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Commence the investigation and assessment

Commence within the response priority timeframe

For each notification a response priority is completed. The response priority recommends a timeframe for Child Safety to commence an investigation and assessment. It takes into account multiple factors about the child’s situation to assess the immediate risk of harm to the child and prioritise the response. 

Time sensitive

The investigation and assessment must be commenced within the response priority timeframe of the notification. The timeframe begins when the decision is made that the concerns meet the threshold for a notification.

The response timeframe will be one of the following:

  • 24 hours
  • 5 days
  • 10 days.

For an unborn child notification, the response timeframe will be either:

  • 5 days—if the birth is likely to be within 5 business days of the decision to record a notification
    or
  • 10 days—for all other matters.

Note

A 5 or 10 day response refers to business days.

Further reading

Take action to commence an investigation and assessment within 24 hours

To commence an investigation and assessment within 24 hours, sight and interview the subject child (or one of the subject children) as age and developmentally appropriate. Refer to Sight and interview the child.

In exceptional circumstances only, when unable to sight and interview a subject child, take one of the following other actions to commence the investigation and assessment within 24 hours:

  1. Arrange for a police officer or health professional to have contact with a subject child and provide information to Child Safety about the child’s safety. 
  2. Gather sufficient information to make an assessment of the child’s immediate safety by:
    • interviewing a parent
    • contacting and receiving information from a government or non-government agency.
  3. Take action in rural and remote areas when all other actions for commencement are not possible due to geographical distance or seasonal conditions preventing access to the area. As a matter of urgency:
    • seek information about the safety of the child from another service or professional who has regular contact, or has had recent contact with the child
    • take immediate action to enable the commencement of the investigation and assessment—this may include:
      • organising transport
      • arranging for the child to be sighted. 

Practice prompt

Record the date of the above actions as the commencement date of the investigation and assessment.

Tip

Exceptional circumstances may include:

  • ‘sorry business’ delaying access to an Indigenous community
  • the Child Safety After Hours Service Centre (CSAHSC) being unable to commence the investigation due to distance
  • weather conditions preventing access to a community
  • lengthy travel time and distance in rural and remote areas.

Take action to commence an investigation and assessment within 5 or 10 days

To commence an investigation and assessment within 5 or 10 days, take one of the following actions:

  • sight and interview the subject child (or one of the subject children) as age and developmentally appropriate. Refer to Sight and interview the child
  • interview the pregnant woman if she consents to the investigation and assessment for an unborn child
  • seek and receive new information that informs the assessment about the safety of the child or the safety of the unborn child after he or she is born:
    • from an external agency, including:
      • a government or non-government agency
      • a service provider, including National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) and National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) providers
      • a health professional, such as a general practitioner.
    • through any of the following methods:
      • email exchange
      • phone or face-to-face discussion
      • receipt of a Section 159N information request
      • a SCAN team meeting (if the SCAN team referral criteria is met)
      • a locally convened panel process with relevant partners.

Advise the person from the external agency how the information will be used and disclosed. If the person who is contacted for information was the notifier, tell them the new information they provide:

  • forms part of the investigation and assessment
  • is not covered under the confidentiality of notifier provisions, under the Child Protection Act 1999, section 186.

Refer to the practice guide Commencing an investigation and assessment within 5 or 10 days.

Attention

When actions other than sighting and interviewing a subject child or pregnant woman are undertaken to commence an investigation and assessment:

  • the information received cannot be used to downgrade the notification to a CCR 
  • all subject children are to be sighted, and where appropriate, interviewed by a CSO before completing the investigation and assessment−unless the contact with other professional differential pathway is used or an exception applies. Refer to Exceptions to contact or interviews with the child
  •  record the date the action is taken as the date of commencement of the investigation and assessment. 

The following actions do not constitute commencement:

  • completing and sending a Section 159N information request
  • engaging the Family Participation Program about whether and when they will visit a family during an investigation and assessment
  • referring the matter to a SCAN team
  • allocation of the investigation and assessment by the senior team leader
  • an unsuccessful attempt to visit or contact the child or family
  • any information received before the decision to record a notification
  • information received and recorded as additional notified concerns.

Practice prompt

If there are serious concerns for staff safety, and the QPS is unavailable to accompany staff within the response timeframe, do not sight and interview the subject children until the QPS is available to assist.

