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Plan the investigation and assessment

Plan the investigation and assessment

The first step in investigation and assessment is planning. This involves:

  • identifying relevant activities
  • involving key people and organisations
  • coordinating interviews
  • deciding roles and responsibilities
  • considering sources of information.

To identify the relevant activities:

  • Refer to the practice considerations outlined in the practice guide Planning the investigation and assessment.
  • Consider staff safety and address any safety issues. 
  • Consult the senior team leader or senior practitioner for complex matters, if needed.
  • Consider any cultural factors relevant to the investigation and assessment, and seek further cultural advice if needed. (Refer to Plan contact with an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child).
  • Ensure all key people are involved in the investigation and assessment and clarify their roles and responsibilities, including tasks to be carried out by another CSSC.
  • If other agencies are involved, carry out joint planning as soon as possible.
  • If a joint investigation is needed, contact the QPS (including if a criminal offence may have been committed in relation to harm to a child. (Refer to Consult with the Queensland Police Service and decide if there will be a joint investigation).
  • Decide if an ASC co-response is appropriate.
  • For a child who has been assessed as unsafe by an IFS, contact the service to coordinate roles and responsibilities.
  • Consult  the senior team leader and the OCFOS lawyer, especially if a TAO, CAO or TCO is likely to be needed.
  • Contact Adoption and Permanency Services before commencing the investigation and assessment for an unaccompanied humanitarian minor.

After the plan is completed:

  • Seek verbal approval of the plan from the senior team leader.
  • Record the investigation and assessment plan in ICMS, before commencing the investigation and assessment if needed.

Practice prompt

If the child has a long-term or permanent guardian and the concerns relate to the long-term guardian’s care of the child:

  • consult the senior team leader
  • seek legal advice from OCFOS if required. 

Plan contact with an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child

The Child Protection Act 1999 requires that, when making a decision about an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child, Child Safety considers the long-term effect of the decision on the child’s identity and connection with their family and community. The decision must also be made in a way that:

  • allows the full participation of the child and the child’s family group
  • is appropriate to Aboriginal tradition or Island custom
  • upholds the following 5 elements of the child placement principle:  
    • prevention—Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have a right to be brought up within their own family and community
    • partnership—Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons have the right to participate in significant decisions about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children 
    • placement—Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children (subject to a child protection care agreement or a child protection order that grants custody or guardianship to the chief executive) have a right to be placed with a member of their family group
    • participation—Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their parents and family members have a right to participate, and be enabled to participate, in administrative and judicial decision-making processes
    • connection—Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have a right to be supported in developing and maintaining a connection with the child’s family, community, culture, traditions and language, particularly where a child is in the care of a person who is not an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person.

Before contacting or interviewing an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child and family:

  • engage the Family Participation Program to determine whether, and at what stage of the investigation and assessment process, it plans to visit the family  (refer to Engage the Family Participation Program)
  • consider consulting one or more of the following to discuss ways to engage the child and family, and if needed, strategies to identify a suitable care arrangement: 
    • the cultural practice advisor
    • the regional Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander practice leader
    • a local Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander community representative (sharing non-identifying information).

Attention

Action to commence an investigation and assessment or action to ensure a child’s safety is not to be delayed for the purpose of engaging the Family Participation Program.

Therefore, do not engage the Family Participation Program about accompanying Child Safety to the initial home visit for a notification with a 24 hour response timeframe, unless:

Engage the Family Participation Program

Role of the Family Participation Program

The Family Participation Program may accompany Child Safety to visit a family at any stage of an investigation and assessment, including:

  • the initial home visit to the child and family
  • subsequent home visits.

The Family Participation Program may also visit a family without Child Safety, after Child Safety has interviewed the child and family and the family has agreed to contact by the Family Participation Program. (Refer to the Practice guide Family Participation Program Referrals for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family-led decision making.)

