3. Decide the appropriate response when concerns are identified

Child Safety staff and employees of foster and kinship care services and care services must report harm or suspected harm to a child in out-of-home care, in accordance with the legislative requirements of the Child Protection Act 1999, section 13F.

Regardless of the type of placement, Child Safety has the responsibility to act on the information, to ensure the safety and well-being of the child, and to ensure carers or care services are accountable for the quality of care provided to the child.

For further information about responding to concerns, refer to the Standards of care flowchart (PDF, 229 KB).

3.1 Record the initial information 

In the course of contact with the child and their care environment, members of the child’s care team may identify concerns about the care the child is receiving. Concerns may also be received by other mandated notifiers, the child or anyone in contact with the child or carer.

Where information is reported to Child Safety from an external source, lead the discussion with the person, where possible, and tailor questions to obtain information about:

  • whether or not the standards of care have been met, and if not, which standards
  • whether the child has experienced harm by a carer or a staff member of a care service, and the impact of the harm on the child.

Where the information is initially received by a RIS, CSAHSC or a CSSC not holding case responsibility for the child or carer, they will record the information in ICMS in a ‘Standards of care’ case note in the ‘placement event’, and include the contact details of the person providing the information. This information will be provided by the RIS, CSAHSC or the other CSSC to:

  • the CSSC responsible for the carer
  • the CSSC in whose geographical area the care service is located
  • the CSO with case responsibility for the child.

It is important that information is provided in a timely way, to enable the responsible CSSC to gather further information, consult with key stakeholders and make a decision about the most appropriate response to the concerns. The required timeframe for the response decision is within two working days from the receipt of the initial concerns.

If serious concerns about a child are received by CSAHSC, refer to 1. What if concerns are received by Child Safety After Hours Service Centre.

Where there is information to indicate that the concerns are vexatious or malicious, refer to the practice resource Vexatious and malicious notifiers (PDF, 81 KB).

Where the information is received via an Integrated Justice Information Strategy Electronic transfer of court result automated email alert, refer to Chapter 2, 19. What if information is received via an Integrated Justice Information Strategy automated email alert?

Respond to the notifier

When receiving information about harm or suspected harm to a child from the notifier:

  • advise the notifier of the confidentiality provisions of the Child Protection Act 1999, section 22 and 186, including the legislative exceptions - for further information refer to the practice resource Notifiers and mandatory notifiers
  • advise notifiers from government or non-government agencies, that they will be advised about Child Safety response, where requested, and respond in accordance with Chapter 1, 4.2 Provide feedback to government and non-government agencies.

Inform the police of possible criminal offences

Where the information received involves allegations of harm to a child that may involve the commission of a criminal offence relating to the child, immediately provide the information to the QPS, using the Police referral form. For further information refer to Chapter 10.2 Statutory obligation to notify the Queensland Police Service of possible criminal offences and the practice resource Schedule of criminal offences (PDF, 84 KB).

Critical incident report

In accordance with the Critical incident reporting policy submit a Critical incident report through the Critical Incident Reporting Management System (CIRMS) within the required timeframe.  

When historical concerns are received

When the information in relation to a child in out-of-home care is historical, that is more than 12 months old, or about a child who is no longer in out-of-home care or is now over the age of 18 years, refer to 5. What if the concerns received are historical?

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3.2 Determine the CSSC responsible for the response

The CSO with case responsibility for each subject child will continue to maintain responsibility for the child’s ongoing safety, belonging and well-being in the placement throughout the process, and may undertake additional roles or responsibilities, as negotiated with the responsible CSSC.

Concerns about a child placed with a carer

Where the concerns received relate to a child placed with a carer, the CSSC responsible for the carer is responsible for responding to the concerns, irrespective of whether that CSSC has case responsibility for the subject child. The CSSC will lead the information gathering and consultation process, make the decision about how to respond and lead the response.

Depending on the response decision that is made, it may be necessary to negotiate between CSSCs about who will undertake specific actions where:

  • the CSSC responsible for the carer does not have a child in the placement
  • there are multiple subject children and case responsibility is across more than one CSSC
  • the carer has recently moved geographical area but the former CSSC has not officially transferred responsibility to the new CSSC.

Negotiation about the responsible CSSC must occur in a timely way, so the commencement of the response occurs within the two day timeframe.

Concerns about a child placed with a care service

Where the concerns relate to a child placed with a care service, the decision about which CSSC is responsible for the response will be determined on the basis of case responsibility for the subject children, and will be made as follows:

  • where there is one or more subject children and case responsibility is held by one CSSC, that CSSC will be responsible for the response
  • where case responsibility for the subject children is across different CSSCs, the CSSC responsible for the geographic area in which the care service is located will be responsible for the response
  • where the CSSC responsible for the geographic area in which the care service is located does not have any children placed with the service, one of the CSSCs with case responsibility for the relevant children will be responsible, by negotiation between CSSC managers.

