1. Plan the investigation and assessment

Under the Child Protection Act 1999, section 14, Child Safety has an obligation to investigate allegations that a child has been significantly harmed or is at risk of significant harm, and where substantiated assess a child's need for protection or take other actions considered appropriate.

Assessment and Service Connect

Assessment and Service Connect (ASC) is funded service provider that partners with Child Safety to respond to children and families subject to investigation and assessments. ASC services are available statewide, with the exception of certain remote locations within the Northern Queensland Region. The role of the ASC service is to assess the family’s support needs, determine the most suitable services and streamline access to support services by connecting families early in the investigation and assessment process. This partnership is referred to as an ASC co-response.

ASC roles and responsibilities

The role of the ASC funded service provider in the ASC co-response is to:

  • support Child Safety in engaging with the child and their family
  • enable, support and inform a holistic response to the child and their family
  • undertake a targeted assessment of a family’s support needs
  • assist the child and their family to access the support and services they need.

The CSO, as an authorised officer, will retain responsibility for all other aspects of the investigation and assessment.

When to consider an ASC co-response

An ASC co-response may be considered for any investigation and assessment, including for an unborn child, with the exception of the following circumstances:

  • an immediate harm indicator or danger is present in the family home and the child is unsafe, as indicated by the SDM Safety Assessment tool
  • an authorised officer is using, or is likely to use, powers under the Child Protection Act 1999, such as enter and search (section 16), contact with children at school or care service (section 17), taking a child into custody (section 18) or moving a child to a safe place (section 21)
  • when a joint investigation and assessment is required by Child Safety and QPS
  • the child is subject to ongoing intervention.
  • An ASC co-response can be considered for notifications with a 24-hour response timeframe, depending on concerns raised within the notification and the ASC co-responder’s capacity to accept the referral and act within Child Safety’s response timeframe. Child Safety may commence the investigation and assessment and engage an ASC co-responder at a later time to meet the necessary response timeframes.

1.1 Plan the investigation and assessment

Prior to commencing the investigation and assessment, identify all the relevant activities required for the investigation and assessment.

To plan for the investigation and assessment:

  • refer to all of the practice considerations required as part of the planning process, as outlined in the practice resource Planning the investigation and assessment (PDF, 247 KB)
  • consider the safety of departmental staff and ensure any identified issues are addressed - for further information refer to Chapter 10.11 Staff safety and well-being
  • consult with the senior team leader or senior practitioner for complex matters, if required
  • consider any cultural factors relevant to the investigation and assessment, and seek further cultural advice where required
  • clarify the roles and responsibilities of each person involved in the process, including where tasks are to be undertaken by another CSSC
  • ensure all the key people are involved and, when other agencies are involved, undertake joint planning at the earliest possible time
  • contact the intensive family support service to coordinate roles and responsibilities, for a child who has been assessed as unsafe by the intensive family support service. For further information refer to Chapter 10.14, 4.What if an intensive family support service has identified the presence of an immediate harm indicator? 
  • contact Adoption Services prior to commencing the investigation and assessment for an unaccompanied humanitarian minor - for further information, refer to Chapter 1, 7. What if the is an unaccompanied humanitarian minor?
  • contact the QPS where a joint investigation is required due to the possible commission of a criminal offence against a child 
  • seek verbal approval for the plan from the senior team leader, and where necessary document the plan in a case note in ICMS, prior to commencement of an investigation and assessment
  • talk with the OCFOS lawyer especially where an emergent order may be needed
  • consider whether an ASC co-response would be suitable.

When the child is subject to a child protection order granting long-term guardianship to a person who is not the chief executive, and the concerns relate to the long-term guardian's care of the child, consult the relevant senior team leader during the planning process. Consult with your OCFOS lawyer about the implications of the order for any steps you are thinking of taking. For further information, refer to Chapter 3, 1. What if a suitable person has long-term guardianship?

Make a referral to an ASC funded service provider

A referral to an ASC funded service provider may be made at any point during an investigation and assessment and will be approved by the senior team leader. Once a decision is made to refer a matter for an ASC co-response the CSO will:

  • make the referral to the ASC funded service provider
  • provide the notified concerns and a summary of departmental history to the ASC funded service provider
  • ensure the notifier details are not disclosed
  • confirm receipt of the referral with the ASC funded service provider.

The referral process for an ASC co-response will vary between CSSCs and referrals should be in accordance with local procedures.

Once the ASC funded service provider has received the referral, they will:

  • advise Child Safety in a timely way whether they accept the referral, taking into account the response priority timeframe
  • advise Child Safety of the reasons should they not accept the referral - this information will need to be recorded in the investigation and assessment event on ICMS. For further information refer to 4.3 Record the investigation and assessment outcome.

