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Support and monitor care

Provide support to carers

Carers face many challenges in caring for children who have experienced separation, trauma and disrupted attachments as a result of abuse and neglect. They undertake this role as volunteers and are subject to a high level of community expectation. They are also subject to legislative regulation, as reflected in the Child Protection Act 1999, section 122.  

Child Safety works in partnership with foster and kinship care services and care services to provide ongoing support and training to carers, to ensure they are equipped for their challenging role.

The support is to enable carers to:

  • participate in decision making as a valued member of a child’s safety and support network
  • respond to a child’s safety, belonging and wellbeing needs
  • provide care for each child, consistent with the standards of care
  • undertake actions to achieve the goals of a child’s case plan
  • provide consistency and continuity of care for the child.

The majority of carers are affiliated with a foster and kinship carer service who have the primary role in meeting the carers learning and development needs, providing support and supervision, and undertaking regular carer reassessments.

Note

The Statement of commitment between the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services and the foster and kinship carers of Queensland (the statement of commitment) is a partnership agreement between Child Safety and the carers of Queensland.

This statement of commitment acknowledges and promotes the integral role of foster and kinship carers in providing quality care to children in care. It sets out:

  • the expectations of each party
  • each party’s commitment to working together in a respectful, productive partnership that benefits children in care
  • the rights of foster and kinship carers to expect support, respect and access to sufficient resources from their foster and kinship care service and Child Safety to enable them to fulfil their role in meeting the daily care needs of children.

Each foster carer’s development, training and support needs are negotiated with the carer by the foster and kinship care service and formally documented in a foster carer agreement. (Refer to Finalise the foster carer agreement.)

Negotiate support for carers

Make sure foster and kinship carers are aware:

  • that they can access information and support through the Foster and kinship carer support line on 1300 729 309, Monday to Friday 5:00pm–11:30pm and Saturday and Sunday 7:00am–11:30pm
  • of the role of and contact details for the CSAHSC 
  • of the Connecting with carers website, which provides access to carer resource information. 

If a carer is likely to need additional support outside business hours, complete  a referral using the Foster and kinship care support line referral form.  (Refer to Consider a referral to the Foster and kinship carer support line.)

Attention

To support foster and kinship carers during the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Foster and kinship carer support line is also operating during business hours.

Further reading

Practice kit Care arrangements.

Respond to the support needs of kinship carers

Kinship carers may have different and more support needs than foster carers, given the often complex nature of relationships within a family and their shared family history. Kinship carers’ support and development needs, including cultural support considerations, are captured in the child’s placement agreement. (Refer to Negotiate the placement agreement.)

If it is identified that the carer has unmet support and learning needs, discuss (with the carer and foster and kinship care service) how best to meet these needs. Record the information in the Monitor and support screen in the carer entity approval tab in ICMS.

Provide support to the carer during routine contact

As part of regular contact with the child in their care arrangement, make sure the foster or kinship carer has enough information about the child to meet their safety, belonging and wellbeing needs.

Note

Carers are more likely to experience stress:

  • when they are struggling to deal with a child’s difficult behaviours (such as conduct disorders, violent behaviour or sexually reactive behaviour)
  • if there have been several stressful events over the past 6 months
  • if the carer felt pressured to accept the care arrangement.

Refer to Consider whether additional supports are required.

Consider the carer’s need for:

  • practical supports―arrange timely referrals to specialist services in line with the child’s case plan
  • financial supports― facilitate the carer’s access to carer payments, including high support needs allowance or complex support needs allowances and reimbursements from child related costs 
  • emotional and psychological supports― ask the carer if they need additional support, particularly at times of stress (such as when challenging behaviours are escalating, or when a child is leaving the care arrangement)
  • task-focused problem-solving support―respond to specific issues in a timely way to help de-escalate stress and maintain the care arrangement.

To apply for the high support needs allowance or the complex support needs allowance refer to the procedure High Support needs allowance, or the procedure Complex support needs allowance, and:

To apply for child related costs over $100, submit a Child related costs approval form.

Provide support to non-family-based care services

Non-family-based care services include:

  • residential care and therapeutic residential care services 
  • supported independent living 
  • accommodation in safe houses.

These care services are responsible for recruiting, supervising, training and supporting their staff to ensure they meet the required standards of care.

Child Safety works in partnership with care services to support the delivery of non-family-based care services by:

  • ensuring care services have the information they need to care for a child, including information about:
    • the child’s family and cultural background, health and educational needs
    • the child’s strengths and needs
    • the abuse or neglect the child has experienced, including sexual abuse, and whether the child demonstrates sexually reactive behaviours
  • supporting the child in the care arrangement
  • supporting service staff in implementing the child’s case plan
  • ensuring referrals are consistent with the care services’ service agreements and funding agreements 
  • carrying out child protection and personal history checks on care service staff (through the Central Screening Unit (CSU)) to assist services to assess the suitability of staff.

Work in partnership with the carer or care service

Practice prompt

To effectively meet a child’s needs, take a coordinated approach to developing and implementing the child’s case plan. Establishing a safety and support network, made up of important stakeholders, enables cohesive planning and service delivery to:

  • address a child’s needs
  • provide the necessary support to the child and their carer or the care service.

The child’s safety and support network may include:

  • the child’s carer, or direct care staff from the child’s care service
  • the CSO with case responsibility for the child
  • the foster and kinship care service support worker who provides support and training to the carer
  • the coordinator or manager of the care service who oversees the care provided to the child
  • agencies or individual service providers and professionals who engage with the child and their care arrangement
  • other professionals providing services to the child and family
  • family members involved in meeting the child’s needs, as outlined in the case plan.

The composition of the child’s safety and support network may change over time to reflect the child’s changing needs.

Respectful working relationships and regular contact between members of the safety and support network are required for:

  • exchanging and sharing information about the child
  • effectively coordinating services to meet the child’s needs
  • providing information for case planning and review
  • assisting the carer or care service to address emerging issues and needs.