The purpose of the Family Participation Program being present at the initial home visit during an investigation and assessment is to:

  • talk to the family about:
    • how the Family Participation Program may assist them to meaningfully participate in decision making and planning when child Safety is involved with their family
    • the roles that the Family Participation Program can undertake, including: 

(Refer to Procedure 5 Arrange for an independent person to facilitate the child’s and family’s participation)

  • seek the family’s consent to work with the Family Participation Program and commence the referral process (The referral may be initiated by the family or by Child Safety.)
  • assist the family to understand Child Safety processes.

In addition, if during the initial visit an immediate safety plan is needed, the Family Participation Program may facilitate the family’s participation in the development of the plan−if the family agrees. (Refer to Develop an immediate safety plan.)

Child Safety is responsible for all aspects of the investigation and assessment and 2 officers will conduct interviews. (Refer to Requirement for two officers to conduct interviews.)

Note

If the Family Participation Program accompanies Child Safety to the initial visit to a child and family, and the CSOs need to exercise powers delegated by the chief executive under the Child Protection Act 1999, the Family Participation Program does not have authority to participate in the use of powers even if they are at the home when the action is taken.

Plan with the Family Participation Program

Engage the Family Participation Program to jointly plan whether they will accompany Child Safety on the initial home visit during an investigation and assessment regarding an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child or unborn child, unless:

For all investigation and assessments regarding an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child (including those where the Family Participation Program has not been, or will not be, present at the initial visit, such as in the circumstances listed above) engage the Family Participation Program as soon as possible to determine whether, and at what stage of the investigation and assessment process, it plans to visit the family.

Use a partnered planning approach to develop local arrangements for engaging with the Family Participation Program. For example, a senior team leader responsible for investigations and assessments and the Family Participation Program may establish regular meetings to discuss multiple investigation and assessments at a time.

When engaging with staff from the Family Participation Program, give them:

  • the notified concerns (but do not disclose the notifier’s details)
  • a summary of the family’s child protection history.

The Family Participation Program will:

  • advise Child Safety in a timely way, whether and at what stage of the investigation and assessment it plans to have contact with the family (either at or after the initial visit by Child Safety) taking into account the response priority timeframe
    or
  • advise the reason it does not intend having contact with the family during the investigation and assessment.

Child Safety will record the outcome of the engagement with the Family Participation Program in the investigation and assessment planning section of the investigation and assessment event in ICMS in a case discussion/decision case note with the description ‘FPP engagement’.

To meet the necessary investigation and assessment response timeframes, at times Child Safety will need to interview the child and family and then engage the Family Participation Program. When this occurs and whenever the Family Participation Program does not accompany Child Safety on the initial home visit to a family:

  • give the family the brochure Family Participation Program – Working with you to help you lead decision making about your child and the contact details of the family’s local Family Participation Program
  • talk with the family about whether they agree to the Family Participation Program contacting them to discuss their service and how they may support and assist the family during any future contact with Child Safety
  • advise the Family Participation Program whether the family agreed to being contacted by their service. 

Note

If the family does not want to be contacted by the Family Participation Program, then this will not occur.

Refer the family to the Family Participation Program

After the Family Participation Program has spoken to a family and the family has given consent to work with the Family Participation Program, either:

  • complete a Family Participation Program referral for family mapping or for family-led decision making using the Family and Child Connect portal (Refer to the tool Complete a referral to the Family Participation Program using the family and child connect portal) 
    or
  • confirm that the family has self-referred
    and
  • give (or confirm the Family Participation Program has already received) the following information to support the referral:
    • the notified concerns (excluding notifier details)
    • the child protection history
    • a summary of the current investigation and assessment
    • any other information known that will assist the Family Participation Program to undertake their role, such as details of family relationships, genogram or the completed tool collaborative assessment and planning framework.

Note

Before making contact with the family, some Family Participation Program services may require Child Safety to first:

  • speak to the family and gain consent for a referral to the Family Participation Program for a family-led decision making process for the decision about whether the child is in need of protection

and

Check local arrangements for referral to the Family Participation Program before talking to the family about a referral.

Resolve issues about an investigation and assessment involving Child Safety and the Family Participation Program

The Family Participation Program and Child Safety will seek to resolve any issues that arise about an investigation and assessment involving Child Safety and the Family Participation Program at an operational level. If there are concerns about action taken during, or the outcome of, an investigation and assessment involving Child Safety and the Family Participation Program:

  • The senior team leader will liaise with an equivalent level staff member from the Family Participation Program.
  • If the matter cannot be resolved at the senior team leader level, the CSSC manager will liaise with the Family Participation Program manager.

