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Carry out interviews

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This page was updated on 02 September 2020. To view changes, please see page updates

Contact with the subject child

Practice prompt

Use good communication and engagement skills to carry out the investigation and assessment with the cooperation and agreement of parents if possible.

As soon as possible, sight, interview and assess:

  • each subject child
  • any other child in the household identified during the investigation and assessment as having been significantly harmed, or as likely to be at unacceptable risk of significant harm. Record them as a subject child in the investigation and assessment event in ICMS.

Consider interviewing any other child:

  • in the household who may have information about the notified concerns
  • not in the household but present at the time of the notified concerns.

Tip

Interviewing other children is important, as they may also have been harmed or be at risk of harm, and they may have information about the notified concerns.

Arrange contact with the child

To arrange contact with the child:

  • seek the permission of the child’s parents
    or
  • use powers under the Child Protection Act 1999, section 17
    or
  • obtain the authority of an assessment order to have contact with the child—only if the parents refuse to allow contact, or will not agree to work with Child Safety.

Contact with a child may occur either:

  • by an unannounced visit or arranged appointment at the family home
  • at other locations such as:
    • a hospital
    • a police station
    • a CSSC
    • the child’s school, child care or day care centre—only if necessary
    • another location suitable to the child and family and appropriate to the circumstances of the investigation and assessment.

To decide how and where to have contact with the child, consider:

  • the seriousness of the allegations
  • relevant child protection history
  • any serious staff safety concerns that require the assistance of the QPS
  • culturally appropriate support needs of the child and family
  • an appropriate location for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child, having regard to Aboriginal tradition or Island custom.

If a joint investigation with the QPS is to occur, make decisions about sighting and interviewing the child in consultation with the QPS, including whether the interviews will be recorded in line with the Interviewing Children and Recording Evidence (ICARE) procedures.

Sight and interview the child

Attention

CSOs are not to use video, audio equipment or mobile devices to record interviews with children. Store written interview notes on the child’s paper file, as they are subject to disclosure during Childrens Court proceedings. A copy of the notes may be provide to the QPS to assist with a joint investigation.

Contact with a child is crucial in deciding their immediate safety. It also helps the child to feel safe and able to communicate their fears or concerns.

To sight the child:

  • Have direct contact with the child—speak with or interview them, taking into account their age, developmental level and ability to communicate.
  • Observe the child’s:
    • physical and cognitive developmental stage
    • behaviour
    • reactions, presentation and interaction with others, including the parent.

Before interviewing the child, consider:

  • whether an interview should occur—taking into account their age, developmental level and ability to communicate
  • your responsibility to help the child feel safe and supported during the interview, including weighing up whether:
    • the child wants a support person present
    • having a support person present is appropriate
    • having another person present may reduce the likelihood of the child disclosing abuse, especially if the person holds a position of authority over the child.

Practice prompt

If a support person is to be present in the interview, help the child choose an appropriate adult who is not their parent or the alleged person responsible. Talk to the support person about their role in the interview.

Further reading

If, during the interview, it is evident that a child subject to a long-term guardianship order to a person (other than the chief executive) no longer resides in the direct care of the guardian, take specific actions outlined in Procedure 5 Respond when the child is no longer in the long-term guardian's direct care.

Exceptions to contact or interviews with the child

In exceptional circumstances, it may be inappropriate or not possible to interview the child. Examples may include if the child:

  • has a serious or terminal illness
  • refuses to be sighted or interviewed after all reasonable attempts have been exhausted.

To seek approval to not interview or sight the child:

  • consult with the senior team leader
  • document the reasons in ICMS.

Note

If the differential pathway contact with other professional is used, another professional may sight and interview one subject child. Refer to Consider the differential pathway. Record the use of the differential pathway in the Assessment and outcome form in ICMS.

Sight a child's physical injuries

If physical injuries to a child are suspected or alleged:

  • Decide whether to sight the injury or injuries or arrange for a medical examination so a medical practitioner can sight the injury.  This will depend on the nature and location of the injury and age of the child. (Refer to Consider a medical examination.)
  • Only sight an injury with a second officer or other professional present—do not sight the injury when alone with:
    • a child
    • a child and their parent.
  • Consider the child’s age, gender and comfort level when deciding where and when to sight the injury.
  • Ask the parent, carer or the child to adjust or remove whatever clothing is necessary to see the alleged injury. Do not undress or adjust the child’s clothing yourself.
  • Document details of the injury, including the location, size and colour, as relevant.
  • Consider whether the injury needs to be photographed (Child Protection Act 1999, section 181).

