What ifs

1. What if concerns are received by the Child Safety After Hours Service Centre?

When information is received by the Child Safety After Hours Service Centre (CSAHSC) over a weekend or holiday period, the CSAHSC will determine the appropriate response to the concerns, in accordance with these procedures.

Where the information does not indicate that a harm report is required, refer to 3. Decide the appropriate response when concerns are identified to determine whether the response will be to continue monitoring the standards or a standards of care review.

Where it is determined that the information requires a harm report response, but no further action is required before the CSSC opens on the next business day, the CSAHSC will:

  • record the information in ICMS in a ‘Standards of care’ case note in the 'placement' event, and include the contact details of the notifier and indicate whether they request feedback (if from a government or non-government agency)
  • email the information to the CSSC responsible for the carer and the CSOs with case responsibility for the subject children, and call them on the next business day to ensure they have received the email, are aware of the matter and are able to locate the ‘Standards of care’ case note in ICMS.

Where a harm report is recorded and action by the CSAHSC is required prior to the relevant CSSC opening on the next business day, the CSAHSC will:

  • seek approval for the decision to record a harm report from the relevant CSSC manager
  • take any necessary actions to ensure the safety of the child
  • commence the investigation and assessment within the 24 hour response timeframe
  • create a ‘Standards of care’ event in ICMS, complete the ‘Harm report’ form in the event, and record all following actions taken in the ‘Harm report - I&A’ event in ICMS
  • email the information to the CSSC responsible for the approved carer or, if the child is placed with a care service, to the CSSC with case management for the child
  • phone the relevant CSSC on the next business day to ensure they have received the email, are aware of the matter and are able to locate the relevant information in ICMS.

CSAHSC's responsibility for the matter ends when the relevant CSSC reopens on the next business day, and the CSSC is then responsible for completing the investigation and assessment of the matter in accordance with the procedures for harm reports.

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2. What if additional concerns are received?

Where additional concerns about a child’s care are received prior to the finalisation of a standards of care review or an investigation and assessment, the concerns will be responded to as part of the current matter.

Standards of care reviews

 Where additional concerns are received about the care provided to a child during a standards of care review, and the information does not indicate harm to the child, record the new concerns in the additional notified concerns section of the ‘Standards of care review report’ form in ICMS and assess the information as part of the standards of care review. This will include discussions with the child and the carer or the care service about the new concerns. Advise relevant parties of the outcome of all of the concerns - refer to 5.4 Advise relevant parties of the outcome or 6.4 Advise relevant parties of the outcome.

Harm reports

Where further concerns are received about the care provided to a child during an investigation and assessment of a harm report, unless an exception applies, as outlined in Chapter 1, 2.6 Decide the response:

  • record the information in an ‘Additional notified concerns’ form in the open ‘Harm report – I&A’ event in ICMS
  • ensure that the concerns are addressed with the child and the carer or staff member and assessed as part of the open investigation and assessment.

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3. What if there is harm by another household member?

Where there are reported concerns about harm to a child in care by another household member (including an adult other than the child’s carer, an adult other than a staff member of the care service caring for the child, or another child in care and residing in the care environment) record a harm report and conduct and investigation and assessment to determine:

  • whether the actions or inactions of the carer or care service contributed to the harm or failed to protect the child from harm
  • whether the standards of care have been met for the child.

Where the suspected harm is not by a carer or staff member of a care service, the investigation and assessment process must be conducted sensitively, taking into consideration:

  • how the carer or staff member has been affected by the matter (for example, where a child has been sexually assaulted, the carer may be emotionally or psychologically traumatised by the events)
  • whether additional support is required by carer or staff member, including counselling
  • the readiness of the carer or staff member to discuss the matter in detail, particularly where it involves difficult information.

Where the alleged person responsible is another child in care, consider and respond to the needs of this child during the investigation and assessment. This may require recording:

  • a separate harm report: with the alleged person (child) responsible as a subject child, where the child’s actions indicate that they may have also experienced harm while in care (for example, emerging age-inappropriate sexually reactive behaviour, where there is no known history of the child being sexually abused), or
  • a ‘standard’ notification: where the child’s actions indicate they may have previously experienced harm while in the care of their parents, for example, where it is reasonably suspected that the child was sexually abused while in the care of his or her parents, and this has not previously been investigated and assessed by the department.

In all circumstances where Child Safety staff become aware of allegations of the sexual abuse of a child while they are placed in care, respond in accordance with the Response to children and young people sexually abused whilst placed in care (PDF) policy and include a review of the child’s case plan to meet the child’s specific needs. Refer to Chapter 5, 15. What if a child is sexually abused whilst in care? 

In circumstances where the information received from the notifier involves allegations that may have involved the commission of a criminal offence relating to the child, immediately notify the QPS using the Police referral form, in accordance with the Child Protection Act 1999, section 14(2) and (3). For further information, refer to Chapter 10.2 Statutory obligation to notify the Queensland Police Service of possible criminal offences.

