2. Engage the family and gather information

2.1 Commence the investigation and assessment

An investigation and assessment is to commence within the response priority timeframe of the notification. The starting point for the response priority timeframe begins when the decision is made that the concerns meet the threshold for a notification. However, if a pre-notification check is initiated, the decision about whether to record a notification must be made within 48 hours. 

Refer to Chapter 1, 2.3 Complete the response priority for more information.

The response timeframe assigned to the notification will be either:

  • 24 hours, 5 days or 10 days for a 'standard' notification
  • five days - where an unborn child is likely to be born within five days
  • 10 days - where an unborn child is likely to be born more than five days after the receipt of the initial concerns.

Take action to commence the investigation and assessment within 24 hours

An investigation and assessment with a 24 hour response priority timeframe is ‘commenced’ when the subject child or pregnant woman has been sighted and interviewed. Refer to 2.3 Interview and sight the child. 2.7.

In exceptional circumstances only, one of the following options may occur to commence a notification with a 24 hour response priority timeframe. For example, where ‘sorry business’ delays access to an indigenous community, or where the CSAHSC is unable to commence the investigation and assessment due to geographical reasons.

  • Request a police officer or health professional to have contact with a subject child or a pregnant woman - where an authorised officer is not able to access and sight a child within the response priority timeframe, the subject child (or children) or pregnant woman may be sighted by a police officer or health professional, who can provide information to Child Safety in relation to the safety of the child.
  • Gather significant information - where an authorised officer is not able to access and sight a child within the response priority timeframe, significant information can be gathered that relates to the child’s immediate safety, prior to the child being interviewed or sighted, by:
    • interviewing a parent
    • receiving information from a government or non-government agency.
  • Take action in rural and remote areas - in rural and remote regions, where an authorised officer, police officer or health professional is not able to sight a child or pregnant woman within the response priority timeframe due to geographical distance or lack of access due to seasonal conditions, one or both of the following actions is to occur as a matter of urgency:
    • seek information in relation to the safety of the child from other services or professionals who have regular, or have had, recent contact with the child
    • take immediate action to allow for the commencement of the investigation and assessment - this may include organising transport or arranging for the child to be sighted.

The date the action is taken is to be recorded as the commencement date.

Take action to commence an investigation and assessment within five or 10 days

An investigation and assessment with a five or 10 day response priority timeframe is ‘commenced’ when one of the following has occurred:

  • the subject child or pregnant woman has been sighted and interviewed. Refer to 2.3 Interview and sight the child and 4. What if a joint investigation with the Queensland Police Service is required?.
  • new information that informs the assessment about the child’s safety or the unborn child’s safety after birth is sought and received from an external agency, including government and non-government agencies, service providers, including National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) and National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) providers or health professionals, such as a general practitioner. Information gathering may include an email exchange, phone discussion, receipt of a ‘Section 159N information request’, the convening of a SCAN team meeting (if SCAN team referral criteria is met) or a locally convened panel process with relevant partners. The date the information is received is to be recorded as the commencement date. Note: Advise the government or non-government agency how the information will be used and disclosed. If the person who is contacted for information was the notifier, advise them that the new information they provide forms part of the investigation and assessment and is not covered under the confidentiality of notifier provisions under the Child Protection Act 1999, section 186. Refer to 6. What if Child Safety is contacted about additional concerns for a child or an unborn child?

Note: When actions other than sighting and interviewing a subject child or pregnant woman are undertaken to commence an investigation and assessment:

  • the information received cannot be used to downgrade the notification to a CCR
  • completion of the investigation and assessment requires all subject children to be sighted, and where appropriate, interviewed by a CSO - unless the differential pathway ‘contact with other professional’ is used or an exception applies. Refer to Contact with other professional and Exceptions to contact or interviews with a child.

The following actions do not constitute commencement:

  • completing and sending a ‘Section 159N information request’
  • making a referral to SCAN
  • allocation of the investigation and assessment by the senior team leader
  • an unsuccessful attempt to visit or contact the child or family or pregnant woman
  • any information received prior to the decision to record a notification
  • information received and recorded as additional notified concerns.

When there are serious concerns for staff safety, and the QPS is unavailable to accompany staff within the response timeframe, sighting and interviewing the subject children is not to occur until the QPS is available to accompany staff.

Record the reasons why an investigation and assessment is not commenced within the required response priority timeframe in the investigation and assessment event in ICMS.

2.2 Inform the parents about the allegation of significant harm

An authorised officer or police officer investigating an allegation of significant harm or risk of significant harm to a child must give details of the alleged harm or risk or risk of harm to at least one of the child's parents (Child Protection Act 1999, section 15). In doing so, consider whether the information will be provided to both parent's, especially when parents are residing separately.

Under the Child Protection Act 1999, section 186, a notifier's identity must not be disclosed, either deliberately or inadvertently through discussions during the investigation and assessment.

A parent is the child's mother, father or someone else (other than the chief executive) having or exercising parental responsibility for the child. This includes a person who, under Aboriginal tradition or Torres Strait Island custom, is regarded as the parent of the child. This definition also includes a long-term guardian or permanent guardian (Child Protection Act 1999, section 11).

However,  discretionary compliance with this requirement is permitted (Child Protection Act 1999, section 15(3)), if an authorised officer reasonably believes:

  • someone may be charged with a criminal offence for the harm to the child, and compliance may jeopardise an investigation into the offence
  • compliance may expose the child to significant harm.