If parents do not consent to the alleged injury being sighted, and seeing the injury is important to the investigation and assessment:

Contact with a child without parental consent - section 17

The Child Protection Act 1999, section 17, gives a CSO or police officer the power to have contact with a child at a school, or place where child care is provided, to investigate allegations, without the parents’ knowledge. 

Only use powers under the Child Protection Act 1999, section 17, if:

  • the parents’ prior knowledge of the interview will compromise the safety of the child or interfere with the investigation and assessment
  • it is in the child's best interest for a CSO or police officer to have contact with the child before the parents are told about the investigation and assessment.

Examples include:

  • a joint interview being conducted with the QPS requiring the preservation of the child’s evidence
  • the child being likely to be at greater risk if the parents are interviewed first
  • concerns existing about sexual abuse by a parent when there is reason to believe that:
    • a parent will influence the child to withhold information or retract information already given
    • the child would not be supported by a parent and is likely to be harmed or adversely influenced during the investigation and assessment process
  • the child having made a disclosure and more detailed information being needed before interviewing the parents
  • the parents being unavailable and delaying commencement of the investigation and assessment would be inappropriate
  • a child self-referring.

Before using section 17 powers:

  • consult a senior team leader
  • make a referral to the QPS if a joint interview is needed, depending on the nature of the concerns
  • contact the principal, or person in charge of the school or place where the interview will be held, and:
    • notify them of the intention to exercise the power
    • seek permission for the contact to occur on their premises. Contact with the child must occur lawfully, with the permission of the person in charge of the education facility.

Note

If access is denied, the power cannot be used. Consider other options for contact with the child.

Tell the principal, or other person in of:

•   the need to interview the child prior to the parents being made aware of the concerns

  • the general nature of the concerns
  • the rationale for the use of the power and information that will assist with an effective interview   
  • of their obligation to maintain confidentiality under the Child Protection Act 1999, section 188, including:
    • ensuring other personnel maintain confidentiality
    • not telling the parents about the child protection concerns or that an interview has or will take place without their consent
  • the names and positions of interviewing officers.

Negotiate with the principal, or person in charge:

  • an interview time that minimises interruption to the child’s usual school routine and avoids or reduces feelings of embarrassment or distress the child may experience by being interviewed at school
  • the conditions of the interview, including an appropriate venue and how the interview will be conducted
  • whether a school staff member will be present during the interview. Advise the principal that the staff member may be called to give evidence in any resulting criminal proceeding.

Note

If a joint ICARE interview is being carried out with the QPS and the child initially disclosed harm to a school staff member, that staff member should not be present at the interview. The QPS may consider the person to be a witness for any subsequent criminal proceedings.

Before the interview, show your identity card to the principal or other person in charge. Talk with them about how to help the child feel safe and supported during the interview, including having a support person of their choice, from that location, if that would help the child.

Take action after using section 17

Immediately after the interview, tell the principal or person in charge:

  • the actions that Child Safety will take
  • any immediate support needs the child has
  • that Child Safety will tell the parents about the contact with the child and the outcome.

As soon as practicable after the interview, tell at least one of the child’s parents:

Record details of the contact with the child at the first reasonable opportunity in the Record of use of powers in ICMS, regardless of whether an authorised officer or QPS officer exercised the power.

Practice prompt

Make every effort to inform the parents of the use of section 17 before the child sees their parents. It is Child Safety’s responsibility to inform the parents. Do not ask anyone else to do it.

If the child has a long-term or permanent guardian, tell at least one of the child’s guardians about the interview. There is no requirement to tell the parent.

Take action when the child is at immediate risk of harm - use of section 16 or 18

When carrying out an investigation and assessment, an authorised officer or police officer has the power to:

  • have contact with a child at immediate risk of significant harm (Child Protection Act 1999, section 16)
    or
  • take a child who is at immediate risk of significant harm into custody (Child Protection Act 1999, section 18).

These powers may be exercised with help and the use of force deemed reasonable in the circumstances. Before taking action under section 16 or 18:

  • make considerable effort to engage parents and negotiate an appropriate solution
  • consider contacting the QPS for assistance
  • consult and discuss the decision with a senior team leader
  • consult and discuss the decision with an OCFOS lawyer.

If, due to the nature of the immediate risk to the child, the power is exercised before consulting the senior team leader or OCFOS lawyer, advise them as soon as possible after using the power. If an authorised officer is accompanied by the QPS, the QPS may use discretionary powers to enter and search, and to remain on the premises.

Note

Custody of a child under the Child Protection Act 1999, section 18, overrides any other child protection order that grants custody or guardianship to someone other than the chief executive.

