4. Finalise the investigation and assessment

An investigation and assessment must be completed and approved within100 days of the date of the notification. Consideration must be given to procedural fairness and timely decision making.

Where the decision has been made that a child will have a 'substantiated - child in need of protection' outcome and a referral is made to the family group meeting convenor, the investigation and assessment must be completed and approved within seven days of the date of the referral.

Completion of an investigation and assessment requires that:

  • all subject children have been sighted, and where appropriate, interviewed by a CSO - unless the differential pathway 'contact with other professional' is used
  • the investigation and assessment is finalised, including determining the appropriate outcomes
  • the investigation and assessment document is approved in ICMS by a senior team leader
  • at least one of the parents is advised of the investigation and assessment outcome.

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

Timeframes for and ASC co-response

An ASC co-response does not alter investigation and assessment commencement or completion timeframes. Child Safety can finalise an investigation and assessment while the ASC co-responder continues to work with the family.

When the investigation and assessment is finalised, the CSO will inform the ASC funded service provider of the outcome and whether Child Safety will have further involvement with the family.

ASC funded service providers are expected to finalise their involvement with the family within 60 days of receiving the request to participate in an ASC co-response. This timeframe excludes undertaking any ‘active holding’ of a family while awaiting the commencement of another service. An ‘active holding’ period should not extend beyond 60 days of Child Safety finalising the investigation and assessment.

Record any information provided by the ASC funded service provider in the investigation and assessment event in ICMS. For more information refer to 4.3 Record the investigation and assessment outcome.

In circumstances where Child Safety has finalised the investigation and assessment and the ASC funded service provider raises new child protection concerns, the information will be provided to the relevant RIS, who will consult with the CSO and senior team leader involved in the ASC co-response, to inform the most appropriate response to these concerns.

Dispute resolution for an ASC co-response

As a general principle, the ASC funded service provider and Child Safety will seek to resolve disputes at the operational level. Final responsibility for decisions regarding a child’s need for protection remains with an authorised officer as delegated under the Child Protection Act 1999.

If there are concerns regarding the action taken as part of, or the outcome of, an ASC co-response, the senior team leader will liaise with a staff member at an equivalent level in the ASC funded service, as a first point of contact in the dispute resolution process. If the dispute cannot be resolved at this level, the CSSC manager will liaise with the ASC service manager. The CCSC manager, in consultation with the senior team leader and senior practitioner, will make the final decision about matters relating to the role of an authorised officer under the Child Protection Act 1999.

Dispute resolution processes and governance structures are to be established at a local level between Child Safety and ASC funded service providers.

4.1 Determine whether there will be ongoing intervention

Following an investigation and assessment, the decision about whether there will be ongoing intervention will be guided by the following requirements:

  • ongoing intervention is required for any child who has been assessed as being in need of protection
  • ongoing intervention will be offered to the pregnant woman when it is assessed that an unborn child will be in need of protection after birthrefer to Chapter 7. Support service cases
  • ongoing intervention is not required for any child who has been assessed as not being in need of protection, but will be offered to the family where there is a 'high' outcome on the family risk evaluation.

The decision about the type of ongoing intervention that will occur with the family, will take into consideration what is required to:

  • meet the child's protective and care needs
  • reduce the likelihood of future harm to the child.

When determining the type of ongoing intervention that is to occur, refer to Chapter 3. Ongoing intervention.

Where an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child has a ‘substantiated - child in need of protection’ outcome and a case plan to address the risk factors has not already been developed at a family led decision-making process, referral will be made for a family group meeting to be held as a family-led decision making process to develop the case plan. Depending on the family’s preference, referral may be made to either the family group meeting convenor or a private convenor from an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander service, such as the Family Participation Program. For further information about family-led decision making, refer to Chapter 10.1, 3. Refer the family for family-led decision-making.

4.2 Determine whether there will be a referral to another agency

When a child has been assessed as not being in need of protection, but ongoing risk factors have been identified and it is assessed that the family could benefit from support to strengthen the family, consider making a referral to an appropriate service.

Where a referral is considered appropriate, discuss the referral with the child and family and where consent is provided, either provide information and advice on the service to the family, or complete and forward the relevant referral form.

Appropriate services may include:

For an ASC co-response, the ASC funded service provider will work with the CSO and the family to determine the most suitable services for a child and their family and facilitate connections and links to ongoing support for the child and family.