Where the decision is to be negotiated between CSSC managers, consider:

  • whether any of the CSSCs have recently conducted a standards of care review or an investigation and assessment for the care service or subject children
  • whether any of the CSSCs have a well-established working relationship with the care service, for example, by being the CSSC that places the majority of children with the service
  • whether any CSO with case responsibility for a subject child has a strong working relationship with one of the subject children
  • other practical considerations, for example, which CSSC is located closest to the care service.

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3.3 Gather information and consult with key stakeholders

A holistic and consultative approach to the gathering of additional contextual information about the child and their care environment will involve obtaining information from others who have specific information about the child and the carer or care service, and seeking their opinion about the response required. This includes external stakeholders, such as the foster and kinship care service or care service, as well as internal stakeholders such as the CSO with case responsibility for the subject child and the relevant senior team leader and senior practitioner.

Stakeholder consultation is required to exchange information and jointly consider the options. Where possible, this should occur in a meeting forum or via a telelink, depending on the circumstances. Where this is not achievable within the required timeframe, the responsible CSSC will ensure that an alternate but inclusive process is utilised, such as engaging in individual discussions with stakeholders or exchanging information and views by email. Consultations will occur prior to decision-making, unless urgent action is required to secure the child’s immediate safety.

The focus of the consultation process is to determine:

  • whether actions are required to support or assist the carer
  • whether the standards of care may not have been met for the child
  • the specific standards of care that may not have been met
  • whether the child may have experienced harm
  • whether the concerns relate to all or only some of the children in the placement
  • the response that is most proportionate to the seriousness of the concerns.

Consult with the foster and kinship care service

Where a carer is supported by a foster and kinship care service, consultation must occur with the service, who will have detailed knowledge of the carer and be able to provide relevant information to inform the decision-making process. The foster and kinship care service may be aware of the concerns, or have information about similar past issues through their monitoring activities, and may have commenced actions to address the matter. Information to be obtained can include, but is not limited to:

  • their assessment and monitoring of the carer’s capacity to meet the standards of care
  • the number and type of all current placements with the carer, both short break care or primary placements, including their length and proposed duration
  • other information that the foster and kinship care service identifies, which will enable the decision-making to be proportionate to the seriousness of the concerns received.

Consult with the care service

Consultation must occur with the care service. The coordinator or manager of the care service will have detailed knowledge of the care environment and can provide relevant information to inform the decision-making. The care service may have specific knowledge of the matter and have commenced actions to address the matter. Information to be obtained will include, but is not limited to:

  • the number of children currently placed with the care service and relevant information about the length and duration of the placements
  • the nature of the support provided to the children placed with the care service, including Child Safety contact with the child and carers and care service staffing supports and rostering arrangements
  • the presence of stressors in the residence, such as conflict between residents or between residents and particular staff members.

Consult the CSO with case responsibility for the child

The CSO for the subject child and the CSO for other children in the placement will be consulted for further information. Information to be obtained will include, but is not limited to:

  • the child’s level of support needs (moderate, high, complex or extreme) and any behaviours that increase their vulnerability, such as relevant information about their child protection history
  • the child’s recent placement history and relevant information about the triggers to any unplanned placement moves
  • observations about the care service, including any issues that have been observed that may be relevant to the concerns
  • information about the support needs of the carer and the progress toward meeting these
  • the frequency, recency and nature of the CSOs contacts with the child and their carer, and what the child has been saying about the care provided
  • the identification of any past issues or concerns in the child’s care environment and the actions taken to address these, including past standards of care reviews or harm reports.

Where the CSO is not available, contact the senior team leader or senior practitioner to obtain the information required. Case information about other children in the placement may be obtained from ICMS records until discussion with the CSO can occur.

Information from other stakeholders

Other services and professionals involved on a regular basis with the child or the carer, such as the community visitor or Evolve interagency services, may be contacted for information about their views on the child’s care environment.

The regional team responsible for funding and contract management of the care service will also have contextual information about the performance of the care service, as well as information about the funding and service agreements between Child Safety and the care service.

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3.4 Decide the response

The responsible CSSC will make the response decision within two working days of the receipt of the concerns. This will be informed by the information gathered and the views of key stakeholders, and will be proportionate to the seriousness of the concerns. There are three possible responses, which are detailed below.

  1. Continue monitoring the standards of care.
  2. Conduct a standards of care review.
  3. Record a harm report and respond with an investigation and assessment.

1. Continue monitoring the standards of care

The response, ‘continue monitoring the standards of care’ will be recorded when concerns are identified or raised about the quality of the care provided by the carer or care service that does not warrant a ‘standards of care review’ or ‘harm report’ response. This response requires proactive case work and support to address the issues to prevent them from continuing or escalating into a future ‘standards of care review’ or ‘harm report’.