If the child or another person has been identified as a victim of crime or act of violence, refer to Chapter 10.20 Victims of crime and the role of Victim Assist Queensland.

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4. What if there is harm by a person living outside the care environment?

When information is received about harm to a child by a person who does not live or work in the care environment, only record a harm report where it is reasonably suspected that the actions or inactions of the carer or care service have contributed to the harm, or the carer or care service has failed to protect the child from harm.

If unsure whether to record a harm report, consider:

  • whether the carer or care service is aware of the harm
  • whether the actions or inactions of the carer or care service contributed to harm (for example, by allowing unsupervised family contact, contrary to the child’s case plan and placement agreement, resulting in harm to a child)
  • the protective capacity of the carer or care service and their response to the child (for example, whether they have rejected the child or are refusing to take action to ensure the child’s safety)
  • the ability and willingness of the carer or care service to protect the child, including whether they: 
    • support the child, believe the child or blame the child for the harm
    • have an ongoing relationship with the alleged person responsible that will affect their ability to protect the child
    • are able to protect the child but are unwilling to do so, due to identified factors (for example, the alleged person responsible may be a relative or friend of the carer, preventing the carer from acting protectively).

Where the information received does not indicate that the carer or care service contributed to harm to the child or failed to protect the child from harm, respond to the matter in accordance with intake procedures for children in the general community, for example where:

  • a child in care is physically or sexually assaulted by another child at school or an adult in a shopping centre
  • a child in care experiences harm or risk of harm by their parent during a family contact visit, record the matter as a 'standard' notification and undertake an investigation and assessment.

In addition, as part of ongoing intervention, support the child through the provision of counselling and medical services, if appropriate, and during any subsequent criminal investigations and court processes.

In all circumstances where Child Safety staff become aware of allegations of sexual abuse of a child while they are placed in care, a response will be provided that includes a review of the child’s case plan to meet the child’s specific needs. For further information refer to Chapter 5, 15. What if a child is sexually abused whilst in care?

Where the information received from the notifier involves allegations of harm to a child that may have involved the commission of a criminal offence relating to the child, immediately notify the QPS using the Police referral form, in accordance with the Child Protection Act 1999, section 14(2) and (3). For further information refer to Chapter 10.2 Statutory obligation to notify the Queensland Police Service of possible criminal offences.

If the child or another person has been identified as a victim of crime or act of violence, refer to Chapter 10.20 Victims of crime and the role of Victim Assist Queensland.

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5. What if the concerns received are historical?

Historical concerns are concerns that are made known to Child Safety constitute either a standards of care review or a harm report response and that:

  • occurred more than 12 months ago to a child whilst placed in care, or
  • relate to a child who is no longer in care or is now over the age of 18 years.

The Child Safety response to these concerns will be determined by whether or not the child is still under the age of 18 years and considering the immediate risk of harm to any children currently in the placement.

Child under the age of 18

Where the subject child is under the age of 18, record a standards of care review or harm report and respond in accordance with the procedures outlined in this chapter.

Where concerns relate to a standards of care review, regardless of whether or not the child is still in care:

  • for concerns regarding a care service, conduct a standards of care review in accordance with the procedures outlined in this chapter
  • for concerns regarding a carer, conduct the standards of care review only where the carer is still an approved carer
  • do not conduct a standards of care review where the carer is no longer approved. In this instance, ensure the information is recorded, including any information the child may provide about the matter. The information gathered should be recorded as a standard of care (SOC) case note in the closed placement event in ICMS. This will ensure that if the person subsequently applies to be a foster or kinship carer these concerns can be addressed during the career assessment process.

For a harm report, regardless of whether or not the child is still in care:

  • for a care service, conduct the investigation and assessment, making every attempt to engage the child and the relevant staff member
  • for a carer, conduct the investigation and assessment, regardless of whether or not the carer is still approved, making every attempt to engage the child and carer.

Carer is approved and has children currently in the placement 

If historical concerns are received about a carer who holds a certificate of approval and has children currently placed with them, Child Safety must assess the immediate safety and risk of harm to these children. 

The CSSC responsible for the carer will respond to the concerns, irrespective of whether that CSSC has case responsibility for the subject children. This CSSC will lead the information gathering and consultation process, make the decision about how to respond and lead the response. 

The CSSC response will be informed by the information gathered, the views of the stakeholders and will be proportionate to the seriousness of the concerns. The three possible responses are:

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

Where concerns relate to a standards of care review:

  • for concerns regarding a care service, conduct a standards of care review in accordance with the procedures outlined in this chapter
  • for concerns regarding a carer, conduct the standards of care review.

