case responsibility. For further information, refer to 10. What if an intake relates to a child subject to a long-term guardianship order to a suitable person or a permanent care order?

Information provision

Where the information received at intake indicates that alleged harm relates to a possible criminal offence in relation to a the child, refer the matter to the QPS, as outlined in 4.1 Inform the police of possible criminal offences and encourage the notifier to contact the QPS directly. Record any actions taken in the intake event.

For further information, refer to the practice resource Child concern report responses and referrals (PDF, 85 KB) Child concern report responses and referrals (DOC, 78 KB).

Family Responsibilities Commission

The Cape York Welfare Reform operates in communities in the North Queensland region, including Aurukun, Coen, Hope Vale, Mossman Gorge and Doomadgee. The Family Responsibilities Commission (FRC) is a statutory body that aims to reduce welfare dependency, provide pathways to participation in the economy, and enhance educational opportunities for members of their communities. Further information including contact details is available via the Family Responsibilities Commission.

All Child Safety staff have a responsibility under the Family Responsibilities Commission Act 2008 to give notice to the FRC when they become aware of alleged harm or alleged risk of harm to a child, and the child’s family resides in a welfare reform community. This includes child concern reports, standard of care reviews (harm report) and finalised investigation and assessments. A Child Safety and Welfare notice must be sent to the FRC within 5 days of receiving the information.

Where a child concern report is recorded and additional information indicates the family lived in one of the Welfare Reform Communities for at least three months since 2008:

Concerns recorded on behalf of another RIS

Where a child concern report is recorded by one RIS on behalf of another RIS, inform the local RIS of the response, as specific local procedures may be required, for example, referring a child and family to a secondary service, RAI or ATSIFSS or informing the Family Responsibilities Commission.

Once the intake event is completed:

  • email the ICMS client ID to the relevant RIS mailbox for review by the local RIS senior team leader
  • advise the relevant CSSC, when the concerns relate to an open case.   

It is the responsibility of the local RIS to refer the child and family to relevant support services and to provide feedback to the notifier or SCAN team core member agency representative, where relevant. For further information, refer to the practice resource Regional intake services workflow.

Notification

A notification is the appropriate response when it is reasonably suspected that a child is in need of protection or an unborn child may be in need of protection after birth (Child Protection Act 1999, section 10).

Harm in this context, refers to any detrimental effect of a significant nature on the child's physical, psychological or emotional well-being. The harm may be caused by a single act, omission or circumstance or a series or combination of acts, omissions or circumstances that may have a cumulative effect on the child's safety and well-being (Child Protection Act 1999, section 9).

A notification records the key child protection concerns received from the notifier, including any direct information about the alleged significant harm or risk of significant harm to the child or unborn child. When concerns are received about one child in a household where other children or a pregnant woman also reside, consider the child protection history of the family and the information received to identify any other child or unborn child who may have been significantly harmed or be at risk of significant harm. Record any identified child or unborn child as a subject child and assess them as part of the investigation and assessment.

When duplicate child protection concerns are received that have previously been recorded, record a child concern report response, even when the concerns reach the threshold for a notification. For further information, refer to 11. What if duplicate child protection concerns are received that have previously been recorded?

A notification with a 24 hour response timeframe is to be approved by the senior team leader within the 24 hours. A notification with a five day response timeframe is to be approved by a senior team leader within three business days and a notification with a 10 day response timeframe is to be approved in ICMS by a senior team leader within five business days. When the notification is approved, it is to be transferred to the pending allocation tray of the appropriate CSSC. The approval of the notification will not delay the commencement of the investigation and assessment.

Each notification will only ever have one related investigation and assessment. One notification will be recorded when:

  • the child protection concerns relate to one particular household only
  • all subject children reside, either full-time or part-time in the home, including where one or more families are residing together.

In the following circumstances more than one notification may need to be recorded:

  • where there is shared custody or care of children in more than one household, and there is concern that there issignificant harm or risk of significant harm occurring in both households
  • where a child who does not normally reside in a household is harmed along with other children who do reside in that household, a second notification is recorded if the child's parents were aware of the risks to their child and were not able and willing to act protectively, for example, a sleep over.