Note

The CSSC manager, in consultation with the senior team leader and senior practitioner, will make the final decision about matters relating to Child Safety’s statutory responsibilities. Final responsibility for the decision about a child’s need for protection remains with Child Safety.

Established local dispute resolution processes and governance structures are to be used to resolve disputes between Child Safety and the Family Participation Program. The Family Participation Program may also access Child Safety’s complaints process, if not satisfied with the local dispute resolution.

Requirement for two officers to conduct interviews

When interviewing a child, parent and other family members, the CSO, as an authorised officer, will always be accompanied by:

  • another CSO
  • a police officer
  • a cultural practice advisor, unless they may be required later to work with the family in their usual role
  • a student undertaking field education, if approved by the senior team leader (after considering their skills and any potential practice implications) 
    or
  • an ASC co-responder.

This ensures another person is available to observe, assist with information gathering and witness the contact or interview.

Only another CSO or a police officer can accompany the authorised officer when the investigation and assessment:

  • is complex
  • is likely to involve conflict
  • may involve the commission of a criminal offence in relation to harm to the child.

Only an authorised officer may use delegated powers under the Child Protection Act 1999, sections 16, 17 and 18.

If there are serious safety issues for staff, contact the QPS for support and assistance. 

Consider an Assessment and Service Connect co-response

Assessment and Service Connect (ASC) is a funded service that partners with Child Safety to carry out investigation and assessments. Refer to the Assessment and Service Connect (ASC) Operational Policy Guidelines.

The role of the ASC provider is to:

  • support Child Safety in engaging with the child and their family
  • enable, support and inform a holistic response to the child and their family
  • carry out a targeted assessment of a family’s support needs
  • assist the child and their family to access the support and services they need.

The CSO is responsible for all other aspects of the investigation and assessment.

Do not plan an ASC co-response if:

  • a joint investigation and assessment with the QPS is needed
  • a CSO will use, or is likely to use, powers under the Child Protection Act 1999, to:
  • the child is subject to ongoing intervention
  • the investigation and assessment has commenced and the safety assessment indicates an immediate harm indicator or danger is present in the home and the child is unsafe.

Consider an ASC co-response for all other investigation and assessments including for:

  • an unborn child
  • notifications with a 24-hour response timeframe.

Note

To meet the necessary investigation and assessment response timeframes, Child Safety may commence the investigation and assessment and then engage an ASC provider.

Refer to an Assessment and Service Connect provider

Refer to an ASC provider at any time during an investigation and assessment. To do so:

  • seek approval from the senior team leader
  • give the ASC provider:
    • the notified concerns (but do not disclose the notifier’s details)
    • a summary of the family’s child protection history
  • confirm that the ASC provider received the referral.

Once the ASC provider receives the referral, they will:

  • advise Child Safety in a timely way, whether they accept the referral, taking into account the response priority timeframe
  • advise the reason if they do not accept the referral.

The CSO will record the reason for a referral not being accepted in the investigation and assessment event in ICMS.

Plan with the Assessment and Service Connect provider

Start planning with the ASC provider as soon as possible to decide:

  • how to obtain the family’s consent for the ASC co-response (for example, by telephone prior to, or on the first visit with the family)
  • if the first visit will be pre-arranged and who will attend
  • the time and location of the visit 
  • the roles and responsibilities of the CSO and ASC provider, including responsibility for note-taking
  • how the ASC co-response will meet the investigation and assessment commencement and completion timeframes
  • the plan for staff safety and wellbeing
  • actions that will need to be taken if the family does not consent to the ASC co-response when both the CSO and ASC provider are at the family home.

Obtain consent for an Assessment and Service Connect co-response

An ASC co-response can only proceed with the family’s consent. If Child Safety initially contacts the family and obtains consent to the ASC co-response, the ASC provider can then visit the family without Child Safety. If consent is not given, the ASC provider will not be further involved in the investigation and assessment.