Record the following in the investigation and assessment event in ICMS:

  • ‘other action' taken to commence the investigation and assessment (as already outlined)
  • all attempts made to commence the investigation and assessment within the timeframe and why this was not possible—for example, geographical distance, lack of access or serious concerns for staff safety.

Inform the parents about the allegation of harm

A CSO or police officer carrying out an investigation and assessment must:

  • give details of the alleged harm or risk of harm to at least one of the child’s parents (Child Protection Act 1999, section 15)
  • consider giving the information to both parents, especially if parents reside separately
  • not disclose the notifier’s details.

Attention

When providing information to a parent regarding allegations of domestic and family violence, consider the safety of the victim when disclosing the allegations to an alleged perpetrator.

Note

A parent is the child’s mother, father or someone else (other than the chief executive) having or exercising parental responsibility for the child. This includes a person who, under Aboriginal tradition or Torres Strait Island custom, is regarded as the parent of the child or a long-term guardian or permanent guardian (Child Protection Act 1999, section 11).

If the concerns are about a long-term guardian’s or permanent guardian’s care of a child:

  • give details, to at least one of the guardians, of the alleged harm or risk of harm
  • contact at least one of the child’s parents—unless this is not considered to be in the child’s best interest—taking into account:
    • the nature and extent of the child’s connection with their parents
    • the evidence supporting the allegation
    • any othermatter―for example, if a parent’s knowledge of this allegation of harm will have a detrimental effect on the child and the stability of the living arrangements (Child Protection Act 1999, section 15(3)).

A CSO or police officer does not need to provide information to a parent (Child Protection Act 1999, section 15(3)) if:

  • someone may be charged with a criminal offence for the harm to the child, and providing information to a parent may jeopardise an investigation into the offence
  • providing information to a parent may expose the child to significant harm.

Before providing information to the parents, discuss with the QPS what information will be provided if:

  • there is a criminal matter or an ongoing police investigation
  • the provision of information may jeopardise the due process of the criminal matter.

The reason and decision to not give parents information about allegations must be:

  • approved by a senior team leader
  • recorded in ICMS.

Tip

Under the Child Protection Act 1999, section 186, a notifier’s identity must not be disclosed, either deliberately or inadvertently, through discussions during the investigation and assessment.

Consider privacy - general

Always make decisions about sharing information in favour of the wellbeing and best interests of a child. The Child Protection Act 1999 overrides the Queensland Government’s privacy principles about how personal information is collected, disclosed, used and stored.  

If parents are estranged or no longer residing together:

  • only provide information specific to the alleged harm to the child
  • do not release information about one parent’s general circumstances to the otherparent―for example, their health or medical treatment, employment or finances, or issues in the extended family.

Consult with the senior team leader or senior practitioner if there are concerns about providing information to parents. If necessary, the senior team leader will seek advice from Legal Services.

 

Consider privacy - domestic and family violence

When working with individuals who have perpetrated violence and family members who have been affected by violence, consider:

  • what information, if given to the perpetrator during the investigation and assessment, could compromise the safety of the victim or child―for example:
    • the location or address details of the victim or their extended family members
    • information that identifies the school the child attends
    • photographs that may identify the location or area in which a victim or child lives
  • how interventions during the investigation and assessment may affect the safety of the victim and their children
  • whether a Significant DFV threat alert should be recorded in ICMS. Refer to Record an alert for significant domestic and family violence.

Consider privacy - criminal matters

If Child Safety obtains information that an adult in the household has an alleged offence, charge or conviction that presents an unacceptable risk to the child’s safety:

  • Tell the adult that the information has been obtained, and discuss the worries for the child’s safety.
  • Encourage the person to share relevant information with the parents residing in the household.

Note

Child Safety has a duty to inform the relevant parent or parents about these concerns.

CSOs do not have the authority to disclose that a person is a ‘reportable offender’ to another person. Information about criminal offences, charges or convictions of a person may be disclosed if in the best interests of a child. (Refer to Procedure 1 Information about a reportable offender.)

If the person refuses to disclose their criminal history to the parents:

  • give the parent information about the person's criminal history, if releasing the information is considered to be in the child's best interests, including about:
  • assess the parent's ability and willingness to protect the child from the risk posed, based on their response to the concerns.

Tip

To clarify what information can be shared with a parent, consult the senior team leader or senior practitioner. If needed, the senior team leader will seek advice from Legal Services.

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