Monitor the standards of care

The statement of standards (Child Protection Act 1999, section 122) sets out the standards of care for children placed in care arrangements in line with the Child Protection Act 1999, section 82(1). They are based on reasonable and widely held community expectations about the quality of care children require.

Child Safety enters into funding and service agreements with foster and kinship care services and care services, requiring their compliance with the conditions of legislation relating to providing care for children. This includes the need to provide care that is consistent with legislative requiements, including the standards of care and the Charter of rights for a child in care (Child Protection Act 1999, schedule 1.)

Attention

Child Safety, foster and kinship care services and care services are all responsible for proactively monitoring a child’s care arrangements and providing support and training to those involved in the child’s daily care.

The CSO oversees the quality of the care provided to a child as part of their regular contact with the child in the care arrangement. This occurs:

  • during home visits and office contact with the child or the carer, or when visiting the care service
  • when completing or reviewing a case plan and placement agreement for a child
  • when contributing to a review of a foster carer agreement
  • when implementing or reviewing actions arising from a standards of care review or an investigation and assessment following a harm report 
  • when responding to incident reports received from a carer or care service.

To monitor the standards of care being provided to a child, regularly gather information from the child, the carer and other stakeholders to assess the quality of care being provided to the child. An early response to issues may help maintain the required standards in the care arrangement.

Contact with a child in their care arrangement

The CSO with case responsibility for the child will maintain regular contact with the child. At a minimum, the CSO will have face-to-face contact with a child, in their care arrangement, once a month. (Refer to Procedure 5 Child Safety contact requirements for ongoing intervention.)

Regular contact enables open communication channels and emerging needs and issues to be identified.

Face-to-face contact may need to be more frequent, depending on factors such as the:

  • child’s wishes and views
  • complexity of the child’s needs and behaviours
  • impact of previous disruptions and changes to care arrangements on the child
  • case plan goal and activities (and who is responsible for identified actions)
  • type and length of the care arrangement
  • number and needs of other children placed in the care arrangement
  • level of experience, knowledge and skills of the carer or care service staff
  • availability and composition of the child’s safety and support network, and of the carer’s support network.

Consider information from other work units and external agencies

Specialist Child Safety work units and some external services also have a monitoring function specific to a child’s care arrangements. They include:

  • the Child Safety regional team responsible for funding and contract management of licensed care services
  • the CSU, which receives information from Blue Card Services of changes to the criminal histories of approved carers and their adult household members, and staff in care services
  • the OPG community visitor, who visits the child to promote and protect their rights, interests and wellbeing. 

Respond to concerns about the child’s care arrangement

Attention

Child Safety has a responsibility under the Child Protection Act 1999 to ensure that:

  • the child is safe from harm
  • appropriate actions are taken if:
    • it is indicated that the standards of care may not have been met for a child
      or
    • the child has experienced harm.

Child Safety will:

  • act on information received to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the child
  • ensure that approved carers and care services are accountable for the quality of care provided to the child in a care arrangement.

Receive concerns about a child in care

When information is received about the quality of care provided to a child by their approved carers or care service staff, ask the person to provide information about:

  • their concerns for the child and the quality of care the child is receiving
  • when the incident or issue occurred or was identified
  • if they suspect the child has been harmed by a carer or a staff member of a care service, and the impact of this harm on the child, if known.

Attention

Child Safety staff and employees of foster and kinship care services and care services must report harm or suspected harm to a child in care, under the Child Protection Act 1999, section 13F.

If receiving information about harm or suspected harm to a child:

Concerns about care provided to a child subject to a long-term guardianship order to a suitable person or a permanent care order are responded to in the same way as concerns regarding care provided by a parent. Refer to Procedure 1 Receive and respond at intake.

An exception to this is if a child subject to a long-term guardianship order to a suitable person is placed by Child Safety in an approved care arrangement for the purpose of emergent short break care, and concerns are received about the care provided. In this case, determine the appropriate response in line with this procedure.

Record the initial information 

The RIS or a CSSC not holding case responsibility for the child or carer will:

  • record the concerns in a Standards of care case note in the child’s placement event in ICMS
  • include the contact details of the person providing the information, clearly documenting that the person is a notifier, so they are afforded protection in line with the Child Protection Act 1999, section 186 
  • provide the information to the CSSC with:
    • responsibility for the approved carer, as identified in ICMS (this will usually be the CSSC in the geographical area where the carer resides); or if the concerns relate to a child placed in a care service, the CSSC in whose area the care service is located
      and
    • the CSO with case responsibility for the child.

If the concerns are received by CSAHCS, refer to Concerns received by the Child Safety After Hours Service Centre.

If the information:

Determine who is responsible for deciding the response to the concerns

If multiple CSSCs are affected by the concerns for a child in a care arrangement, the CSSC senior team leaders will negotiate and decide which CSSC will assume responsibility for leading and managing the response to the concerns.

For a child placed with a carer

If the concerns received relate to a child placed with a carer, the CSSC responsible for the carer will respond to the concerns, regardless of whether that CSSC has case responsibility for the subject child. In collaboration with the foster and kinship care service, the CSSC responsible for the carer will make the decision about how to respond to the concerns and lead the response.

For a child placed with a care service

If the concerns relate to a child placed with a care service, the decision about which CSSC is responsible for the response will be determined on the basis of case responsibility for the subject child, and will be made as follows:

  • If there is one or more subject children, and case responsibility is held by one CSSC, that CSSC will be responsible for the response.
  • If case responsibility for the subject children is held by different CSSCs, the CSSC responsible for the geographical area in which the care service is located will be responsible for the response.
  • If the CSSC responsible for the geographical area in which the care service is located does not have any children placed with the service, one of the CSSCs with case responsibility for the relevant children will be responsible. This will be negotiated by the CSSC managers who will consider:
    • whether any of the CSSCs have recently conducted a standards of care review or an investigation and assessment for the care service or subject child
    • whether any of the CSSCs have a well-established working relationship with the care service (for example, one CSSC may have placed the most children with the service)
    • whether a CSO with case responsibility for a subject child has a strong working relationship with one or more of the subject children
    • other practical issues, such as which CSSC is located closest to the care service.