The first contact with the family must involve Child Safety. To seek consent from the family for the ASC co-response, Child Safety can:

  • telephone the family    
  • visit the family
  • visit the family together with the ASC provider.

Practice prompt

When Child Safety has obtained consent from the family by telephone for an ASC provider to conduct the initial visit without Child Safety, request that the ASC provider tells the CSO when they intend to visit the family for the first time. The CSO can then be available at the CSSC at the time of the visit so they can attend if needed.

Use delegated powers during an Assessment and Service Connect co-response

Staff from the ASC provider are not authorised officers. They cannot use powers delegated by the chief executive to an authorised officer under the Child Protection Act 1999.

If, during an ASC co-response, the use of powers is required, the CSO may either:

  • take action
    or
  • arrange for another CSO or police officer to attend before taking action.

The ASC provider must not be involved when powers are being used, even if the ASC cannot leave the location―for example because they are travelling in the same vehicle as the CSO―or cannot leave the area quickly.

Resolve a dispute about an Assessment and Service Connect co-response

The ASC provider and Child Safety will seek to resolve disputes at an operational level. If there are concerns about action taken during an ASC co-response or the outcome of an ASC co-response:

  • The senior team leader will liaise with an equivalent level staff member from the ASC provider.
  • If the matter cannot be resolved at the senior team leader level, the CSSC manager will liaise with the ASC service manager.

Note

The CSSC manager, in consultation with the senior team leader and senior practitioner, will make the final decision about matters relating to the role of the CSO.  Final responsibility for the decision about a child’s need for protection remains with Child Safety.

Established local dispute resolution processes and governance structures are to be used to resolve disputes between Child Safety and ASC providers.

Consult with the Queensland Police Service to decide if there will be a joint investigation

Where Child Safety reasonably believes that harm to a child may involve the commission of a criminal offence relating to the child (Child Protection Act 1999, section 14(2)), it has a legislative responsibility to immediately notify the QPS. This applies whether or not Child Safety suspects the child is in need of protection (Child Protection Act 1999, sections 14(2) and (3)). Refer to the practice guide Schedule of criminal offences.

If the concerns reach the threshold for a notification, a joint investigation allows each agency to meet their statutory responsibilities while addressing the protection needs of the child. Child Safety investigates and assesses a child’s need for protection and the QPS investigates criminal matters.

Refer the matter to the Queensland Police Service

To immediately notify the QPS of alleged harm to a child that may involve the commission of a criminal offence relating to the child:

  • complete a Police referral
  • provide a copy of the child concern report or notification, if relevant, without notifier details
  • contact the QPS by phone to:
    • confirm receipt of the referral
    • decide if a joint investigation is required
    • begin joint planning, if applicable.

If the QPS requests the release of notifier information, only a CSSC, RIS or CSAHSC manager can approve the release of the information, to enable the QPS to perform functions under the Child Protection Act 1999, section 186(2)(a).

Before approving the release of notifier details, the manager must be certain that:

  • the request is in line with the relevant section in the Child Protection Act 1999 and its intent
  • there is no other viable way for the QPS to perform its functions under the Child Protection Act 1999, a child welfare law or interstate law without the release of notifier information
  • alternative means of obtaining information that will enable the QPS to perform functions under the legislation have been considered—for example, a CSO re-contacting the notifier to seek more detailed or additional information that can be provided to the QPS officer making the request.

If the release of notifier details is approved, only provide information to the extent necessary to enable the person to carry out their functions under the Child Protection Act 1999, a child welfare law or interstate law.

Send the information to the officer in charge of one of the following QPS offices, in order of priority, depending on whether the particular unit or station is available in your local area:

  1. Child Abuse and Sexual Crime Group
  2. Child Protection and Investigation Unit (CPIU)
  3. Criminal Investigation Branch (CIB)
  4. police station.

Plan and coordinate the response

If a joint investigation is needed, contact the investigating police officers and plan the joint investigation. Before commencing the joint investigation:

  • seek the senior team leader’s verbal approval of the agreed plan
  • consult the QPS before making any significant change to the agreed plan.