A referral can still be made to an Intensive Family Support (IFS) or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Family Wellbeing Service without the consent of the family, however, further attempts should be made to seek and gain consent. These attempts are to be documented prior to finalising the investigation and assessment.

If a referral to a support service is made, seek confirmation the referral has been accepted and that the service will attempt to provide a service to the family to reduce the ongoing risk factors. Record this information in ICMS to inform any possible future involvement with Child Safety.

Note: While in these circumstances, Family and Child Connect, as a community based assessment and referral service, can provide information and advice to departmental staff, about local support options, a referral should not be made to a Family and Child Connect Service. The needs of the family will already have been assessed as part of the investigation and assessment, therefore a referral should be made to a service able to intervene to help the family meet the assessed needs. 

4.3 Record the investigation, assessment and outcome

Recording the investigation and assessment is a key step in the assessment of a child's need for protection. The information recorded is critical for any ongoing or future contact with the child and family.

Recording key information

When recording the investigation and assessment, and completing the investigation and assessment event in ICMS:

  • ensure all key information is recorded in the investigation and assessment event in ICMS, including:
    • the date, time and details of all contact with subject children, parents and other persons, including unsuccessul attempts
    • details of who conducted the interviews, including the names and positions of the primary and secondary officers and any police officers or other people present during the interviews
    • identifying any powers used under the authority of the Child Protection Act 1999, sections 16-18
    • whether an ASC co-response was undertaken
    • a summary of the significant information gathered from interviews and other sources, including information gathered from a government or non-government agency to commence the investigation and assessment
    • responses to the notifier's concerns and any relevant disclosures, admissions or denials by the subject child, other children, the parents, family members or other adults
    • any information relevant to the assessment of the child's safety and protective needs, incljuding the immediate safety plan if one or more was developed
    • any relevant observations about the child (presentation, demeanour, developmental level), the parents (interaction with child, non-verbal cues) and the home environment
    • any action taken that assists with the assessment such as medical examinations or photographs
    • any action taken to refer a matter to QPS under the authority of the Child Protection Act 1999, section 14(2) and (3)
    • any information provided to the family about Victim Assist Queensland services
    • the rationale for decisions made throughout and at the end of the investigation and assessment process, including whether there will be ongoing intervention with the family to meet the child's protection needs or reduce the likelihood of future harm to the child
  • ensure that the Indigenous status, ethnicity and language of all subject children and other relevant persons are accurately recorded in ICMS
  • ensure that the 'Independent entity' form is completed for each of the following significant decsions during the investigaton and assessment:
    • safety planning decisions about how to keep a child safe
    • placement decisions where a child protection care agreement or child protection order grants custody to the chief executive, where applicable
    • the ‘child in need of protection’ decision
    • any other decision for which an independent person helped the child and family to participate
  • ensure that the 'Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child placement form' is completed outlining placement options that comply with the placement element of the child placement principle
  • ensure that an ASC response form is completed when an ASC co-response has been undertaken, selecting only the special services the ASC co-responder provided, if known at time of the investigation and assessment being finalised (not all referrals will be known at this time if the ASC funded service provider continues engaging with the family)
  • ensure that each subject child recorded in the notification is also recorded as a subject child in the investigation and assessment, with an outcome and rationale recorded, based on a professional judgement and assessment of the risk and protective factors assessed
  • ensure that an assessment and outcome is recorded for any additional subject child identified as being harmed or at risk of harm during the investigation and assessment
  • ensure that all relevant ICMS forms are completed in the investigation and assessment event - for further information, refer to the practice resource Recording the investigation and assessment (PDF, 31 KB).

Record the outcome in ICMS

Once a determination has been made about the child's need for protection, the investigation and assessment outcome can be finalised. The 'Record abuse and harm' section includes the abusive action, the person responsible for the abusive action and the resulting significant harm to the child. The 'Record unacceptable risk of harm' section includes the unacceptable risk of significant harm and the parent responsible for any future risk to the child. When the outcome is 'unsubstantiated', do not select any abusive action, resulting harm or unacceptable risk types.

When completing the tables, select only one most serious harm or risk of harm type for each child.

Record the abuse and harm

An incident of abuse resulting in harm to a child is recorded as the 'abusive action'. The abusive action includes acts of commission or omission, as well as failure to protect a child from abuse caused by another person. The 'resulting harm' refers to the impact experienced by the child.