When the concerns relate to a long-term guardian’s or permanent guardian’s care of a child, give details of the alleged harm or risk of harm to at least one of the guardians. In addition, make reasonable efforts to contact at least one of the child’s parents unless this is not considered to be in the child’s best interest, taking into account:

  • the nature and extent of the child’s connection with their parents
  • the evidence supporting the allegation
  • any other matter, for example, if a parent’s knowledge of this allegation of harm will have a detrimental effect on the child and the stability of the living arrangements (Child Protection Act 1999, section 15(3)).

Where details of the alleged harm or risk of harm are not provided to a parent:

  • the decision must be approved by a senior team leader
  • record the decision, rationale and approval process in a case note in ICMS.

For further information, refer to the practice resource Informing parents about the significant harm and the outcome - section 15 (PDF, 141 KB).

Criminal matters

Where there is a criminal matter or an ongoing police investigation, and the provision of information may jeopardise the due process of the criminal matter, discuss the matter with the QPS prior to any information being provided to the parents.

Privacy considerations - general

The Child Protection Act 1999 overrides the privacy principles adopted by the State Government about how personal information, including that of clients, is collected, stored, used and disclosed. Decisions about the provision of information must always be made in favour of the wellbeing and best interests of a child. For more information, refer to Information privacy principles and other obligations.

Where parents are estranged, or no longer reside together, provide only information specific to the alleged harm to the child. Do not release information about one parent's general circumstances to the other parent, for example, information such as employment and financial issues, extended family issues and a parent's health or medical treatment. If there are concerns about what information can be provided to a parent, seek advice initially from the senior team leader or senior practitioner and, when necessary, the senior team leader will seek further advice from Legal Services.

Privacy and safety considerations – domestic and family violence

When working with both individuals who have perpetrated violence and their family members who have been impacted by this violence, consider how Child Safety interventions may impact on the safety of the victim and their children.

During the investigation and assessment, consider recording a ‘Significant DFV Threat Alert’ when one or more of the following domestic and family violence risk factors with the family are identified:

  • a victim believes their life is in danger
  • a perpetrator has caused serious injuries that requires assessment and treatment at a hospital emergency department and/or hospitalisation
  • strangulation/stabbing/choking has been perpetrated
  • escalation of physical violence
  • perpetrator history of incarceration for breach of domestic violence order, physical assaults, grievous bodily harm or torture, deprivation of liberty
  • perpetrator history of breaches of domestic violence orders – failure to comply with a domestic violence order
  • previous or current threats by the perpetrator to kill the victim, a child, other family members or pets
  • perpetrator access to or possession of a firearm
  • perpetrator history of stalking or obsessive behaviour
  • perpetrator behaviour patterns of coercion and control, for example, leading to extreme isolation of the victim, or accompanying the victim at all times when they are in public.

When recording the alerts:

  • create an alert in the ICMS profiles of the perpetrator, victim and child.
  • record the name and person profile number of the victim and children in the rationale field of the perpetrator’s alert
  • record the name and person profile number of the perpetrator in the rationale field of the In the victim’s and child’s alerts
  • in each alert also record either:
    • where to locate the assessment of the perpetrator’s pattern of behaviour, for example, the event number
    • in the absence of an assessment, a brief summary of the coercive and controlling behaviours and the specific worries for the safety of the victim and child.

Record an alert on a person’s ICMS profile each time the person has perpetrated domestic and family violence and has been assessed as posing a significant threat to more than one victim over time. This will enable the perpetrator’s behaviour to be tracked over time and across multiple families.

When the investigation and assessment involves a person who has an existing alert due to perpetrating domestic and family violence in a previous relationship, conduct a new assessment of risk within the new household to determine if a new alert is required.

When there is an existing ‘significant DFV threat’ alert recorded in a person’s profile in ICMS consider:

  • what information is known about the person’s pattern of coercive and controlling behaviour
  • how this information can inform safety planning with the victim and the assessment of the child’s need for protection
  • what information, if provided to the person during an investigation and assessment
  • or Right to Information request, could compromise the safety of the victim and their child.

Examples of information that could compromise safety include:

  • the location and address details of the victim and their extended family members
  • information that identifies a school the child attends
  • photographs of children on family visits that may identify the location or area a victim or child is residing in.

Privacy considerations - criminal matters

When Child Safety obtains information that any adult in the household has an alleged offence, charge or conviction that presents an unacceptable risk to a child’s safety, and one, or both, parents has no knowledge of the information, the CSO has a duty to inform the relevant parent or parents that Child Safety has concerns. Prior to this, the CSO may endeavour to speak to the adult alone, outline that information has been obtained, and discuss the worries for the child’s safety. The person will be encouraged to provide relevant information to parents in the household.

When a person refuses to disclose their criminal history to a parent, the CSO may provide the parent with information regarding a person's criminal history, including offences, charges or conviction, if releasing this information is considered to be in the child's best interests. This includes disclosure of charges or convictions under the Child Protection (Offender Reporting and Offender Prohibition Order) Act 2004.Once the parent is made aware of this information, assess the parent's ability and willingness to protect the child from the risk posed by the person, based on their response to the information. 

If there are concerns about what information can be provided to a parent, seek advice initially from the senior team leader or senior practitioner and, when necessary, the senior team leader should seek legal advice from staff at Legal Services.

2.3 Interview and sight the child

Investigation and assessments are undertaken with the cooperation and agreement of parents wherever possible. The use of good communication and engagement skills are vital to this process.

As soon as practicable, sight and interview the subject children and complete the safety assessment. Refer to 2.6 Complete the safety assessment.