The CSSCs involved in the matter may need to further negotiate who will undertake specific actions if:

  • the CSSC responsible for the carer does not have a child in the care arrangement
  • there are multiple subject children and case responsibility for them is held by more than one CSSC
  • the carer has recently moved into a new geographical area, but the CSSC responsible for the carer has not transferred responsibility to the new CSSC.

Attention

Each CSO with case responsibility for a child in the care arrangement will ensure the safety, belonging and wellbeing needs of the child are being met while the response to the concerns is planned and implemented. This is irrespective of which CSSC is responsible for leading and managing the process.

Possible responses to concerns about the quality of care

There are three possible responses to concerns about the quality of care received by a child in a care arrangement:

  1. Continue monitoring the standards of care.
    This response provides proactive case work and support to the child’s care arrangement for a planned period of time. This is more targeted than the routine and ongoing monitoring processes carried out by Child Safety, foster and kinship care services and care services.
  2. Conduct a standards of care review.
    If it is indicated that child’s care is not meeting one or more of the standards of care, this response assesses whether the standards of care are being met for the child, and if not, requires that specific actions are taken so that the child’s care meets the standards of care.  
  3. Record a harm report and respond with an investigation and assessment.
    If it is indicated that the child has experienced harm or it is suspected they have been harmed due to the actions or inactions of their carer, an adult household member or a staff member of a care service, a formal response is required. This will determine whether the child has been harmed, and whether the standards of care are being met, and the actions required to meet the child’s safety and care needs.

Note

Prior to making a decision about how to respond to the concerns, the responsible CSSC will gather further information and consult with other key parties, to ensure the most appropriate response is made to the concerns. This is unless urgent action is required to secure the child’s immediate safety.

Concerns received by the Child Safety After Hours Service Centre

If the CSAHSC receives information outside business hours, it will determine the appropriate response to the concerns, in accordance with the following procedures.

If the information received does not indicate that a harm report is required, the CSAHSC will decide whether the response will be to continue monitoring the standards or to conduct a standards of care review.

If the CSAHSC determines that a harm report response is required, but no further action is required before the CSSC opens on the next business day, the CSAHSC will:

  • record the information in ICMS in a Standards of care case note in the placement event, and include the notifier’s contact details (and whether a notifier from a government or non-government agency requested feedback)
  • email the information to the CSSC responsible for the carer and the CSO with case responsibility for the subject child
  • call the CSSC and CSO the next business day to make sure it has received the email, is aware of the matter, and has located the Standards of care case note in ICMS.

If a harm report is recorded and action by the CSAHSC is required before the relevant CSSC opens the next business day, the CSAHSC will:

  • seek approval for the decision to record a harm report from the relevant CSSC manager
  • take any necessary actions to ensure the child’s safety
  • commence the investigation and assessment within the 24-hour response timeframe
  • create a Standards of care event in ICMS
  • complete the harm report and record all actions taken in the Harm report―I&A event in ICMS
  • email the information to the CSSC responsible for the approved carer or, if the child is placed with a care service, to the CSSC with case management for the child
  • phone the relevant CSSC on the next business day to ensure it has received the email, is aware of the matter and has located the relevant information in ICMS.

Note

The CSAHSC's responsibility for the matter ends when the relevant CSSC reopens the next business day. The CSSC is then responsible for completing the investigation and assessment. (Refer to Prepare to investigate and assess a harm report and Commence the investigation and assessment.)

Gather information and consult with stakeholders

Obtaining further information from stakeholders who have detailed knowledge about the child, the carer or care service, ensures that all relevant information is considered prior to making a decision about how to respond to the concerns.

The CSSC responsible for deciding the response will ensure that consultation occurs with the foster and kinship care service or care service and with other CSSCs involved in the matter. The parties can jointly exchange information and views or individually engage with the lead CSSC to determine:

  • if actions are required to support the carer or care service
  • if the standards of care may not have been met for the child, and the specific standards that have not been met
  • if the child may have experienced harm
  • whether the concerns relate to all, or only some, of the children in the care arrangement
  • the most appropriate response, given the seriousness of the concerns.

Time sensitive

The response decision is to be made within 2 working days of the concerns being received by Child Safety. If information received indicates a child has been harmed or is at risk of harm, the CSO will immediately consult the senior team leader to discuss the appropriate way to respond.

Consult the foster and kinship care service or care service

The foster and kinship care service or care service may be aware of the concerns, or have information about similar past issues through their monitoring activities, and may have started addressing the matter.

Obtain information about:

  • (for a child placed with a carer) the service’s assessment of the carer’s current capacity to meet the standards of care
  • the number of children currently in the care arrangement, including how long they have been there
  • the presence of stressors in the care arrangement
  • the nature of the support provided to the children in the care arrangement by the foster and kinship care service, or the care service staffing supports and rostering arrangements
  • other information it identifies as relevant.

Consult the Child Safety Officer with case responsibility for the child

Consult the CSO for each of the other children in the care arrangement to obtain information about:

  • each child’s level of support needs (moderate, high, complex or extreme) and behaviours that increase their vulnerability
  • the child protection history, cultural needs, and physical or mental health needs of the child
  • the child’s recent care arrangement history and information about triggers associated with any unplanned care arrangement moves
  • observations made by care service staff on issues relevant to the concerns
  • the carer’s support needs and how the care service is meeting these
  • the frequency, recency and nature of the CSO’s contact with the child and the child’s carer, and the child’s views about the care provided to them
  • any past issues or concerns that have arisen in the child’s care arrangement and the actions taken to address these, including past standards of care reviews or harm reports.