If the matter requires urgent attention and the QPS is unable to attend within the required response timeframe:

  • notify the QPS of the decision to proceed and the reason for doing so
  • keep the QPS informed and updated during the investigation and assessment.

The senior team leader is responsible for:

  • approving the investigation and assessment proceeding without the QPS
  • making sure the QPS has been notified of the decision to proceed in their absence
  • making sure any action by Child Safety does not interfere with a QPS investigation into a criminal offence.

Practice prompt

Regularly share information with the QPS throughout a joint investigation and, where applicable, after the investigation and assessment is completed (for example, regarding criminal court proceedings and outcomes).

Interview the child and record evidence

If an interview with a child is to be conducted in accordance with the Evidence Act 1977, section 93A, the interview:

  • will be carried out jointly with the QPS, if possible
  • will be conducted by an officer (either a CSO or police officer) accredited in Interviewing Children and Recording Evidence (ICARE), if possible.

Before the interview, the CSO and the QPS will discuss all relevant material and the most appropriate and effective approach to conducting the interview.

If not interviewing with the QPS:

  • Follow existing investigation and assessment procedures for record keeping.
  • Do not use video or audio equipment to record the child’s interview. (This includes ICARE-trained authorised officers).
  • File any written records made during the interview on the child’s paper file.
  • Provide a copy of the interview notes to the QPS, if relevant.

If, during the interview, the child begins disclosing incidents of harm relating to a criminal offence, and stopping the interview is likely to hinder the disclosure of information or affect the safety of the child, continue the interview and contact the QPS immediately after the interview.

In this situation:

  • make efforts to ensure that the child is supported and will feel safe to speak at a later time
  • gather sufficient information to be able to assess the child’s immediate safety and take any necessary action to ensure the child’s safety, including use of the Child Protection Act 1999, section 18, or a TAO
  • provide all interview notes to the QPS.

The CSO may also be required to provide a statement to the QPS about the disclosures made by the child during the interview. The QPS is likely to lead, and record, subsequent interviews with the child . Document details of the interview in the Record of interview in ICMS.

Interview the alleged offender

Following a child’s disclosure of harm, the QPS policy requires police officers to conduct an interview with the possible offender. During a joint investigation, the QPS will decide who will interview the alleged offender and when the interview will occur.

If the alleged offender is a parent of the child, the QPS may, where appropriate, permit a CSO to observe the interview from a viewing room at a police station and take relevant notes. If the interview is to occur at the parents’ residential address, the QPS may agree to the interview being conducted in the presence of the CSO.

If the QPS conducts an interview with a parent without a CSO present, or with the CSO only observing the interview, the CSO will interview both parents before finalising the investigation and assessment. 

Practice prompt

If the QPS is not able to attend an interview, Child Safety is still responsible for investigating and assessing the child’s need for protection, but without addressing the criminal matters with the parents.

Obtain information or evidence from the Queensland Police Service

If the CSO requires a copy of the taped interview or information obtained during an interview, the CSSC manager will forward a Section 159N information request form to the relevant QPS officer.

If the QPS agrees, it may be possible to view the video evidence at the police station. 

Attention

An audiotape provided to Child Safety remains the property of the QPS and must not be released to a third party (but may be subject to disclosure during Childrens Court proceedings). Refer any person seeking access to the audiotape who does not work for Child Safety to the QPS.

Refer the matter to a Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect team

Consider referring a matter to a SCAN team if it meets the mandatory referral criteria, as outlined in the Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect (SCAN) Team System Manual.To make a referral:

If the Family Participation Program is supporting the family, talk to the Child Safety SCAN core member about inviting a Family Participation Program representative to the SCAN team meeting.

Note

A referral to a SCAN team does not replace the requirement for Child Safety to immediately notify the QPS of a possible criminal offence under the Child Protection Act 1999, sections 14(2) and (3).

Resolve differences of opinion

Due to the different roles and legislative responsibilities and priorities of CSOs and police officers, differences of opinion may be experienced at times. Resolve these differences as quickly as possible, with the safety of children as the key priority.

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