As part of the investigation and assessment:

  • each subject child must be sighted, interviewed (as age and developmentally appropriate) and assessed by an authorised officer
  • any other child in the home who is identified during the investigation and assessment as having been significantly harmed, or as likely to be at unacceptable risk of significant harm must be sighted, interviewed and assessed. In this circumstance, the child will become a subject child within the investigation and assessment.

Interviewing other children is important, as they may also have been significantly harmed or be at risk of significant harm and may have information about the notified concerns. Consider interviewing:

  • any other child in the home who may have information about the notified concerns
  • any other child who is no longer in the home, but who was in the home at the time of the notified concerns, if it is assessed that they may be able to provide relevant information.

When the subject child is also a parent of a child, and child protection concerns are identified for their child during the investigation and assessment, their child cannot be added as a subject child to the existing investigation and assessment. In this circumstance, record a separate notification and complete an investigation and assessment in relation to the child's specific protection and care needs. Refer to Chapter 1, 1.1 Gather information from the notifier for further information about recording two separate intake events in these circumstances.

Contact a child without parental consent - section 17

In exceptional circumstances, the use of powers under the Child Protection Act 1999, section 17, may be used to contact and interview a child without the parents’ consent or without them having prior knowledge of the interview. These powers should be used in circumstances when:

  • the parents' prior knowledge of the interview will compromise the safety of the child or interfere with a possible criminal investigation by the QPS
  • it is in the child's best interest that the officer has contact with the child, before the parents are told about the investigation and assessment.

For further information refer to 5. What if a child needs to be interviewed without parental consent - section 17?

Arrange the contact with a child

Prior to contacting and interviewing a child, either:

  • seek the permission of the child's parents
  • use powers under the Child Protection Act 1999, section 17, or
  • obtain the authority of an assessment order in order to facilitate the interview - this is only to occur if the parents refuse contact with a child, or will not agree to work with Child Safety.

Contact or interviews with a child may occur either by an unannounced visit to the home or an arranged appointment. Contact may happen in the family home, it can also occur in other locations such as a hospital, the child's school, a child care or day care centre, a police station, a CSSC or another location suitable to the child and family and appropriate to the circumstances of the investigation and assessment. When making these decisions, consider:

  • the seriousness of the allegations and whether there is any history to inform the decision about the best place to interview the child
  • whether there are any serious safety issues for departmental officers, that will require the involvement and assistance of the QPS
  • what culturally appropriate support is required for the child and family
  • whether the location is appropriate for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child, having regard to Aboriginal tradition or Island custom.

If a criminal offence may have been committed, and a joint investigation with the QPS is to occur, make decisions about sighting and interviewing children in consultation with the QPS, including whether or not the interviews will be recorded in line with the ICARE procedures, refer to 4. What if a joint investigation with the Queensland Police Service is required?. In addition, if there are any safety issues for staff, refer to the practice resource Planning the investigation and assessment (PDF, 247 KB) and Chapter 10.11 Staff safety and wellbeing.

Sight the child

Contact with a child is key to determining the immediate safety of the child, and should be done in a way that allows the child to feel safe and able to communicate any fears or concerns they have. When sighting a child:

  • make careful observations of the child's physical and cognitive developmental stage, behaviour, reactions, presentation and interaction with others, including the parent
  • have personal contact with the child, speak to them or interview them if age and developmentally appropriate (see below).

For further information on child developmental stages, refer to the resource Physical and Cognitive Developmental Milestones (PDF, 24 KB).

Interview the child

Prior to interviewing a child, consider the following factors:

  • the decision to interview a child must take into account the child's age, developmental level and ability to communicate
  • interviewing a child in the presence of other people can reduce the likelihood of a child disclosing significant harm or risk of significant harm, especially if the person holds a position of authority in relation to the child
  • a Child Safety officer is responsible for ensuring that the child feels safe and supported during the interview process
  • if a child requests that they have a support person present during an interview, the child is to be assisted to identify an appropriate support person - it is not appropriate for the alleged person responsible for harm to be the support person for the child or a parent.

For further information on support persons, refer to the practice resource The role of a support person (PDF, 25 KB).

If it becomes evident during the contact that a child subject to a long-term guardianship order to a person other than the chief executive no longer resides in the direct care of the guardian, specific actions are required by the CSO for the child. For further information, refer to Chapter 3, 1. What if a suitable person has long-term guardianship?

Where the allegations of harm include sexual abuse of a child, refer to the practice paper Child sexual abuse.

For specific information on preparing and conducting an interview with a child, refer to the practice resource Interviewing a child (PDF, 25 KB).

Note: CSOs will not use video and/or audio equipment or mobile devices to record interviews with children. Any written interview notes made during the interview will be held on the child’s paper file, as they are subject to disclosure during Childrens Court proceedings. Copies of the interview notes may be provided to the QPS to assist with a joint investigation.

Exceptions to contact or interviews with a child

In exceptional circumstances, professional judgment may indicate that the interview of a child would be inappropriate or not possible. Examples may include where a subject child has a serious or terminal illness, or when a child refuses to be sighted or interviewed after all reasonable attempts to interview them have been exhausted. The decision not to interview a child should be made in consultation with the senior team leader, and the rationale must be clearly documented.

Please note, where the differential pathway response 'contact with other professional' is used to complete an investigation and assessment, the sighting and interviewing of one subject child may be undertaken by another professional, and this must be noted on the Assessment and outcome form. For further information, refer to 20. What if the investigation and assessment is to be completed using a differential pathway?