If the CSO supporting the carer is not available, contact the senior team leader or senior practitioner to obtain the information required. Obtain case information about other children in the care arrangement from ICMS until discussion with their CSO can occur.

Consult other stakeholders

Consultation with other professionals and service providers involved on a regular basis with the child or their care arrangement can also occur, such as with:

  • the child’s community visitor
  • Evolve therapeutic services 
  • the regional team responsible for funding and contract management—for contextual information about the performance of the service and the funding and service agreements between Child Safety and the service.

Recommend a response to the concerns

After analysing all available information, and taking into account the views of the foster and kinship care service or care service, the CSO from the responsible CSSC will recommend to the senior team leader an appropriate response to the concerns. Refer to Possible responses to concerns about the quality of care.

The senior team leader, in consultation with the senior practitioner, will approve the decision to:  

  • continue monitoring the standards of care
    or
  • conduct a standards of care review.

If there is an indication that the child has been harmed, the senior team leader, in consultation with the senior practitioner, may recommend that the appropriate response is to record a harm report.

Note

A harm report will not be recorded if the concerns notified only indicate risk of harm to a child in a care arrangement. However, action must still be taken to address the risk of harm, such as:

  • reviewing if it is in the child’s best interests to remain in the care arrangement
  • providing additional support and undertaking intensive case work with the child 
  • providing additional support to the carer or care service
  • considering a review of carer suitability.

The CSSC manager is responsible for deciding whether information constitutes a harm report. The senior team leader will seek the CSSC manager’s approval to record a harm report and respond to the concerns with an investigation and assessment.

After the decision has been approved by the senior team leader or CSSC manager:

Record the response decision

When the final response has been approved by the senior team leader or CSSC manager, the CSO will create a Standards of care event in ICMS and complete the Concerns, consultation and response decision form, documenting:

  • all subject children to whom the concerns relate
  • the specific details of the concerns received
  • additional relevant information obtained during the information gathering and consultation process
  • the rationale for the response decision
  • who made the decision and the date of the decision.

In the case of a decision to continue monitoring the standards of care, also record the particular actions that are required as part of the monitoring, who is responsible for these actions, and the timeframe for completing them.

In the case of a decision to conduct a standards of care review or a harm report, also record all other children placed with the carer or care service (under the Child Protection Act 1999, section 82(1)) who are not subject children in the standards of care review.

Tip

The Standards of care review report is automatically created in ICMS when the Concerns, consultation and response decision form is completed.

The Harm report―I&A event will be automatically generated in ICMS once the Harm report is submitted for approval.

Respond to historical concerns

Information received by Child Safety about harm experienced by a person in a care arrangement, or care that did not meet the required standards, is referred to as a ‘historical concern’ if it:

  • refers to events that occurred more than 12 months ago while a child was in the care arrangement
  • relates to a child who is no longer in care
  • relates to a person who is now an adult (over 18 years of age).

The Child Safety response to historical concerns differs depending on whether the person is an adult or is a child (under 18 years of age).

If the historical concerns relate to a child, priority consideration is given to determining whether there is an immediate risk of harm to any child currently in the care arrangement.

Historical concerns relating to a child

If concerns are received in relation to harm previously experienced by a child in care who is under the age of 18, record a Standards of care review or a Harm report.

A standards of care review will be undertaken:

  • regardless of whether or not the child is still in care
  • if the concerns received indicate that care provided to the child did not meet one or more of the required standards of care, but do not indicate that the child was harmed or that it is suspected that they were harmed
  • if the concerns relate to a staff member of a care service or a currently approved carer.

A standards of care review will not be undertaken if the carer is no longer an approved carer. In this instance, record information, including information provided by the child, in a Standards of care (SOC) case note in the closed placement event in ICMS.

If the former carer subsequently applies to be approved as foster or kinship carer, the concerns will be addressed during the carer assessment process.

A harm report will be completed:

  • regardless of whether or not the child is still in care
  • regardless of whether the carer is still an approved carer
  • if the concerns indicate that the child experienced harm or it is suspected that they experienced harm
    and
  • if the harm or suspected harm may have involved the actions or inactions of a carer, adult member of the carer’s household, or the staff member of a care service.

All harm reports will be investigated and assessed by Child Safety. Child Safety will make every attempt to involve the child, carer and care service, as applicable.

Historical concerns regarding a currently approved carer

If historical concerns are received about a carer who holds a certificate of approval and has children currently placed with them, Child Safety will assess the immediate safety of children in the care arrangement and any risk of harm that exists. Child Safety will take any necessary action to ensure the safety of children in the care arrangement. 

The CSSC responsible for the carer will:

  • respond to the concerns, irrespective of whether that CSSC has case responsibility for the subject children
  • lead the information gathering and consultation process
  • determine the required response and lead the response.

The CSSC will consider the information gathered, the views of the stakeholders and the seriousness of the concerns to determine whether the appropriate response is to:

  • continue monitoring the standards of care
  • conduct a standards of care review
  • record a harm report and respond with an investigation and assessment. 

Historical concerns relating to an adult who was previously in care

If historical concerns are received that relate to an adult who was previously in care, Child Safety will respond to the concerns but will not record a standards of care review or a harm report.

If the senior team leader or CSSC manager decides that the historical concerns would constitute a standards of care review or harm report if they related to a child, the concerns will be recorded in an SOC historical concerns document in the carer’s Monitor and support screen in ICMS or in an SOC historical concerns document/communication in the care service’s record in ICMS.

The CSSC will add the relevant details of the person who was formerly in care and:

  • make all reasonable attempts to discuss and assess the concerns with the person who was formerly in care, subject to their consent
  • discuss the concerns with the carer, or make all reasonable attempts to meet with a carer who is no longer approved, to discuss the concerns, subject to their consent
  • discuss the concerns with the care service and the relevant staff member, if they are currently employed by the care service
  • make all reasonable attempts to meet and discuss the concerns with a former care service staff member, subject to their consent
  • attach the assessment and the outcome in the SOC historical concerns document in ICMS.