When it is assessed that a child has been significantly harmed, regardless of whether they are in need of protection, record the abuse and harm. To do this:

  • select each 'abusive action' type experienced by the child - from List 1 in Table 1 below.
  • select each 'resulting harm' type experienced by the child - from List 2 in Table 1 below.
  • record the person responsible for each abusive action and the resulting harm type - more than one person can be responsible for the same harm type for a child.

Note: the resulting harm substantiated may be different to the alleged harm recorded in the notification.

A child who has self-harmed must not be recorded as a person responsible for that harm.

Table 1. Record abuse and resulting harm

Screen capture showing 'Record abuse and resulting harm'

Record unacceptable risk

When it is assessed that the child is at unacceptable risk of significant harm, with no parent able and willing to protect them from harm:

  • select each 'unacceptable risk of harm' type identified for the child - from Table 2 below
  • select the parent responsible for each 'unacceptable risk of harm' type recorded - more than one parent can be responsible for the same 'unacceptable risk of harm' type for a child.

Note: The unacceptable risk of significant harm substantiated may be different to the alleged risk recorded in the notification.

Table 2. Record unacceptable risk of significant harm

Screen capture showing 'Record unacceptable risk of harm'

Record the 'person responsible' and the 'parent responsible'

When completing the 'Record abuse and resulting harm' section in the assessment and outcome form in ICMS, record the details of the assessed harm and the actual incident of abuse that occurred, including the person responsible.

The person responsible is the person who is assessed as being responsible for the abusive act, which includes acts of commission or omission, as well as failure to protect. Although a parent is commonly recorded as the 'person responsible' for the abusive action, where applicable, the following persons may also be recorded:

  • another adult who lives in the home or has regular access to the child in the home
  • another child aged 10 years or over who lives in the home, who is assessed by the CSO as having the developmental ability or capacity to understand the consequences of their actions - this is not common, but may occur in some circumstances.

This information helps clarify what has happened to the child, and by whom, which is able to inform future risk assessments.

When the abusive action was carried out by someone other than the options outlined above, select one of the 'person responsible' options in ICMS:

  • 'not applicable - child under 10 years' when the abusive act was committed by a child under 10 years of age
  • 'not applicable - other person', when the abusive act was committed by:
    • a child aged 10 years or over who does not have the developmental ability or capacity to understand the consequences of their actions
    • any person who does not live in the child's home or does not have regular access to the child in the home
  • 'not able to be identified' when it is unclear who was responsible for the abusive action.

All persons responsible are to have been afforded the principles of procedural fairness through the opportunity to respond to the allegations and assessment, if it does not interfere with criminal proceedings.

When completing the ‘Record unacceptable risk of harm’ section in the assessment and outcome form in ICMS, record the details of any assessed unacceptable risk of significant harm where there is no parent able and willing to protect the child from significant harm, including the parent responsible for the future risk of significant harm.

It is only the parent, as defined in the Child Protection Act 1999, section 11, who can be selected as being responsible for the future risk of significant harm, even when the risk relates to abuse caused by someone else.

Where the parent of a subject child is under 18 years of age, and child protection concerns are identified for them during the investigation and assessment, or when a subject child has a child and child protection concerns are identified for them during the investigation and assessment, the child and parent cannot both be subject children on the existing investigation and assessment. In this circumstance, there must be two separate notifications and investigation and assessments recorded in relation to their specific protection and care needs. Refer to Chapter 1, 1.1 Gather information from the notifier, for further information about recording two separate intake invents in these circumstances.

In addition, a subject child cannot be recorded as a person responsible for abusive action towards another subject child in the same investigation and assessment event. Where there are child protection concerns for a child (aged 10 years or over) who is recorded as a person responsible for abusive action towards another subject child, a separate notification will need to be recorded for that child as a subject child in order for an assessment to be made regarding whether the child has suffered significant harm or is an unacceptable risk of suffering significant harm and if substantiated, to assess the child’s need for protection.

Record the type of ongoing intervention planned

The ongoing intervention section in the assessment and outcome form in ICMS documents the type of ongoing intervention planned at the time the assessment is completed.

For each child in need of protection, record one of the following types of ongoing intervention:

  • 'intervention with parental agreement'
  • 'intervention with parental agreement and directive CPO', when the child is subject to both types of intervention
  • 'child protection order'.