When a child has physical injuries

When physical injuries to a child are suspected or alleged:

  • sight the injury or injuries if possible and appropriate - do not sight the injury or injuries when alone with a child or parent - there must always be a second professional person present
  • be mindful of the child's age, gender and comfort level in relation to deciding when and where injuries are sighted
  • ask the parent, carer or the child to adjust or remove whatever clothing is necessary to see the alleged injury or injuries - do not undress or adjust the child's clothing yourself
  • document details of the injury, including the location, size and colour, as relevant - the injury may be photographed (Child Protection Act 1999, section 181)
  • assess whether a medical examination of the child is required - for further information refer to 9. What if a child needs a medical examination?

If parents do not consent to the sighting of the alleged injury and it is imperative to the investigation and assessment that the injury be seen:

2.4 Interview the parents, other adults and alleged persons responsible

The purpose of interviews with parents, other adults and alleged persons responsible is to:

  • gather relevant information in relation to the concerns and the child's circumstances
  • verify and clarify information received from other sources
  • provide alleged persons responsible with a reasonable opportunity to respond to allegations, where this does not interfere with criminal proceedings
  • determine who is responsible for the harm
  • assess the ability and willingness of the parents to protect the child from significant harm.

Procedural fairness

Procedural fairness relates to the processes used to make a decision, and includes fairness, impartiality, objectivity and transparency. Upholding the principles of procedural fairness means that all parents, other adults and alleged persons responsible who might be adversely affected by a decision are provided opportunity for a ‘fair hearing’ prior to any decisions being made where this does not interfere with criminal proceedings. This involves all parents and alleged persons responsible being made aware of the allegations of harm or risk of significant harm, where possible and are given reasonable opportunity and time to respond to the allegations, worries identified and any decisions or assessments made. The decision-maker should listen to the children’s parents and other adults views and involve them in planning and decision making.

Note: There are exceptions to the requirement to inform a parent and alleged persons responsible about the allegations of significant harm or risk of significant harm. Please refer to 2.2 Inform the parents about the allegation of significant harm and consider if discretionary compliance is permitted (Child Protection Act 1999, section 15(3)).

Who to interview

The following persons are to be interviewed:

  • all persons alleged responsible for harm to a child should be afforded the opportunity to respond to allegations of harm, where it does not interfere with criminal proceedings
  • the resident parent or parents (or carer) of the child and any adult who cares for a child, even if the concerns do not specifically relate to them
  • any other adult who lives in the house when the concerns relate to them or they may be able to provide relevant information - this includes step-parents or partners of a parent living with the child who may not be the child's primary parent
  • non-resident parents, other adults or parental figures not living in the primary care household, who have reliable knowledge of the family and the concerns and are likely to provide relevant information.

Make all reasonable attempts to contact each adult household member to arrange for an interview to address and obtain a response to the concerns, particularly when the adult household member is a parent of the subject child.

Prior to interviewing an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander adult, consider information known about the person’s culture and how best to engage them. Where advice is required to assist in facilitating engagement of an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander adult, consult with Child Safety staff who are able to provide cultural advice or, using non-identifying information about the family - the local Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander community representative.

Examples of advice about the family’s culture or community may include:

  • how best to engage the family
  • relevant cultural protocols  
  • whether information would be considered women’s or men’s business
  • any relevant sorry business, current issues impacting the community such as recent suicides
  • relevant child rearing practices
  • the cultural context for issues relating to adolescence, sexual or gender identity.

The senior team leader must approve any decision made to finalise an investigation and assessment without all relevant adults being interviewed. Record the decision and rationale in ICMS, where this occurs.

Prior to the interview

Where a parent or other adult requests that they have a support person present during an interview, assist them to identify an appropriate support person. It is not appropriate for the alleged person responsible for harm to be the support person.

For an interview regarding concerns about an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child, the person chosen by the parents to be a support person may later also be nominated by the parent to be their independent person for significant decisions. However, during the interview the person is fulfilling the role of support person and not of an independent person. For further information regarding the role of an independent person, refer to 10.1 Decision-making about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

For further information on support persons, refer to the practice resource The role of a support person (PDF, 25 KB).

Wherever possible, plan to conduct interviews with adults individually, in order to elicit as much accurate information as possible. This is particularly important where there are indicators of domestic violence or a culture of silence or fear in the home. This can affect the parent or other adult's ability to speak openly when the other partner or another person is present.

Undertaking the interview

When interviewing parents, carers or other adults, without the involvement of the QPS:

  • make introductions and provide your names, state who you work for and show your identity card, as required by the Child Protection Act 1999, section 153
  • explain your role and the purpose of the visit
  • provide the child's parents with the brochure When Child Safety officers visit your home (PDF, File not found), which outlines the rights of parents
  • conduct the interview and gather relevant information.

In particular, gather:

  • the names and dates of birth of the subject children and all other children in the household
  • the names and dates of birth and roles of people who are part of the child's household and any relevant extended family members
  • contextual information about the family and home environment
  • cultural information about the family and their community
  • the information required to complete the family risk evaluation
  • the presence and impact of the risk factors, such as domestic violence, drug and alcohol misuse, psychiatric illness and childhood abuse
  • the information required to complete a safety assessment, and if required, a safety plan
  • the types of support available to the family
  • any other stressors impacting on the family
  • the parents':
    • response to the specific concerns raised, including their acknowledgment of, and response to the harm and any additional concerns identified or assessed during the investigation and assessment
    • perceptions and feelings about the child
    • parenting abilities, including their knowledge and skills
    • understanding of the child's physical and cognitive development, refer to the resource Physical and cognitive developmental milestones (PDF, 24 KB).
  • other alleged person responsible:
    • response to the specific concerns raised, including their acknowledgment of, and response to the harm and any additional concerns identified or assessed during the investigation and assessment.