If the information received about the harm to an adult (when they were a child in care) involves allegations that indicate the commission of a criminal offence:

  • encourage the person to contact the QPS and help them to do so
  • provide information about the services and assistance available through Victim Assist Queensland.

Implement the decision to continue monitoring the standards of care

When implementing a decision to continue to monitor standards of care, the CSO and the foster and kinship care service or care service will jointly determine what actions are to be undertaken, who will carry them out, and the timeframe in which they will be completed.

Proactive case work and support may include:

  • helping the carer or care service staff understand how the standards of care apply to the way they care for the child on a daily basis
  • helping to identify signs that the carer or care service is experiencing strain or stress and identifying strategies to reduce stress
  • providing additional supports or services to the child, carer or care service staff to address issues contributing to the identified concerns or causing stress
  • assisting the carer or care service staff to implement safe caring practices when interacting with children who have experienced sexual abuse or domestic and family violence or who display sexually reactive behaviours
  • addressing systemic factors that contribute to stress in the care arrangement, such as:
    • overcrowding
    • insufficient levels of support
    • insufficient sharing of information about the child’s needs and behaviours
    • insufficient matching of the child’s needs and characteristics with the carer’s circumstances, capacity and ability to meet the child’s needs.

Conduct a standards of care review

When conducting a standards of care review, the CSSC responsible for the review will ensure the following activities are completed:

  • Discuss the reasons for the standards of care review with the carer or, for a child placed with a care service, with appropriate care service staff members.  
  • Talk to the subject child about their experiences in the care arrangement.
  • Explore the broader context of the child’s care arrangement to identify other factors that may have contributed to the standards of care not being met.
  • Decide the review outcome.
  • Complete relevant follow-up actions when the outcome is that the standards of care have not been met.

Plan the standards of care review

Prior to commencing the standards of care review, the CSSC responsible for the standards of care review will lead the development of a plan to address the key activities of the review.

This will occur in partnership with the foster and kinship care service or care service and the CSO with case responsibility for the subject child. The plan will be documented in the Standards of care review report in ICMS and will identify:

  • who will be responsible for discussing the concerns with the carer or, for a child placed in a care service, with the identified staff members
  • who will be responsible for talking with the child
  • what additional information is required and how it will be sourced
  • plans for responding to issues and difficulties that may impede the review process.

For carers, the plan also needs to consider:

For care services, the plan also needs to consider:

  • how to arrange the discussion of the concerns with the care service staff who work rostered hours outside business hours
  • the need to access the service’s procedures or training documentation, where relevant.

If there are multiple children subject to the standards of care review, the senior team leader from the CSSC responsible for the review will negotiate who will be responsible for having the discussion with each child.

Obtain verbal approval for the plan from the senior team leader.

Time sensitive

The CSSC responsible for the standards of care review will develop a plan that enables the review to be commenced within 5 working days and completed within 4 weeks of the concerns being received. 

Talk with the parties about the standards of care review

Practice prompt

Using an enquiry-based and strengths-based approach, a standards of care review will determine whether the care provided to a child in a care arrangement is meeting the required standards of care.

The standards of care review is commenced when there is a face-to-face discussion with either the subject child, the carer, or care service staff about the standards of care. It is completed when the review plan has been implemented, and the carer or the care service has been advised of the outcome of the review. The outcome may result in a review of the carer’s placement agreement or the development of an action plan for a care service.

Discuss the standards of care with the carer or care service staff

All carers or, if the child is placed in a care service, all care service staff involved in the concerns, must be included in the standards of care discussion. For carers, if there is a joint certificate of approval, it is expected that both carers will participate in the standards of care review discussion.

The discussion with care service staff will always be led by the allocated CSO.

The discussion with the carer can be led by:

  • the foster and kinship care service
    or
  • the allocated CSO
    or
  • jointly by the CSO and the foster and kinship care service.

If the foster and kinship care service is going to lead the discussion of concerns with the carer, the senior team leader and the foster and kinship care service will reach agreement about:

  • the timeframes for the commencement and completion of this action
    and
  • the documentation required from the foster and kinship care service detailing the discussion with the carer.

The discussion with the carers or care service staff will:

  • establish the carer’s or staff member’s understanding of the specific standards of care being reviewed and how the standards are applied in their daily care of the child
  • allow the carer or staff member to provide their own account of the circumstances surrounding the issue or concern
  • encourage the carer or staff member to discuss their experience of supporting the child and meeting their needs, including both the challenges and the successful experiences
  • identify how the actions or inactions of others—such as Child Safety or the foster and kinship care service or care service—contributed to the child’s care not meeting the standards of care
  • explore the areas of carer support that are working well, and areas of unmet need for the carer or the child.

Tip

Use questions that will allow discussion of situations when the carer or staff member has met the standards of care and, where applicable, not met the standards of care for the child.

Assist them to talk about what they may do in a similar situation. This may help them identify their capabilities and needs, as well as what assistance is required to enable them to meet the standards of care in future.

Speak with the child about their experience of the care arrangement

The CSO will have a face-to-face discussion with the child about their experience of the care arrangement and the identified concerns. The discussion will occur in a location in which the child is likely to feel safe and comfortable to minimise further trauma.

The child may seek to have a support person present. Provide them with the Information sheet for children and young people.

An Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child may wish to be supported by an independent person. The CSO will assist to make these arrangements.

As part of the discussion, the child will be given the opportunity to express their views, experiences and wishes about their care arrangement and the quality of care being provided by the carer or care service staff.

Attention

When conducting a standards of care review, it is not appropriate to interview the child at school or at a day care centre using powers under the Child Protection Act 1999, section 17.

