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Assess harm and acts of protection

Assessing immediate safety

As part of completing a safety assessment, gather information from a wide variety of sources.  Practitioners engage with families, children, young people and communities whose culture, ethnicity, economic status, age, gender, spirituality and sexual orientation may differ greatly from their own.  It’s important to remember that practitioners can be influenced by their own personal experiences and therefore biased when assessing others where difference exists.  This is why it is essential that information is gathered not just from the family but the extended family, the network and cultural elders or advisors to ensure we are able to make a rigorous and balanced assessment.

If there is an immediate harm indicator in relation to a parent’s disability, this relates to immediate harm indictor 8: ‘Parent’s mental health concern, emotional instability or intellectual or physical disability results in behaviours that create imminent danger to the child’.

Practice prompt

It is not a parent’s disability alone that is an issue, rather, it is the impact their disability is having on the child. There are many parents who have an intellectual or physical disability that parent their child safely.

Use the SDM Policy and procedures manual for detailed definitions and completion instructions regarding the safety assessment tool.

Key factors when preparing to assess immediate harm 

The impact of disability on parenting 

  • Does the parent have a disability where the impact on their functioning fluctuates in severity?
  • To what extent are the behaviours or circumstances that create imminent danger able to be predicted?
  • When the parent’s disability is at its worst, is the child well looked after?
  • If the parent has a disability and the impact on their functioning does not fluctuate, is the child well looked after?
  • If there is a significant impact on the parent’s functioning due to their disability, can they still care for their child?
  • If they can care for their child, what does this look like?
  • Is the parent able to think about the child and attend to their needs?
  • Is there another supportive adult available to help the parent and children if required?
  • How does the parent’s disability impact on the child’s schooling, social activities, or other matters appropriate for the child’s age?
  • How does a parent’s disability impact on a child’s basic needs for food, clothing, bedding, and medical attention?
  • Does the parent show consistent and predictable warmth, sensitivity and comfort to the child?  Is there affection shown toward the child?
  • Is the child taking on caring / parenting roles for younger children or for their parent to a point that it is detrimental to their wellbeing? What does this look like? How does this impact on the child’s development?

Parent’s ability to understand the concerns about their disability 

  • Does the parent understand why Child Safety are worried about their disability?
  • Does the parent understand the impact their disability may be having on their child? Has this impact been explained?
  • What are the parent’s views of their disability?
  • Have they worked with Child Safety or other agencies before? What was that experience like for them?

Child’s family network and social supports 

  • Does the family have a supportive social network?
  • Are relatives aware of the parent’s disability?
  • Are the parent’s relatives supportive?
  • Who is in the family’s safety and support network?
  • What kind of involvement do these people have with the children?
  • Will the parent accept help or actively seek help from their networks, relatives or other agencies?
  • Can the parent access support independently or do they require assistance to do this?

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