For information on ICARE interviews, refer to 4. What if a joint investigation with the Queensland Police Service is required?

Child Safety officers will not disclose the notifier’s identity or confirm or deny the notifier’s identity when a person speculates on the notifier’s identity. Refer to the practice resource Notifiers and mandatory notifiers (PDF, 266 KB).

Do not accept at face value information provided by parents, other adults or alleged persons responsible during interviews, where it is believed to be untrue, misleading or contradictory to other information received. It is the responsibility of departmental officers to respectfully challenge the person in relation to the information they provide, and where required, seek independent verification from a reliable source, for example, request the name of the doctor if a parent says the child has had recent medical attention. Where contradictory information is subsequently received, re-contact the person to discuss the differing information and seek a further response.

Consider the use of the collaborative assessment and planning (CAP) framework from the first point of contact or interview with a family and at any other stage during the investigation and assessment. Refer to the Collaborative assessment and planning framework booklet (PDF, 1.4 MB)and the CAP Framework tool for further information.

In cases of domestic and family violence, careful consideration should be given before challenging a perpetrator in the presence of the victim, to ensure the safety of the victim. If, during an interview, it becomes apparent that there are risks to a parent’s immediate physical safety, provide the parent at risk with information about services available, or assist in making a referral to an appropriate crisis service, for example, DVConnect or a women’s shelter. DVConnect can be contacted in relation to women, children and young people 24 hours a day, through the DVConnect Womensline on telephone 1800 811 811. The DVConnect Mensline can be contacted daily from 9am till midnight on telephone 1800 600 636.

Once the immediate safety of the parent and child is achieved, consider if the information gathered indicates a ‘Significant DFV threat’ alert in ICMS is required, refer to 2.2 Inform the parents about the allegation of significant harm.

Parents, other adults and alleged persons responsible are entitled to have a legal representative present during the interview, and if requested, make all reasonable attempts to accommodate such requests.

2.5 Other considerations

Consider the use of a differential pathway

In certain circumstances, it will be appropriate to use a differential pathway to enable the timely completion of an investigation and assessment, whilst ensuring sufficient information is gathered and assessed to determine whether a child is in need of protection. There are two differential pathways options:

  • core assessment
  • contact with other professional.

For further information about using a differential pathway to complete an investigation and assessment, refer to 20. What if the investigation and assessment is to be completed using a differential pathway?

Adoptive families

If, during an investigation and assessment, you become aware that a child is adopted, and the child or family may benefit from specialised counselling, consideration should be given to making a referral to either Adoption Services or Post Adoption Support Queensland (PASQ). For further information about Adoption Services refer to Chapter 10.4 Providing adoption services. For further information about PASQ, refer to the Benevolent Society

Alerts

When information gathered as part of the investigation and assessment indicates the need to record an alert in ICMS for a child or family member, refer to Chapter 1, 9. What if an alert needs to be recorded in ICMS?

Animal welfare issues

When animal welfare issues are identified during an investigation and assessment, they must be discussed with the family as part of an holistic assessment. For further information, refer to 18. What if animal welfare issues are identified?

Obvious or blatant breaches of pool fencing requirements

If, during an investigation and assessment, obvious or blatant breaches of pool fencing requirements are noticed, for example, broken fencing and gates or unfenced access points, discuss the associated safety risks and water safety strategies with the parents.

Following the discussion with the parents, contact the relevant local council to report the safety concerns. Staff can only provide the property address and the nature of the issue relating to the pool fence to the relevant local council. Staff cannot provide identifying family details.

Fabricated or induced illness

If, during an investigation and assessment, concerns about fabricated or induced illness are identified, information must immediately be provided to the QPS. This applies whether or not it is suspected the child is in need of protection (Child Protection Act 1999, section 14(2) and (3)). Such concerns about significant harm to a child may involve the commission of a criminal offence relating to the child. In addition, a joint investigation with the QPS may be required.

For further information refer to Chapter 10.2 Statutory obligation to notify the Queensland Police Service of possible criminal offences, the practice resource Schedule of criminal offences (PDF, 84 KB) and 4. What if a joint investigation with the Queensland Police Service is required?.

2.6 Complete the safety assessment

Ensuring the safety of children is the primary focus of intervention by Child Safety, and is an integral part of all interactions with a child and their family.

The purpose of the safety assessment is to guide decision-making about:

  • whether there is the threat of immediate harm to a child in the household
  • what interventions are required to maintain their safety and protection
  • a 'safety decision' for each child in the household
  • whether an immediate safety plan can be developed to ensure the safety of any child who remains in the home, when immediate harm indicators have been identified.

A safety assessment is not completed for a harm report or for the investigation and assessment of an unborn child, unless the child is born prior to the approval of the investigation and assessment, in which case, the safety assessment will be completed following the birth.

A safety assessment is completed at the first face to face contact with the child and family, which will happen as soon as practicable. Subsequent safety assessments will occur throughout intervention with a child and family, as required and outlined below.

Completing the safety assessment

The initial safety assessment begins at the first face-to-face contact with the child and family. Ensure the information gathered during interviews and contact with the family is sufficient to complete the safety assessment, prior to leaving the child in the home. The child's need for immediate safety must be secured prior to continuing with the investigation and assessment.