Record 'support service' as the planned ongoing intervention when:

  • a pregnant woman consents to ongoing intervention prior to the baby's birth
  • a child is not in need of protection, the family risk evaluation final outcome is high and ongoing intervention is planned.

For all other subject children, record 'no ongoing intervention planned'.

Approve the investigation and assessment

All investigation and assessment must be approved within 100 days. A senior team leader completes all approvals, with the following exceptions:

  • when an investigation and assessment relates to a vexatious or malicious notifier with a 'no investigation and assessment outcome', the CSSC manager must approve the investigation and assessment and provide a clear rationale for its use
  • when the approving senior team leader undertakes any key steps related to the investigation and assessment, another senior team leader or CSSC manager must approve the investigation and assessment.

Where the investigation and assessment is in relation to a Youth Protocol: An agreement concerning referral, assessment, case management and support for homeless and unsupported young people (Youth Protocol) notification from a Centrelink employee, advise Centrelink of the outcome - for further information refer to Chapter 1, 3. What if Centrelink is the notifier?

4.4 Inform the parents about the outcome of the investigation and assessment

The Child Protection Act 1999, section 15(2), requires that, as soon as practicable after completing the investigation and assessment, an authorised officer must:

  • tell at least one of the child's parents about the outcome of the investigation and assessment
  • if asked by the parent, provide the outcome of the investigation and assessment in writing.

In doing so, consider whether the information should be provided to both parents, especially when parents are residing separately.

Long-term guardianship to a suitable person

When the child has a long-term guardian, an authorised officer must tell at least one of the long-term guardians about the outcome of the investigation and assessment. In addition, an authorised officer will 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 investigation and assessment will have a detrimental effect on the child and the stability of the living arrangements (Child Protection Act 1999, section 15(3)).

Record details of the attempts made to advise the child's parents of the allegations and the outcome of the investigation and assessment, in the 'Information provision to parents' form in ICMS (Child Protection Act 1999, section 15(5)).

Provide information to the parents

When providing this information, either verbally or in writing:

  • provide sufficient information about the key child protection concerns outlined in the notification, to ensure they understand the reasons for departmental intervention, without identifying the notifier
  • provide the outcome of the investigation and assessment, the rationale for the decisions made, including an explanation of the terminology and a rationale for any significant harm or risk of significant harm to the child and any safety, belonging and wellbeing needs identified
  • outline the reasons and rationale for any decision to open an ongoing intervention case, to assist the parents to participate in further decision-making, and strengthen their ability to meet the child's needs in the future.

See Resources list for examples of investigation and assessment outcome letters to parents.

Discretionary compliance with section 15

Only provide information to the extent that is reasonable and appropriate in the circumstances, where:

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

When considering the use of discretionary compliance:

  • determine what is reasonable and appropriate in each particular circumstance, taking into account the practice considerations outlined in the practice resource Informing the parents about the harm and the outcome - section 15 (PDF, 141 KB)
  • consult with the QPS if there is an ongoing criminal investigation, prior to any information being provided to the parents
  • use professional judgement, the outcome of the family risk evaluation and any relevant information in relation to domestic violence issues to determine if the provision of information may expose the child to significant harm
  • seek senior team leader approval for any decision not to provide the information
  • record the decision, rationale and approval process in the 'Information provision to parents' form in ICMS.

For information about privacy considerations, refer to 2.2 Inform the parents about the allegation of harm.

Family Responsibilities Commission

The Cape York Welfare Reform trial commenced in 2008 in communities in the Far North and North Queensland regions, including Aurukun, Coen, Hope Vale, Mossman Gorge and Doomadgee.

The Family Responsbilities 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 FRC

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.

When an investigation and assessment is finalised and information indicates the family lived in one of the Welfare Reform Communities for at least three months since 2008, within five days:

4.5 Commencement of case management

Case management responsibility will be requested of the appropriate ongoing intervention team following the completion an investigation and assessment with:

  • a ‘Substantiated - child in need of protection’ outcome, including for an unborn child
  • a ‘Substantiated - child not in need of protection’ or Unsubstantiated - child not in need of protection’ outcome, with a family risk evaluation final scored risk level of ‘high’.