Gather contextual information from other parties

Consider the systemic context in which the care to the child is occurring. This widens the focus of the assessment to identify actions and inactions by Child Safety, the foster and kinship care service, or care service, where these may have contributed to the concerns. These considerations can include, but are not limited to:

  • the frequency, adequacy and nature of contact by the CSO with the child and the care arrangement
  • the frequency, adequacy and nature of support provided by the foster and kinship care service to the carer, given the carer’s level of experience and needs and the complexity of the child’s needs
  • the training provided to the carer
  • the support and supervision provided to care service staff, taking into account their experience and the complexity of the child’s needs
  • whether the key activities in the child’s case plan are being actioned in a timely and responsive way by members of the child’s safety and support network
  • the progress of actions following the outcomes of previous standards of care reviews or harm reports, where relevant
  • the presence of additional stressors in the care arrangement such as changes in the household, personal stress, or issues with the management of the child’s challenging behaviours.

Respond when additional concerns become apparent

Additional concerns received during a standards of care review that do not indicate harm to the child will be recorded as new concerns in the Additional notified concerns section of the Standards of care review report form in ICMS. The concerns will be responded to as part of the standards of care review.

If harm or suspected harm becomes apparent during the review process, immediately consult the senior team leader and senior practitioner. The CSSC manager will decide whether a harm report is to be recorded.

Record the information in relation to the harm in the open Standards of care review report and identify harm in the ‘outcome decision’ section of the report. A harm report will be automatically created in ICMS. (Refer to Commence the investigation and assessment.)

Decide the outcome of the standards of care review

The CSO determines an outcome for each subject child. To do this:

  • Analyse the information obtained from all sources.
  • Consult the senior team leader and senior practitioner.
  • Seek the views of the foster and kinship care service or care service, particularly if they have had an active role in the standards of care review.
  • Take into account the contextual and systemic factors that have impacted on the child’s care.

A standards of care review will result in one of 2 outcomes:

  • standards met  
  • standards not met.

Standards met

This outcome is recorded if it is determined that:

  • the care provided to the child is in line with the required standards of care
    and
  • there is no indication that the child has experienced harm.

Standards not met

This outcome is recorded when it is determined that:

  • the care provided to the child has not met the required standards of care

and

  • there is no indication that the child has experienced harm. 

The specific standards of care that have not been met, as outlined in the Child Protection Act 1999, section 122, must be identified.

The standards of care may not be met due to the individual or collective actions or inactions of the carer, care service staff, or Child Safety, as members of the safety and support network.

Respond when the standards of care are not met

If the standards of care review has an outcome of ‘standards not met’, the actions taken vary depending on the type of care arrangement:

  • For a child placed with a foster or kinship carer, the CSSC responsible for the standards of care review must ensure the placement agreement for the child is reviewed. The CSSC may also request and lead additional processes, including:
    • reviewing the foster carer agreement, for a foster carer
    • reviewing carer suitability. (Refer to Review carer suitability.)
  • For a child placed with a care service, the CSSC responsible for the standards of care review must ensure an action plan is developed by the care service. (Refer to Develop an action plan for a care service.)

Review the placement agreement for a child placed with a carer

For a child placed with a carer, the CSSC responsible for the standards of care review must ensure the placement agreement for the child is reviewed to:

  • clarify the goals and outcomes for the care arrangement
  • identify the specific support needs of each child in the care arrangement
  • identify any additional support the carer may need, for example, mentoring, coaching, training or financial support, to assist them in meeting the standards of care for the child.

This will occur in partnership with the carer, the foster and kinship care service and the CSO with case responsibility for the child. (Refer to Negotiate the placement agreement.)

Practice prompt

The actions required to achieve the standards of care for the child will correlate to the specific standards of care that have not been met, and will be included in the review of the placement agreement.

The review of the placement agreement must occur before the standards of care review is finalised and the outcome is approved by the senior team leader.

Review the foster carer agreement for a child placed with a foster carer

For a child placed with a foster carer, consider whether a review of the foster carer agreement is required. The review will examine:

  • the type of care to be provided
  • the types of care arrangements for which the foster carer family is able to provide care
  • the current needs of the foster carer family
  • the development and support plan to include any further action required
  • any support needs and strategies for managing or resolving conflicts of interest, if applicable, for a Child Safety employee who is also a carer. (Refer to Respond when a carer applicant is also a Child Safety employee.)

If the carer is supported by a foster and kinship care service, the agency will review the foster carer agreement. The CSSC may also be involved in this process if a carer has a history of not meeting the standards of care. (Refer to Finalise the reviewed foster carer agreement.)

Work with the care service to develop an action plan

An action plan must be developed by a care service to address standards of care that were not met, and ensure that the standards are met in the future. The development of the action plan is the responsibility of the care service, which will work in partnership with Child Safety to develop a suitable plan. Refer to Develop an action plan for a care service.

It may also be appropriate to consider whether a review of the placement agreement for the child is required.

Record the standards of care review

Following the review of the placement agreement (or, for a child placed with a care service, the action plan):

  • complete the Standards of care review report in ICMS
  • seek senior team leader approval for the Standards of care review report in ICMS.

When the senior team leader approves the Standards of care review report, the standards of care event will be closed in ICMS.

Tell relevant parties of the standards of care review outcome

When the outcome has been approved by the senior team leader, provide verbal advice of the outcome to:

  • the carer
  • the manager or coordinator of the foster and kinship care service supporting the carer
  • the manager or coordinator of the care service—who will then advise the staff members involved in the standards of care discussion
  • the subject child, if age and developmentally appropriate
  • each CSO responsible for a child placed with the carer or care service.

If requested by the carer or foster and kinship care service, give written advice of the outcome, using the Letter to carer―standards of care review outcome.

If requested by the care service, give written advice of the outcome, using the Letter to care service―standards of care review outcome, if the outcome of the standards of care review is Standards not met.