To complete the safety assessment:

  • assess only one household as part of a safety assessment - that is, the household where the significant harm or risk of significant harm is alleged to have occurred – if the parents do not reside together and there are allegations in both households, two notifications will be required and two safety assessments will be completed
  • gather and analyse information from observations of, and interviews with, the child, their family and other relevant people to determine whether any of the immediate harm indicators are present in the family, refer to SDM: Safety assessment
  • provide parents with information about the concerns, so they understand the issues and can fully participate in the process
  • ensure the safety of all subject children prior to leaving the home and continuing the investigation and assessment
  • if no immediate harm indicators are identified, no further action is required - continue with the investigation and assessment
  • if any immediate harm indicators are identified, discuss these with the family and determine actions and interventions that are required to ensure the child’s safety, in collaboration with the family. The actions and intervention will be either:
    • non-custody interventions developed and agreed to an immediate safety plan that will keep the child safe in the household - always refer to the most vulnerable child in the home
    • placement interventions (with an approved carer) as an immediate safety plan could not be developed to build safety for the child at that point in time
  • encourage the family to identify people or services they know and trust, who may agree to participate as safety and support network members in a safety plan
  • seeking information from the family about their Aboriginal tradition or Island custom, to inform the safety assessment for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child
  • use professional judgement to assess whether the agreed safety interventions are adequate to mitigate the safety concerns present in the household
  • finalise the safety plan in collaboration with the child and family and their network
  • clearly record the immediate safety plan for each child who is to remain in the home, where immediate harm indicators have been identified, and provide a copy to persons undertaking actions in the plan
  • record the safety assessment in ICMS and submit the completed safety assessment, with any required immediate safety plan, to the senior team leader for approval within 72 hours of the safety assessment being completed.

Outcomes for every safety assessment completed on the family will appear in the assessment and outcome form in ICMS.

For an ASC co-response, Child Safety retains responsibility for completing the safety assessment.

For an unaccompanied humanitarian minor (UHM), contact the UHM program officer, Adoption Services, about the outcome of the safety assessment. For further information, refer to Chapter 1, 7. What if the child is an unaccompanied humanitarian minor?

For more information on non-custody and placement interventions, refer to the practice resource Safety assessment (PDF, 503 KB) Safety assessment (DOCX, 97 KB).

Complete a subsequent safety assessment

A subsequent safety assessment is required in any of the following circumstances:

  • where new information becomes available or a change in circumstances indicates a threat to a child’s safety, but the threat does not reach the threshold of a notification. For example, where there is a change in household membership (such as a parent leaving, or an adult or another child moving in or the birth of another child) or where information indicates that a child has been released from hospital 
  • any time when the parties to an immediate safety plan are not complying with the current safety plan
  • prior to returning a child back home following an ‘unsafe’ safety decision in a previous safety assessment
  • prior to returning a child subject to a care agreement back home
  • when a parent removes a child from a placement
  • when a child in placement chooses to return home without Child Safety approval
  • prior to closing an ongoing intervention case.

Develop a safety plan

An immediate safety plan is collaboratively developed with the family, the child (where developmentally appropriate) and the network whenever any ‘immediate harm indicator’ has been identified and at least one child will remain in the home. The immediate safety plan must address the immediate harm in the present to short term future. It is important to remember that where a child is ‘safe with an immediate safety plan’, the conditions specified in the plan are the only thing mitigating the harm that would otherwise result in a placement out of the home.

Child Safety is responsible for collaboratively developing, implementing and monitoring the immediate safety plan, regardless of the role played by other parties or agencies.

Before developing an immediate safety plan for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child:

  • advise the parents of their right to have an independent person help facilitate their participation in developing the safety plan
  • arrange for the independent person, when requested by the child and family, including contacting the senior team leader who is delegated to determine suitability of an independent person, unless it is:
    • not practical or possible because the independent person is not available or because the safety plan must be developed urgently
    • likely to have a significant adverse effect on the safety or emotional wellbeing of the child or another person
    • not in the child’s best interest
  • as far as practical, ensure the meaningful participation of the child’s family group in the development of the immediate safety plan.

For further information about suitability of an independent person, refer to 10.1 Decision-making about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

To develop an immediate safety plan:

  • describe what Child Safety is worried about, addressing each identified immediate harm indicator, their impacts, and the individual safety needs of all children - especially those with increased vulnerability due to age or disability
  • outline what the parents and other people must do immediately to ensure the child’s safety in the home and undertake a robust assessment of their ability to complete all action steps required
  • contact other parties, identified by the family to participate in the safety plan, to confirm their willingness, ability and suitability to participate as a safety and support network member, ensuring they are aware of the harm indicators identified
  • seek agreement from all parties to the necessary intervention
  • include details of how the plan will be monitored, including how frequently and who is responsible
  • include details of the family and network members agreement to the plan
  • record the details of the immediate safety plan, in culturally appropriate and family-centred language
  • schedule a date for the review of the immediate safety plan
  • ensure the immediate safety plan is signed by all the people involved in its implementation
  • leave a copy of the completed and signed safety plan with the parents, and provide copies of the plan to the child, where appropriate and any other person involved in its implementation
  • explain to the family that the plan will remain in place until either:
    • a case plan is developed that ensures the child’s safety and addresses issues in the safety plan
    • the immediate danger is resolved
  • attach or record the immediate safety plan in the safety assessment form in ICMS.

For full definitions for all sections of the safety assessment, and further information on the completion of the safety assessment, refer to SDM: Safety assessment and the practice resource Safety assessment (PDF, 503 KB) Safety assessment (DOCX, 97 KB).