Practice prompt

If a CSO damages property while exercising this power, provide a written notice of particulars of the damage to the owner or leave this notice at the property and retain a copy of the notice (Child Protection Act 1999, section 154).

Exercise powers under section 16

When exercising powers under section 16, tell the parents:

  • your name, position and the name of the department
  • the purpose of the visit, the child protection concerns and any intended actions
  • your authority under the Child Protection Act 1999, section 16, to enter, search and remain in the premises or residence.

In addition:

  • Show the parents your identity card (Child Protection Act 1999, section 153).
  • Give the parents another opportunity to consent to allowing contact with the child.  
  • Sight, and where appropriate, interview the child.
  • Complete a safety assessment for the household with the parents, as soon as possible after the use of the power has been exercised, and include the actions taken under the use of powers.
  • Take other action as required, as part of the investigation and assessment.
  • Record the Record of interview/use of powers form in ICMS, regardless of whether an authorised officer or QPS officer exercised the power.

Note

If, after initial contact is made with the child, the parents refuse to allow further contact with the child to complete the investigation and assessment, consult the senior team leader and the OCFOS lawyer about applying for an assessment order. (Refer to Respond if a parent will not consent to actions required—temporary assessment order or Respond if a parent will not consent to actions required—court assessment order.)

Exercise powers under section 18

When exercising the use of powers under section 18, take reasonable steps to advise at least one parent of:

  • your name, position and the name of the department
  • the purpose of the visit and the concerns regarding the child
  • the authority under this power to enter, search and remain in the place until the child is located
  • the child having been taken into the chief executive's custody. It is not a requirement to tell the parents with whom the child has been placed (Child Protection Act 1999, section 20)
  • the rationale for taking the child into the chief executive's custody, unless this would jeopardise the child's safety or a criminal investigation
  • the legal requirement for Child Safety to apply for a TAO or a TCO. 

In addition:

  • show the parents your identity card (Child Protection Act 1999, section 153)
  • sight and, if appropriate, interview the child
  • complete the safety assessment—with the parents if possible
  • tell the child about being taken into custody, including what this type of custody means, the reasons for the custody and the period of the custody (Child Protection Act 1999, section 195)
  • consult the senior team leader and the OCFOS lawyer, who can then apply or assist in applying to a magistrate for a TAO or TCO as soon as possible within 8 hours of taking the child into custody
  • record the Record of interview/use of powers form in ICMS, regardless of whether an authorised officer or QPS officer exercised the power.

Note

With regards to the obligations under the Child Protection Act 1999, section 20, the definition of ‘parent’ includes long-term or permanent guardians. A child’s guardian has the same rights and obligations as a parent.

After using section 18 powers:

Practice prompt

If, before applying for the TAO, it is assessed that it is safe for the child to be returned to the custody of their parents, the TAO application must still proceed, even though custody is no longer required.

In addition, for a child who has a long-term or permanent guardian, make reasonable attempts to:

  • tell at least one of the child’s parents about the reasons for, and the effect of, the TAO or TCO and the right of appeal
  • serve the parents with a copy of the order.

If unable to contact the parents (Child Protection Act, 1999, sections 32 and 51AK), record details of the attempts in the investigation and assessment event in ICMS.

When a child is taken into custody under section 18, a medical examination or medical treatment may be arranged for them, if it is urgent or reasonable in the circumstances. If the need is not urgent, do not arrange the examination or treatment before a magistrate grants a TAO.

Interview the parents, other adults and alleged persons responsible

The purpose of interviewing parents, other adults and alleged persons responsible is to:

  • gather relevant information about the concerns and the child’s circumstances
  • verify and clarify information received from other sources
  • provide alleged persons responsible with a reasonable opportunity to respond to allegations, where this does not interfere with criminal proceedings
  • help assess who is responsible for the harm
  • assess the parents’ ability and willingness to protect the child from significant harm.

Arrange interviews with:

  • each adult household member, including:
    • the child’s parent or parents and any adult who cares for the child, even if the concerns do not specifically relate to them
    • all persons alleged responsible for harm to the child—if this does not interfere with criminal proceedings
    • any other adult living in the household, including a step-parent or partner of a parent living with the child, even if they are not the primary parent, if:
      • the concerns relate to them
        or
      • they may provide relevant information
  • non-resident parent or parents
  • any other adult or parental figure not living in the harm household who:
    • has reliable knowledge of the family and the concerns
      and
    • is likely to provide relevant information.

The senior team leader is responsible for approving a decision to not interview all relevant adults. If this occurs, record the decision and the rationale in ICMS.

