The differential pathway contact with other professional is an alternative option for finalising an investigation and assessment, without completing an action that would ordinarily be carried out. The differential pathway enables the timely completion of an investigation and assessment:
- in a way that is tailored to a family’s individual circumstances
- without compromising the safety of the child
- while ensuring sufficient information is gathered and assessed to decide if a child is in need of protection.
The use of the contact with other professional differential pathway will only occur in exceptional circumstances. The decision is made during the assessment phase. The senior team leader is responsible for the decision.
The contact with other professional differential pathway relies on another professional assisting Child Safety by speaking to a subject child. This option may be used if:
- a comprehensive assessment of harm and risk has been made
- sighting and interviewing one subject child remains an outstanding task.
Information obtained from the professional can be used to finalise the investigation and assessment within the procedural timeframe for the subject child who would otherwise have a no investigation and assessment outcome recorded.
Consider using this option if it is assessed that:
- the risk factors identified do not necessitate a CSO sighting and interviewing the child
- it is appropriate to engage another professional to sight or speak to the subject child.
This option may be appropriate in the following circumstances:
- if a child is admitted to hospital and it is appropriate for the hospital social worker to sight or speak to the child
- if the QPS has already interviewed the child without a CSO
- if the child moves to another area and has not been sighted and interviewed by the relevant CSSC
- if it is appropriate for a professional already engaged with the child, such as a guidance officer or Child and Youth Mental Health Service worker, to speak to the child.
Before using the differential pathway:
- Identify a professional who, given the child’s individual circumstances, would be an appropriate person to approach and speak to the child.
- Seek the parents’ consent for the professional to speak to the child.
- Contact the professional and assess whether they are suitable for speaking to the child and gathering information about the concerns.
- Explain to the professional that any information provided by them will assist in an assessment of the child’s need for protection.
- Tell the professional:
- their confidentiality obligations under the Child Protection Act 1999
- the concerns being assessed
- that the parent has consented to their contact with the child
- general information about how to gather relevant information from a child
- that contact must occur in a lawful way (for example, if on school property, only with the school principal’s permission).
If the information gathered from the other professional increases the assessed level of harm or risk to the child, it may still be necessary for a CSO to interview the child.
The contact with other professional differential pathway may not to be used for:
- the same child more than once within a 12-month period, or for 2 consecutive investigation and assessments
- allegations of sexual abuse or serious physical abuse
- children under school age or where there is only one subject child—except in exceptional circumstances when the senior practitioner has reviewed the matter and assessed that it is appropriate to use the option
- a harm report
- a child subject to a child protection order granting long-term guardianship to a suitable person or a permanent care order.
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