It is recommended that an immediate safety plan should not be in place for longer than seven days without a new safety assessment being undertaken.

If non-custody interventions cannot ensure the child’s safety, consult with the senior team leader to determine an appropriate placement intervention.

For more information on arranging for an independent person, refer to Chapter 10.1 Decision-making about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children

Private arrangements

When immediate harm indicators are present and the child needs to reside outside the home for a period of time due to the level of risk identified, the parents may agree to take protective action and arrange for the child to stay with a family member or friend. This is referred to as a private arrangement, meaning the parent, not Child Safety, places the child with the person, and the person does not need to be approved as a carer.

A private arrangement is a non-custody arrangement and will only be for a brief period of time, generally two to three days, to allow parents time to take immediate actions required to address the safety issues identified. For further information, refer to the practice resource Safety assessment (PDF, 503 KB) Safety assessment (DOCX, 97 KB).

Prior to including a private arrangement as part of an immediate safety plan, make direct contact with the person nominated by the parent to:

  • determine their ability to provide care for the child for the agreed period of time
  • determine their willingness and capacity to co-operate and keep the child safe from the identified harm
  • ensure they are willing to advise the CSSC or CSAHSC immediately if the child is returned home so the CSO can re-assess the child's safety needs and make decisions based on the child's best interests
  • provide them with the contact details for the CSSC and the CSAHSC
  • advise them that a child protection history check will be conducted.

Where the person has agreed to care for the child and the child protection history check does not raise concerns, finalise the immediate safety plan safety assessment.

Where the person nominated by the parent has a child protection history:

  • discuss the outcome with the senior team leader and use professional judgment to determine the appropriateness of the arrangement
  • discuss the child protection history outcome with the person affected to clarify any issues, if necessary
  • clearly document the decisions and the arrangements made between the relevant parties
  • do not disclose the outcome of the child protection history check to the parents of the subject child or to any other third party, due to privacy issues in relation to the nominated person
  • review the details of the safety plan to ensure the child's safety - this may include the decision that a placement intervention is required.

Placement interventions

A placement intervention must be used under the following circumstances:

  • an immediate safety plan could not be developed with the family and at least one network member to ensure the child’s safety in the home
  • it is in the best interests of the child to be provided with a formal, legal care arrangement
  • it is assessed that the parent (and/or the proposed person to care for the child) may not adhere to a private arrangement and the child will return to the parent and the environment where the high risk factors exist, and the parent is more likely to adhere to a formal arrangement
  • when the parent cannot identify a person to care for the child and the child requires a placement with an approved foster carer.

A placement intervention can occur by way of:

  • a care agreement - where the parents agree to work with Child Safety in a voluntary capacity
  • an assessment order (TAO or a CAO with custody to the chief executive) - where further assessment is required, and a parent does not agree to the placement of the child in care
  • a TCO - where a child has already been assessed as being in need of protection, and a parent does not agree to the placement of the child in care
  • an interim order, or a child protection order with custody or guardianship to the chief executive, because no other interventions are available to adequately ensure the child's immediate safety.

Where a placement intervention is being considered for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child that would grant custody or guardianship to the chief executive:

  • advise the parents of their right to have an independent person help facilitate their participation in decision-making regarding the decision, including where and with whom the child will live
  • arrange for the independent person, including determining their suitability, unless it is:
    • not practical because the person is not available or because the decision must be made urgently
    • likely to have a significant adverse effect on the safety or emotional wellbeing of the child or another person
    • not in the child’s best interest
  • give proper consideration to the views of the child and family in a decision about where and with whom the child will live.

For information about determining suitability to be an independent person, refer to Chapter 10.1 Decision-making about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

Where a decision is made to place an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child, ensure compliance with the placement element of the child placement principle, refer Chapter 5. Children in care.

A placement intervention as part of the safety assessment will end when:

  • a subsequent safety assessment establishes that the child is 'safe with an immediate safety plan’ and can be returned home with safety plan in place
  • a subsequent safety assessment establishes that there are no longer any 'immediate harm indicators' present and the child can return home safely
  • the investigation and assessment is finalised and a decision is made as part of a case plan, that the child will remain in care.

Concerns regarding a baby after birth

When it is assessed that a newborn baby’s immediate safety needs warrant the child's removal from the parent following the birth, discussion will occur with employees of Queensland Health or the private hospital.

Employees of Queensland Health or the private hospital can only be requested to assist if:

  • the child’s immediate safety needs have warranted the child’s removal from the parent under the Child Protection Act 1999, section 18, or
  • the parents have entered into a care agreement, or
  • custody of the child has been granted to the chief executive under a TAO, CAO, TCO or a child protection order.

Where authority under the Child Protection Act 1999, has been obtained:

  • consult with the hospital staff to determine if the child can be placed in the nursery until they are able to be discharged
  • locate an appropriate placement for the child as soon as practicable, to minimise delays in the discharge of the child from the nursery.

For an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child, talk with the family to identify family or kin who may be potential carers for the child or provide information about other placement options that comply with the child placement principle.

Where a child's immediate safety needs warrant their removal at birth, family contact arrangements from birth are crucial, as early attachment with a primary caregiver is extremely important to the overall emotional health and wellbeing of children, and to healthy adolescence and adulthood. For further information refer to Chapter 5, 2.5 Facilitate and monitor family contact and Chapter 5, 3.14 Make family contact decisions.