Procedural fairness

Procedural fairness relates to the processes used to make a decision, and includes fairness, impartiality, objectivity and transparency. Upholding the principles of procedural fairness means that a parent, other adult and alleged person responsible who might be adversely affected by a decision is given the opportunity for a fair hearing before a decision is made, if this does not interfere with criminal proceedings.

Advise all parents and alleged persons responsible of the allegations of harm, and give them reasonable opportunity and time to respond to the allegations, worries identified, decisions and assessments. Listen to the views of the child’s parents and other adults and take their views into account when completing the investigation and assessment.

Note

There are exceptions to the requirement to inform a parent and alleged persons responsible about the allegations of harm. (Refer to Inform the parents about the allegation of harm and consider if discretionary compliance is permitted.)

Respond to a request for a support person

If a parent or other adult asks for a support person to be present during an interview, assist them to identify an appropriate person. Do not allow the alleged person responsible for harm to be the support person. The role of a support person is different to the role of an independent person for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child and family. (Refer to practice guide The role of a support person and Procedure 5 Decision making for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children .)

Practice prompt

If advice is needed to assist with interviewing an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person, consult with either:

  • a Child Safety practitioner able to give cultural advice
    or
  • the local Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander community representative, sharing    non-identifying information about the family.

Advice about the family’s culture or community may include:

  • how best to engage the family
  • relevant cultural protocols 
  • whether information would be considered women’s or men’s business
  • ‘sorry’ business or current issues impacting the community, such as recent suicides
  • relevant child rearing practices
  • the cultural context for issues relating to adolescence, sexual or gender identity. 

Respond to a request for a legal representative

Parents, other adults and alleged persons responsible are entitled to have a legal representative present during the interview. Make all reasonable attempts to accommodate such requests.

Carry out interviews

To begin an interview with a parent or other adult:

  • Give your full name, position and department and show your identity card, as required by the Child Protection Act 1999, section 153.
  • Explain your role and the purpose of the visit.
  • Give the parents the brochure When Child Safety officers visit your home, which outlines their rights.

Practice prompt

Interview each adult individually, especially if domestic and family violence or a culture of silence or fear is suspected. The ability of a parent or other adult to speak openly may be affected by the perpetrator or another person being present.

Protect the notifier’s identity and do not confirm or deny their identity in response to speculation.

Gather all relevant information including:

  • the names and dates of birth of each subject child and all other children in the household
  • the names, dates of birth and roles of:
    • adult members of the child’s household
    • any relevant extended family members
  • contextual information about the family and home environment
  • cultural information about the family and their community
  • information needed to complete the family risk evaluation
  • the presence and impact of risk factors, such as domestic and family violence, problematic alcohol and drug use, mental illness and parental childhood abuse
  • information needed to complete the safety assessment, and if required, an immediate safety plan
  • any complicating factors affecting the family
  • the types of support available to the family, including the names of people who make up the family’s safety and support network
  • the parents’:
    • response to the specific concerns raised by the notifier and any additional concerns identified during the investigation and assessment, including any acknowledgement of the harm
    • perceptions and feelings about the child
    • parenting ability, including knowledge and skills
    • understanding of the child’s physical and cognitive development
  • the response of the alleged person responsible to the allegations and any additional concerns identified during the investigation and assessment.

If information provided is believed to be untrue, misleading or contradicts other information gathered:

  • Do not accept the information at face value.
  • Respectfully challenge the person about their information.
  • Seek independent verification from a reliable source. If the information is not supported, re-contact the adult to discuss the differing information and seek their response.

Attention

In cases of domestic and family violence, give careful consideration before challenging a perpetrator in the presence of the victim, to ensure the safety of the victim.

If, during an interview, it becomes evident that a parent’s immediate physical safety is at risk:

  • Give that parent information about appropriate domestic and family violence services.
    or
  • Assist in making a referral to a domestic and family violence crisis service, such as DVConnect or a women’s shelter.

Once the immediate safety of the parent and child is achieved, consider if the information gathered indicates the need for a Significant DFV threat alert in ICMS. (Refer to Record an alert.)

Tip

The DVConnect Womensline can be contacted 24 hours a day regarding women, children and young people—telephone 1800 811 811.

The DVConnect Mensline operates 9am to midnight daily—telephone 1800 600 636.

If information is gathered that indicates a child or family member may have been a victim of violence, provide information about Victim Assist Queensland−refer to Respond if a person may have been a victim of violence.

Practice prompt

Consider using the tool Collaborative assessment and planning framework during the first contact with the family and throughout the investigation and assessment.

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