If a party is not happy with the outcome of the review process, tell them they may make a complaint or seek a review of the process. Refer to Respond to a complaint or request for the review of a decision.

Note

There is no legislative obligation to advise the child’s parents of the concerns. Discuss with the senior team leader the level of information that could be provided to the parents.

Record a harm report and respond with an investigation and assessment

Attention

Harm is defined by the Child Protection Act 1999, section 9, as any detrimental effect of a significant nature on the child’s physical, psychological or emotional wellbeing.

It can be caused by a single act, omission or circumstance, or a series or combination of acts, omissions or circumstances that may have a cumulative effect on the child’s safety and wellbeing.

An investigation and assessment of a harm report focuses on whether a child has been harmed, including who is responsible for the harm. (Refer to Possible responses to concerns about the quality of care.)

Record a harm report

If the CSSC manager decides that information received constitutes a harm report, the CSO will create a Standards of care event in ICMS and complete the Concerns, consultation and response decision form and Harm report form. The Harm report—I&A event will be automatically generated in ICMS once the Harm report is submitted for approval.

If a mandatory report of harm is received relating to a reportable suspicion of significant harm caused by physical or sexual abuse, (Child Protection Act 1999, section 13F) provide the information to the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG), excluding notifier details, as soon as possible and within one business day. Provide the information by emailing and telephoning the relevant regional visiting manager. (Refer to the OPG—Regional visiting manager contact details.)

Respond to a report of harm by a person living outside the care arrangement

If information is received about a child being harmed by a person who does not live or work in the care arrangement, only record a harm report if it is reasonably suspected that the actions or inactions of the carer or care service have contributed to the harm, or the carer or care service has failed to protect the child from harm.

If unsure whether to record a harm report, consider:

  • if the actions or inactions of the carer or care service contributed to the harm (for example, by allowing unsupervised family contact, contrary to the child’s case plan and placement agreement, resulting in harm to the child)
  • the protective capacity of the carer or care service and their response to the child (for example, whether they are supporting the child and taking protective action or if they have rejected the child or refused to take action to ensure the child’s safety)
  • the ability and willingness of the carer or care service to protect the child, including whether they:
    • support the child, believe the child or blame the child for the harm
    • have an ongoing relationship or connection with the alleged person responsible that will affect their ability to protect the child
    • are able to protect the child but are unwilling to do so, due to identified factors (for example, the alleged person responsible may be a relative or friend of the carer, or an influential person in their life, which may create a conflict of interest and prevent the carer from acting protectively).

If the information received does not indicate that the carer or care service contributed to the harm the child experienced, and does not indicate that the carer or care service failed to protect the child from harm, respond to the matter in line with usual intake processes. Refer to Procedure 1 Receive and respond at intake.

If a child in care is harmed or there has been risk of harm by their parent during a family contact visit, refer to Procedure 5 Respond to child protection concerns related to family contact.

The CSO and carer or care service will work collaboratively to support the child in accessing counselling and medical services, and during any ensuing criminal investigations and court processes.

Respond to a report of harm by another household member

Record a harm report if there are reported concerns about a child in a care arrangement being harmed by another household member, such as:

  • an adult other than the child’s carer or a staff member of the care service caring for the child
  • another child in care and residing in the care arrangement.

Further reading

Prepare to investigate and assess a harm report

If the harm report alleges harm caused to a child by a carer or an adult member of their household, the investigation and assessment will be undertaken by 2 CSOs, or a CSO and the QPS, if a joint investigation is required.

If the harm report is about harm to a child caused by a staff member of a care service, the investigation and assessment will be undertaken by an authorised officer nominated by the CSSC manager and the manager or coordinator of the care service, or a CSO and the QPS, if a joint investigation is required.

Time sensitive

An investigation and assessment  of a harm report must be completed within 6 weeks of the decision that the information received constitutes a harm report. The action plan must be finalised and approved by the senior team leader before the investigation and assessment is completed.

The CSSC manager will allocate the investigation and assessment of a harm report to an authorised officer with the required level of skill and experience to manage the complexities of the process, taking into account:

  • whether the investigation and assessment would be best undertaken by a Child Safety practitioner who is independent to the child, carer or care service
  • who the child may be comfortable with and able to talk with about their experience in the care arrangement
  • how the CSO with case responsibility for the child may be able to support the child and carer through the process
  • whether a joint investigation with the QPS is required.

Plan the investigation and assessment

The purpose of the planning process is to ensure that the CSO: 

  • takes immediate action to secure the child’s safety 
  • completes a targeted investigation and assessment of whether a child has been harmed or is at risk of harm
  • involves appropriate people, and ensure interviews and information gathering occurs in the most appropriate sequence
  • undertakes the investigation and assessment in a manner that limits any trauma or unnecessary disruption to the child.

Before starting the investigation and assessment, develop an investigation and assessment plan in partnership with staff of the foster and kinship care service or the care service. In addition, consider the involvement of other relevant stakeholders, including:

  • the CSO with case responsibility for each child currently placed with the carer or care service
  • a member of the regional team responsible for funding and contract management for the care service
  • the QPS, if they are an active party to the investigation and assessment.  

The investigation and assessment plan will identify:

  • what information needs to be obtained to determine whether the child has been harmed
  • whether the information in the harm report meets the criteria for a referral to the Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect (SCAN) team
  • whether all relevant information from ICMS about the child—including the case plan, the child protection history, case notes and previous standards of care reviews or harm reports—has been considered
  • whether relevant information about the carer, staff member or care service—including previous standards of care reviews or harm reports—has been considered
  • how access to a support person or advocate will be provided to the child and the carer or staff member during the investigation and assessment process
  • whether interviews will occur with children who have previously been placed in the care arrangement
  • whether interviews are to be pre-arranged (if doing so will not jeopardise the safety of the child, the integrity of the investigation and assessment process or potential criminal investigations)
  • at what stage of the process the child’s parents will be verbally advised of the harm report investigation and assessment.