For a harm report:

  • for a care service, conduct the investigation and assessment, making every attempt to engage the relevant staff member and the children currently being cared for by the staff member
  • for a carer, conduct the investigation and assessment with the carer and the children currently placed with the carer.

A former child in care who is over 18 years

Where concerns relate to a child who was formerly in care and is over 18 years, Child Safety is not able to record a standards of care review or a harm report, however, Child Safety will respond to these concerns.

Carer

When the senior team leader or CSSC manager decides that the information constitutes a standards of care review or harm report, record the concerns in relation to a carer in a ‘SOC historical concerns’ document in the carer’s ‘Monitor and Support’ screen, add the relevant details of the former child and:

  • make all reasonable attempts to discuss and assess the concerns with the former child in care, subject to their consent
  • discuss the concerns with the carer or make all reasonable attempts to meet with a carer who is no longer approved, to discuss the concerns, subject to their consent
  • attach the assessment and the outcome in the same ‘SOC historical concerns’ document in ICMS.

Care service

When the senior team leader or CSSC manager decides that the information constitutes a standards of care review or harm report, record the concerns in relation to a care service in a ‘SOC historical concerns’ Documents/Comms in the care service entity record in ICMS, and:

  • make all reasonable attempts to discuss and assess the concerns with the former child in care, subject to their consent
  • discuss the concerns with the care service and the relevant staff member, where they are currently employed by the care service
  • make all reasonable attempts to meet and discuss the concerns with a former staff member, subject to their consent
  • attach the assessment and the outcome in the same ‘Document/Comms’ in ICMS.

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6. What if the matter coincides with the renewal of approval for a carer?

In circumstances where a carer’s  certificate of approval is due for renewal at the same time as they are subject to a standards of care review or a harm report, advise the carer that:

  • the ‘Application for approval - Form 3 APA’ (APA form) - Part C must still be submitted, in accordance with Chapter 8, 4. Renewal, in order for their approval to continue
  • the renewal process will then be put on hold until the standards of care review or investigation and assessment is finalised.

This will ensure that the carer’s approval does not expire and any children placed with the carer are not needlessly moved to another placement.

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7. What if a person wants to make a complaint or seek a review?

In relation to the processes for responding to standards of care issues, affected persons may:

  • make a complaint by contacting the local CSSC, the regional office or the Central Complaints and Review Unit - refer to Chapter 10.17 Complaints management
  • make a complaint through the Office of the Public Guardian
  • seek an external review of Child Safety decisions that are reviewable (Child Protection Act 1999, schedule 2), through QCAT.

An internal review of the actions taken or decisions made as part of a standards of care review or a harm report investigation and assessment can be:

  • undertaken by the CSSC manager, at the request of the regional director 
  • assisted or undertaken by Complaints and Review (at the request of the regional director or above).

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8. What if there is a request for a copy of Child Safety records?

Where a carer or staff member requests a copy of Child Safety information in relation to a standards of care review or harm report, or a previous matter or concern, refer them to Child Safety's Right to Information, Information Access and Amendment Unit, which can be contacted by telephone on 1800 809 078.

Administrative release of documents under the Child Protection Act 1999, section 187(4), to a person should only occur following consultation between the CSSC manager and the Right to Information Unit.

Where a carer or staff member requests that information be changed in, or added to, records associated with a standards of care review or harm report:

  • invite the carer or staff member to provide their response in writing, to be placed on:
    • the carer’s file or the care service’s file
    • the child’s file, and referred to in the standards of care review or the investigation and assessment
  • refer the carer or staff member to relevant review mechanisms.

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9. What if the child has a long-term guardian?

A child subject to a long-term guardianship order to a suitable person may be subject to a standards of care review or a harm report when they are placed by Child Safety with an approved carer for the purpose of an emergent short break care.

In this circumstance:

  • prior to conducting the standards of care review or harm report investigation and assessment:
    • seek consent from at least one of the long-term guardians to talk to the child
    • provide verbal advice to at least one of the long-term guardians about the concerns, which standards of care the concerns relate to and the planned Child Safety response
  • upon completion of the investigation and assessment, provide verbal advice of the outcome to at least one of the long-term guardians, and if requested, written advice about the investigation and assessment outcome.

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10. What if the child has a permanent guardian?

A child subject to a permanent care order which grants permanent guardianship to a suitable person will not be subject to a standard of care review or a harm report as they are not placed by Child Safety with an approved carer under Section 82, of the Child Protection Act 1999.  

When the information received at intake relates to a child subject to a permanent care order, determine the response in accordance with usual intake procedures and select one of the following three options:

  • record a notification where the information meets the threshold and allocate the investigation and assessment in accordance with usual processes
  • record a child concern report and advise the senior team leader of the CSSC where the placement event for the child is open, within 24 hours
  • record the information in a case note, attach it to the placement event in ICMS and advise the senior team leader of the CSSC where the placement event is open for the child, within 24 hours.

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