This decision will occur on a case by case basis at the discretion of the senior team leader. If more than one notification is recorded, each individual household must have an investigation and assessment completed, assessing the risk and protective factors in that home. If the matter relates to extra familial abuse, the matter must be referred immediately to the QPS, using the Police referral form, regardless of the departmental response (Child Protection Act 1999, section 14(2) and (3)).

Provide information to the Office of Public Guardian

Where a notification alleges that a child has suffered, is suffering or is at unacceptable risk of suffering any harm that has a detrimental effect of a significant nature on the child’s physical, psychological or emotional wellbeing, then Child Safety will provide this information, excluding notifier details, to the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) as soon as possible or within one business day. For information about the OPG regional mailboxes, refer to the OPG - Regional Visiting Manager contact details.

Notifications on an unborn child

In addition to the intake process, the following information guides the recording of a notification on an unborn child:

  • child protection concerns received for an unborn child can only be recorded as a notification if it is reasonably suspected that the unborn child may be in need of protection after birth
  • an unborn child may be reasonably suspected to be in need of protection after birth when:
    • the parents current behaviour or circumstances, if they were to persist, would place the child at risk of significant physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or neglect after birth, or
    • probable changes to the parents circumstances after the child is born would place the child at risk of significant physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or neglect
  • an unborn child and other (living) subject children can be recorded in the one notification - when this occurs record the notification category as 'unborn'
  • the gestation period of the woman's pregnancy will have no impact upon the decision to record a notification in relation to an unborn child or to undertake an investigation and assessment within the assigned response timeframe
  • a notification is not recorded when the risk relates solely to the unborn child being harmed before or during the birth, including circumstances when a woman chooses, even after receiving medical advice, to take action that is likely to result in death or disability to the foetus
  • a notification will be recorded in circumstances where a pregnant woman receives medical advice that the unborn child will require paediatric care immediately after birth, and has stated an intention to ignore the medical advice.

Additional notified concerns

Additional notified concerns are only recorded when child protection concerns are received from a notifier and there is already a notification that has not yet been approved or an open investigation and assessment event in ICMS for the child, unborn child or family. Some exceptions are outlined below.

When there is an open intake event with a child concern report response, do not record any further concerns that are received in an 'Additional Notified Concerns' form in this event. In this circumstance, record any further concerns in a new intake event.

When duplicate child protections concerns are received, that have previously been received and recorded as a notification by the department, record a child concern report response in the 'Additional notified concerns' form in ICMS, regardless of whether or not they meet the threshold for a notification. For further information, refer to 11. What if duplicate child protection concerns are received that have previously been recorded?

When additional notified concerns are recorded:

  • record the concerns in an 'Additional Notified Concerns' form in ICMS, which includes a screening criteria, and where applicable, the response priority
  • record the rationale for a child concern report response in the ‘rationale’ field within the 'Additional Notified Concerns' form
  • respond to the new concerns within the response priority timeframe, where applicable (this may be a shorter timeframe than the original response timeframe).

The senior team leader will approve the 'Additional Notified Concerns' form in ICMS prior to reassigning the investigation and assessment to the pending allocation tray of the appropriate CSSC.

While there is no limit to the number of additional notified concerns that may be recorded, every attempt must be made to finalise the investigation and assessment of concerns within the prescribed timeframe of two months.

Exceptions to the recording of additional notified concerns

The recording of additional notified concerns is based around an individual household, and is not to occur in the following circumstances:

  • when there is an unapproved notification or open investigation and assessment for a child in the parents care and new concerns are received about the child in the care of an approved carer
  • when there are two harm reports that relate to two different approved carers, who have both had the child in their care 
  • when a family is receiving ongoing intervention and the new concerns do not meet the threshold for a notification, refer to Chapter 3. What if new child protection concerns are received.

The senior team leader will decide whether to override the requirement for the use of additional notified concerns and create a new second notification:

  • when a child who is subject to an open investigation and assessment case while living in one household, moves to live in another household with a different parent or carer and further child protection concerns are received about significant harm or risk of significant harm in the new household
  • when an investigation and assessment on a family has been completed, and awaiting write-up or 'approval' and the family permanently moves to another geographical area.

Prior to making the decision to record additional notified concerns for a family who has moved to another geographical area, contact the senior team leader from the relevant CSSC to discuss and consider the contextual factors of the case to determine whether an exception is appropriate.

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