2.7 Gather information from other sources

In the process of contacting or interviewing children and relevant family members, other potential sources of relevant information are likely to be identified. These sources may not have been known at the time of the investigation and assessment planning, for example:

  • school personnel
  • other family members or significant people that may be able to provide relevant information
  • the family doctor, a child health nurse, or Child and Youth Mental Health Service
  • the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) regarding a child’s National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) access status, plan or supports
  • other professionals and staff of agencies or support services, to whom the child or family are known.

These sources should be contacted as part of the investigation and assessment.

Note: Contact with other sources during the investigation and assessment is not considered to be a pre-notification check and does not enable a notification to be downgraded.

When contacting other agencies, request that all relevant information is gathered, particularly when an agency may have more than one file on a child or family, for example, Queensland Health. The Child Protection Act 1999, section 159MB provides authority for agencies to share a relevant child’s personal information with Child Safety during an investigation and assessment.

Child Safety may request stated information about a child, an unborn child or another person from the public guardian, a prescribed entity, a licensee (an entity licensed to provide placement services to children in the custody or guardianship of the chief executive) or the person in charge of a student hostel using the Section 159N informaton request, and the request must be complied with (Child Protection Act 1999, section 159N).

For guidance about requesting information refer to Chapter 10.3 Information sharing for service delivery coordination

Information may also be received about a criminal matter involving a child subject to an open investigation and assessment via an ‘Integrated justice information strategy (IJIS) notification (Criminal court matter alert)’ or about a criminal or domestic violence matter via an ‘IJIS electronic transfer of court result’ email. For further information, refer to 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.

Relevant information may also be attached to a section 55 request from a Queensland court under the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012, section 55. For further information, refer to Chapter 1, 17. What if a request for information is received from a Queensland court under the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012 and the practice resources Section 55 requests - Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012 and Guidelines for departmental staff when providing information to the court regarding a domestic violence order application.

Criminal and domestic violence history checks

Information gathered from the parents or adult household members about any criminal or domestic violence history must be considered and assessed. Under the Child Protection Act 1999, section 95(3), a request to QPS for criminal and domestic violence history reports can be undertaken at any time a decision is being made in relation to a child when:

  • a parent or household member refuses to disclose their criminal or domestic violence history, and reliable information cannot be gathered from other sources
  • it is assessed that a parent or household member has not fully disclosed any history
  • it is alleged that a parent or household member has a history of offences against children, but the full history is not available.

A request to QPS may also be made for any criminal and domestic violence history about another adult against whom an allegation of significant harm or risk of significant harm has been made.

In most instances these requests will not be urgent.

To complete a non-urgent QPS criminal and domestic violence history check:

QPS will mail a hard copy of the results of their searches to the CSU. The CSU will email these documents to the requesting manager and also send them by mail to the CSSC.

The CSU is unable to forward the request to QPS if the mandatory fields are incomplete. If these details are not known, the local Child Protection and Investigation Unit (CPIU) may assist in providing relevant information to enable the spreadsheet to be completed.

An urgent criminal and domestic violence history check may be required in some circumstances, such as:

  • to assist the completion of the initial safety assessment (Child Protection Act 1999, section 95(3))
  • to facilitate provisional approval of a carer applicant for an emergency placement, refer to Chapter 8, 1. What if the applicant requires provisional approval?
  • when a written record of history is required as evidence in an application for a TAO, CAO or TCO (Child Protection Act 1999, section 95(2)).

The Police Information Centre will process an urgent criminal or domestic violence history check when the rationale for the urgency is one of the following:

  • a child is to be removed from a carer or parent on the same day as the request
  • a child is to be placed with a carer or parent on the same day as the request
  • an application for a TCO will be made on the same day, and the CSO requires this information to support their application, or
  • there are serious concerns of a criminal nature about a parent or household member that is likely to require a 24 hours response by Child Safety.

For further information on urgent requests, refer to Chapter 1, 1.6 Conduct urgent criminal and domestic violence history checks, if required.

Urgent after hours requests

In rare circumstances, for example, when an investigation and assessment is continuing after hours and urgent criminal and domestic violence history is required to inform the assessment or the placement of a child, checks can be conducted (between 3.30pm and 8am, Monday to Friday) by the CSAHSC.

To complete an urgent after hours QPS criminal and domestic violence history check:

CSAHSC will forward the request to QPS and complete other tasks where negotiation has occurred by contact between the CSSC and CSAHSC.

Information from Medicare Australia

Medicare Australia can share information with child protection agencies when the agency has reasonable grounds for believing that disclosure is necessary to prevent or lessen a threat to life, health or welfare of a child.

Information that Medicare Australia can share includes:

  • records of any treating doctors and their location and history of visits to medical practitioners
  • Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme records, for example, to assess parental prescription drug abuse
  • Medicare numbers
  • a history of Medicare access, for example, to assess medical neglect cases.

To request information from Medicare, complete the Medicare Request Form and email the form to DMS (DMS_Medicare@communities.qld.gov.au) with a subject heading of 'Response Priority. Medicare Request for Family Name'.

Substance misuse or abuse by a parent

In circumstances where parental substance misuse or abuse is identified as a risk factor and clarification or further assessment information is required, contact an Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Services professional, prior to finalising the investigation and assessment, to:

  • gain general, non-identifying advice or knowledge in relation to drug or alcohol issues
  • gain specific information in relation to the potential impact of the drug misuse on the parents' ability to parent.

For further information about responding to issues of substance misuse or abuse by a parent, refer to Chapter 10.7 Undertake the substance testing of parents.