Case management responsibility will be accepted by:

  • the CSSC in the geographical area where the child and family normally reside, or
  • another CSSC, as determined by the senior team leader of the investigation and assessment team.

Case management may be requested of another CSSC in circumstances such as:

  • where a child has siblings in care and case management responsibility for the siblings is held by a CSSC that could reasonably ensure adequate service provision to the child
  • a child is placed in care in a different geographical location to the parents, and it is assessed that reunification is probable within a short timeframe period, so case management remains (or is held) with the CSSC where the parents reside (the reunification household).

Principles

The following principles apply to commencement of case management.

  • The safety, belonging and wellbeing of children is the focus of Child Safety intervention and the best interests of children is at the centre of all decision-making.
  • The care needs and safety of children in need of protection is a state-wide responsibility and decisions regarding the movement of cases from investigation and assessment to ongoing intervention will be based on the need for effective service delivery.
  • Children, parents and families will receive the right service at the right time, and acceptance of case management within specific timeframes will ensure the provision of continuous and planned service delivery to children and their families.
  • The primary focus of an investigation and assessment team is to assess and take action to ensure the immediate and ongoing safety of a child throughout the investigation and assessment, and for a child in need of protection, until case management is accepted by an ongoing intervention team.
  • Case work and case management tasks associated with ongoing intervention for a child in need of protection sit best with ongoing intervention teams.
  • Differences of opinion regarding ongoing intervention will not delay acceptance of case management, and subsequently, ongoing intervention service delivery to a child and family.

Timeframes for acceptance of case management

To initiate the acceptance of case management the senior team leader of the investigation and assessment team will send an email request to the senior practitioner or senior team leader of the receiving CSSC and include the event ID of the finalised investigation and assessment.

Note: There is no requirement for any additional written documentation to support the case management acceptance process.

A case management acceptance request is to be accepted by the receiving ongoing intervention team (in writing) within five business days, to ensure continuous service delivery to the child.

Where geographically possible, the CSO who conducted the investigation and assessment will facilitate a warm handover for the child and family with the new allocated CSO. If this cannot occur within five business days of the request, the case transfer process will not be delayed.

The senior team leader of the investigation and assessment team will send a case management acceptance request for an intervention with parental agreement case as soon as:

  • the investigation and assessment event is closed in ICMS
  • the responsibilities of the transferring investigation and assessment team have been completed.

The senior team leader of the investigation and assessment team will send a case management acceptance request for a child protection order case as soon as:

  • the investigation and assessment event is closed in ICMS
  • the Director of Child Protection Litigation (DCPL) has accepted the referral and indicated that an application for a child protection order will be made, and
  • the responsibilities of the transferring investigation and assessment team have been completed.

Responsibilities of the investigation and assessment team

The investigation and assessment team is responsible for:

  • finalising the investigation and assessment
  • advising one or both parents of the investigation and assessment outcome, refer to 4.4 Inform the parents about the outcome of the investigation and assessment
  • approving all documents within the investigation and assessment event in ICMS
  • completing the initiating affidavit where an assessment has been made that a child protection order is the most appropriate intervention for the child
  • providing the initial affidavit to the OCFOS lawyer for the DCPL
  • completing the case management acceptance request, when advice is received that the referral has been accepted by DCPL
  • serving the respondents and completing an affidavit of service (for the initiating affidavit only)
  • completing the child strengths and needs assessment tool and parental strengths and needs assessment tool for each child in need of protection
  • completing a referral for a family group meeting for matters referred to the DCPL, unless a case plan was developed for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child at a family-led decision making process during the investigation and assessment.

Responsibilities of the receiving ongoing intervention team

The senior team leader of the ongoing intervention team is responsible for:

  • accepting case management in writing, within five business days of the request being made
  • updating the case management screen within ICMS
  • allocating case management responsibility to a CSO
  • ensuring that contact with the child and family, and the carer where relevant, occurs within five business days of accepting case management
  • ensuring a case plan is developed for the child.

The CSSC responsible for ongoing intervention will undertake all tasks associated with case management for the child moving forward, including:

  • all financial matters relating to the child’s ongoing intervention
  • making a determination about kinship carer approval (where kin has been provisionally approved to care for the child during the investigation and assessment).

Escalation process

It is the responsibility of CSSC managers to resolve any issues during the handover processes and address any impediments to timely service provision to children and families, using the principles outlined above.