Planning with ASC co-responders

Joint planning with ASC funded service providers should commence at the earliest possible time following the acceptance of the referral. As part of the planning, Child Safety and the ASC funded service providers will work together to determine:

  • how consent for the ASC co-response will be sought, for example, whether it will be sought via a phone call or on the first visit with the family
  • whether it will be a pre-arranged visit
  • the time and location for the ASC co-response
  • the roles and responsibilities of each person involved, including responsibility for note-taking
  • how the ASC co-response will be meet Child Safety commencement and completion timeframes
  • the plan for staff safety and wellbeing - refer to Chapter 10.11 Staff safety and wellbeing.

Consent by the family is required for an ASC co-response. Where consent is not provided, the ASC service provider cannot be involved in the investigation and assessment. Where the ASC funded service provider attends the initial visit with a family and the family does not consent, contact with the ASC funded service provider must cease and only Child Safety can continue the investigation and assessment.

Child Safety and the ASC funded service providers will need to determine how to address this situation during their planning for the ASC co-response. This may include having a CSO available at the CSSC to attend if required. Alternatively, Child Safety can meet with the family first and seek consent on behalf of the ASC service funded provider or seek consent over the phone.

Where Child Safety meets with the family first and obtains consent for an ASC co-response, the ASC funded service provider can visit without a CSO. However, the ASC funded service provider should always inform Child Safety of their intent to visit a family for the first time.

Use of delegated powers during an ASC co-response

ASC funded service providers are not authorised officers and therefore cannot use powers granted to the chief executive or authorised officers under the Child Protection Act 1999.

Where the use of powers is required during an ASC co-response, the CSO may request the attendance of another CSO or police officer prior to taking action. The ASC funded service provider must not be involved in the use of powers, even when they are unable to leave the situation due to being in a remote location or travelling in a Child Safety vehicle.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children

To gather information about an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child and family’s culture to assist in planning for contact or interviews with the child, consult one or more of the following:

  • the cultural practice advisor
  • the regional Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander practice leader
  • local Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander community representative (sharing non-identifying information)
  • discuss strategies to engage with the child and family, and, where applicable, options and strategies for identifying a culturally appropriate placement.

In addition, when planning contact with an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child, consider the five elements of the child placement principle, in regards to decisions to be made during the investigation and assessment process.

The Child Protection Act 1999 requires that, when making a decision about an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child, Child Safety considers the long-term effect of the decision on the child’s identity and connection with their family and community. The decision must also be made:

  • in a way that allows the full participation of the child and the child’s family group
  • in a place that is appropriate to Aboriginal tradition or Island custom
  • in a way that upholds the following five elements of the child placement principle:
    • prevention - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have a right to be brought up within their own family and community
    • partnership - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons have the right to participate in significant decisions about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children
    • placement - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children subject to a child protection care agreement or child protection order, granting custody or guardianship of the chief executive, have a right to be placed with a member of their family group
    • participation - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their parents and family members have a right to participate, and be enabled to participate, in administrative and judicial decision making processes
    • connection - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have a right to be supported to develop and maintain a connection with the child’s family, community, culture, traditions and language, particularly where a child is in the care of a person who is not an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person.

For further information refer to 10.1 Decision-making about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and the practice paper Working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

For information that may assist with the planning and conduct of an investigation and assessment in relation to an Aboriginal or Torres Strait islander child, refer to the practice paper Working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Requirement for two officers to conduct investigation and assessment interviews

When interviewing a child, parent and other family members as part of an investigation and assessment, the authorised officer will always be accompanied by either:

  • another authorised officer
  • a police officer
  • a cultural practice advisor unless they may be required to work with the family in the future in their usual role:
    • a student undertaking field education, if approved by the senior team leader after taking into account their skill level and any practice implications that may result from their involvement.
    • an ASC co-responder.

Take into account any potential conflict of interest that may arise where a staff member undertaking another role in the CSSC (for example, a family group meeting convenor) is included as a second officer.

The requirement for an authorised officer to be accompanied by a second worker ensures there is another person to observe, assist with information gathering and witness the contact or interview.

Only another CSO or a police officer will accompany the authorised officer when the investigation and assessment:

  • is complex
  • is likely to be conflictual
  • may involve the commission of a criminal offence against a child.

Delegated powers under the Child Protection Act 1999, sections 16-18, must only be used by an authorised officer.

Where there are serious safety issues present for staff, contact the QPS for their support and assistance.