2. Conduct a standards of care review

A standards of care review will be conducted in relation to a child in out-of-home care and placed with a carer or care service when:

  • concerns indicate that the care provided to the child may not have met the standards of care
  • the specific standards requiring review can be identified
  • there is no information that the child has experienced harm or is suspected to have experienced harm
  • a review is required to determine if the standards are being met, and where not met, what actions are required to meet the standards and improve the level of care provided to the child.

The child’s age, development and the length of time the child has been in the placement must be taken into account, as a child’s experience of their care environment may be different if they are in a long-term stable placement or have just entered the care environment for the first time.

3. Record a harm report and respond with an investigation and assessment

A harm report will be recorded for any child where the information gathered indicates that:

  • a child in out-of-home care has experienced harm or it is suspected that they have experienced harm, and
  • the harm or suspected harm may have involved the actions or inactions of a carer, adult household member or the staff member of a care service, including failure to protect a child.

Harm is defined by the Child Protection Act 1999, section 9, as any detrimental effect of a significant nature on the child’s physical, psychological or emotional well-being. It can be caused by a single act, omission or circumstance or a series of combination of acts, omissions or circumstances that may have a cumulative effect on the child’s safety and well-being. For further information about the definition of harm, refer to the practice resource Standards of care - key concepts and definitions (PDF, 26 KB).

Risk of harm

A harm report will not be recorded where the concerns indicate risk of harm only, to a child. Child Safety and foster and kinship care services and care services has a number of other options for responding to this. These options include reviewing the appropriateness of a child’s placement, undertaking more intensive case work with the child or providing additional support to the carer or care service, or reviewing a carer’s suitability.

Seek approval for the decision

When all of the relevant information has been gathered and the relevant parties have been consulted, provide the senior team leader or CSSC manager with the information and a recommendation about how to respond to the concerns.

The senior team leader, in consultation with the senior practitioner, can make the decision to:

  • continue monitoring the standards of care
  • conduct a standards of care review.

The CSSC manager is responsible for making the final decision about whether the information constitutes a harm report.

Where it is suspected that the standards of care may not have been met for the child, but there is uncertainty about whether or not the child has experienced harm, respond with a standards of care review.

Prior to approving the decision, it is the responsibility of the decision-maker to ensure:

  • consultation has occurred with the foster and kinship care service or care service, where applicable
  • the Child Safety response is proportional to the nature and seriousness of the concerns raised.

Following approval of the decision by the senior team leader or CSSC manager, ensure that the key stakeholders involved in the information gathering and consultation process are advised of the decision that has been made.

When the decision is approved, advise notifiers from government or non-government agencies about the Child Safety response, in accordance with Chapter 1, 4.2 Provide feedback to government and non-government agencies.

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3.5 Record the information

Record the decision to continue monitoring the standards of care

When the response is ‘Continue monitoring the standards of care’, create a ‘Standards of care’ event in ICMS and complete the ‘Concerns, consultation and response decision’ form. Ensure the following information is recorded:

  • all subject children to whom the concerns relate
  • the concerns
  • the rationale for the decision to continue monitoring the standards of care
  • any particular actions that are required as part of the monitoring process
  • the senior team leader who made the decision, and the date of the decision.

Record the decision to conduct a standards of care review

To record the decision to conduct a standards of care review, create a ‘Standards of care’ event in ICMS, complete the ‘Concerns, consultation and response decision’ form and ensure the following information is recorded:

  • all subject children to whom the concerns relate
  • all other children placed with the carer or care service under the Child Protection Act 1999, section 82(1), who are not subject children in the standards of care review
  • the concerns received
  • the additional information that was taken into account during the information gathering and consultation process
  • the senior team leader who made the decision and the date of the decision
  • the rationale for the decision.

Following completion of the ‘Concerns, consultation and response decision’ form  in ICMS, record all other information in relation to the standards of care review in the ‘Standards of care review report’ which will be automatically created following completion of the ‘Concerns, consultation and response decision’ form.

Record a harm report and respond with an investigation and assessment

Where the CSSC manager decides that the information constitutes a harm report, create a ‘Standards of care’ event in ICMS and complete the ‘Concerns, consultation and response decision’ form and ‘Harm report’ form. The ‘Harm report - I&A’ event will be automatically generated in ICMS once the ‘Harm report’ is submitted for approval.

Where a mandatory report of harm is received relating to a reportable suspicion of significant harm caused by physical or sexual abuse, provide this information to the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG), excluding notifier details, as soon as possible within one business day. For information about the OPG regional inboxes, refer to the Memorandum of Understanding between Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services (Child Safety) and the Office of Public Guardian.

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