Stage 3 updates (16 September 2005) (Note - SDM operational 30 October 2005)

Stage 3 of the practice manual sets out the key information for departmental staff across the child protection continuum. It introduces a wide range of significant changes to practice that are outlined in the practice guidelines and procedures, across the following sections and chapters:

Practice maps

  1. Intake
  2. Investigation and assessment
  3. Use of powers and assessment orders
  4. Ongoing intervention
  5. Intervention with parental consent
  6. Intervention with a child protection order
  7. Children in out-of-home care
  8. Assessment and approval of carers
  9. Matters of concern
  10. Unborn children
  11. Transfers
  12. Professional supervision and development
  13. Critical incident reporting
  14. Child deaths
  15. Family Court


The practice manual stage 3:

  • introduces structured decision making tools across the child protection continuum, to guide decision-making, including:
    • screening the response outcomes during intake;
    • assigning a response priority for notifications;
    • completion of safety assessments for investigations and assessments;
    • completion of family risk evaluations to inform outcomes and case opening decisions;
    • standards for contact - a guide that determines the required level of contact between the department and a child and family subject to ongoing intervention;
    • completion of the child and parental strengths and needs assessments to be completed prior to case planning and case plan reviews; and
    • completion of family risk re-evaluation and family risk reunification tools to inform case plan review and decision-making about the need for further departmental intervention.
  • includes terminology that is consistent with the stage four legislative changes that will be enacted in April, 2006;
  • replaces the previous case management framework with a new case management overview that reflects recent practice changes and includes investigations and assessments and support service cases as a 'case'.
  • introduces the requirement to provide feedback to notifiers from government and non-government agencies, when requested;
  • introduces new practice guidelines and procedures for responding to matters of concern for children in out-of-home care;
  • ensures a consistent threshold for recording a notification (in accordance with the screening criteria);
  • removes 'moving a child to a safe place' as a response to a child concern report, and returns to the recording of this information in a 'safe place movement record' in CPS, via a CSR or a notification;
  • defines what constitutes the commencement of an investigation and assessment;
  • introduces significant formatting changes to the investigation and assessment document in CPS;
  • increases the threshold for substantiation of harm, to harm as defined in the Child Protection Act 1999 (see below);
  • makes changes to the recorded outcomes and harm types in the investigation and assessment document in CPS;
  • provides a timeframe for completion of investigation and assessments and defines what constitutes completion;
  • introduces a 'Support service' case for children, young people or pregnant women who  require support and assistance from the department where there is no child in need of protection ( Child Protection Act 1999 , section 7);
  • introduces 'Intervention with parental agreement' as a case type, which replaces 'Intensive Family Support' and has different timeframes and review requirements;
  • introduces a three monthly review requirement for children under the age of three years;
  • introduces a practice guideline for the 'Professional supervision' of all practitioners;
  • incorporates the legislative requirement for giving information to carers and children before placing a child under the Child Protection Act 199 9, section 82;
  • replaces the current use of the term 'safety assessment' in relation to deciding the level of placement information to be provided to parents, with terminology and procedures for 'assessing' and 'providing' placement information to parents;
  • introduces a procedure regarding the use of respite for children in out-of-home care;
  • introduces new letter templates for young people aged 15 - 18 years, who are subject to 'transition from care' procedures;
  • introduces a new screening and assessment process for foster carer applicants and carers undergoing renewal;
  • introduces a new procedure for foster carers to advise the department of a 'change in circumstance';
  • introduces a new procedure for the 'cessation' of foster carer approvals;
  • provides clarification of the definition of 'other household member' for the purposes of suitability screening for foster carers and licensed residential care services;
  • introduces exclusionary criminal offences for the purposes of suitability screening for foster carers and licensed residential care services; and
  • provides a resource for the assessment and screening of relative carers.

The rationale is provided for two of these changes:

The department's threshold for receiving and recording notifications previously lacked clarity and uniformity in interpretation resulting in a wide variation of notification rates throughout the state. The implementation of the screening criteria tool ensures the threshold for a notification more accurately reflects the intent of the Child Protection Act 1999 and will assist in remedying the previous inconsistencies.

Previously the department would investigate and assess notifications of 'significant' harm or risk of harm, but substantiate any level of harm or risk of harm. The changes in the manual reflect Section 14 of the Child Protection Act 1999 , which authorises the department to investigate alleged harm or risk of harm to a child when it reasonably suspects that a child is in need of protection. That is, a child who has suffered harm, is suffering harm, or is at unacceptable risk of suffering harm, and does not have a parent able and willing to protect the child from the harm. The legislative definition of harm is any detrimental effect of a significant nature on the child's physical, psychological or emotional wellbeing.  Accordingly, a substantiated outcome will reflect harm or risk of harm (detrimental effect) of a significant nature only.

Stage 3 does not incorporate:

  • procedures for the management of child protection orders, for example:
    • when to revoke, vary or extend an order; or
    • when to revoke an order and substitute another order in its place; and
  • court processes, for example:
    • making an application for a child protection order;
    • hearing of an application;
    • applications relating to existing orders; and
    • Court Services and Crown Law.