Once the planning process is completed:

  • Gain verbal approval for the plan from the senior team leader.
  • Record the plan in the Harm report—I&A plan form under the Investigation and assessment planning tab in ICMS.
  • Provide a copy of the investigation and assessment plan to those responsible for investigation and assessment activities. 

Provide information to relevant parties

If the approved investigation and assessment plan identifies it is appropriate to pre-arrange interviews, contact the child (if age and developmentally appropriate) and the carer or care service staff member to pre-arrange interviews.

Tell the child and carer or care service staff member:

  • about the harm report, and that an investigation and assessment will be undertaken, and give them information about the process
  • of their right to have a support person present during their interview, and to have assistance with identifying options for accessing support.

In addition:

  • provide, or advise the child they will be provided with, an Information sheet for children and young people
  • for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child, ask if they wish to have an independent person to facilitate their participation.

Provide written advice

Following contact with the carer or care service staff member, complete the Letter to carer/staff member—advice of harm report. This can be given to them at the time of the interview, or at any time prior to the interview.

Also provide a copy of the letter, where relevant, to:

  • the manager or coordinator of the foster and kinship care service
  • the manager or coordinator of the care service
  • the team responsible for funding and contract management in the region with responsibility for the care service
  • relevant staff or another government agency, if a care service is funded or regulated by that agency.

Attach a copy of the letter to the Harm report—I&A event in ICMS.

Commence the investigation and assessment

An investigation and assessment of a harm report is commenced when the child is either sighted, or sighted and interviewed, by an authorised officer or CSO. In circumstances where a child cannot be sighted within the required timeframe, a police officer or health professional may sight the child and provide Child Safety with information in relation to the safety of the child.

The CSSC manager is responsible for seeking the regional director’s advice in situations where it is not possible to commence an investigation and assessment within the required 24 hours.

Consent to sight and interview the child must be obtained from a child’s parent if the child is subject to a care agreement. 

Before starting interviews:

  • Make sure the subject child has been given the Information sheet for children and young people and the contents discussed with them (considering their age and ability to understand) before interviewing them.
  • Give the carer or staff member the Letter to carer/staff member—advice of harm report and the Information sheet for carers and staff members, if this has not previously been provided.
  • Give the support person information to help them understand their role and to ensure they are made aware of the requirement for confidentiality under the Child Protection Act 1999, section 188, prior to starting the interviews. (Refer to the practice guide The role of a support person.)
  • Advise the carers or staff members that they may record their discussion in a harm report interview with Child Safety staff. Carers or staff members are the owners of interview material they record, and are responsible for retaining  these recordings. Ensure that the carer or staff member is aware that they are not permitted to communicate or publish any part of audio or video recordings to any person, except in accordance with the Child Protection Act 1999.

Legal representatives

The carer, staff member and child are also entitled to have a legal representative present during interviews conducted to investigate and assess a harm report.

If requested, the CSSC will make all reasonable attempts to accommodate the attendance of the legal representative at the meeting, if this does not unreasonably delay the interview.

Conduct interviews with the child, carer or staff member

Ensure there is face-to-face contact with each subject child and that interviews are completed with:

  • each subject child who is able to communicate. If a child has a disability, arrange for them to have the communication support needed or aides required to enable their participation
  • all children currently in the care arrangement  and any other child who was placed there at the time of the concerns.

The interview with a child must not occur in the presence of the carer or care service staff member (who is the subject of the allegations).

Ensure that interviews are also undertaken with:

  • all people allegedly responsible for the harm to the child through their actions or inactions
  • the carers listed on the certificate of approval, or care service staff members
  • adult household members or care service staff who may have relevant information.

Gather information from interviews to help understand the circumstances surrounding the harm report, and to enable an assessment to be made of:

  • whether the child has experienced harm in the care arrangement
  • whether the care the child has received meets the standards of care
  • the effect the concerns have had on the child’s safety and wellbeing
  • whether an immediate change of care arrangement is required to ensure either:
    • the subject child’s safety
      or
    • the safety of any other child residing in the care arrangement
  • whether further children can be placed with the carer or care service while the investigation and assessment is being undertaken
  • whether the carer, care service or staff member has:
    • not met the legislated standards of care and if so, which standards of care have not been met
    • had their documented support and training needs met by Child Safety, the foster and kinship care service or the care service
    • outstanding or additional supervision, support and training needs
  • whether systemic issues have contributed to the standards of care not being met and if so, what actions could be taken by Child Safety, the foster and kinship care service or the care service to address the identified issues.

Practice prompt

Record all interview information in the Record of interviews form under the Information gathering and interviews tab in the Harm report—I&A event in ICMS.

Respond to time delays

If there are exceptional circumstances that will prevent the investigation and assessment being completed within the required 6-week timeframe, the CSSC manager will:

  • advise the carer or care service staff member in writing of the delay
    and
  • outline the reasons for the delay
    and
  • provide an estimated completion date.

Respond to additional concerns

If additional concerns about a child’s care are received during an investigation and assessment, the concerns will be responded to as part of the current investigation and assessment, unless an exception applies.

When responding to the additional concerns, the CSO will:

  • record the information in an Additional notified concerns form in the open Harm report—I&A event in ICMS
  • ensure the concerns are addressed with the child and the carer or staff member and assessed as part of the open investigation and assessment.

Harm to children not recorded as subject children

If it is assessed that other children in care who are living in the care arrangement may have experienced harm, but were not recorded as subject children, record them as subject children in the investigation and assessment and include them in the process.

If it is considered that a child who lives in the household but who is not in care may have experienced harm or be at risk of harm, take action in line with usual intake processes. Refer to Procedure 1 Receive and respond at intake.

Assess the information gathered during the investigation and assessment

The allocated Child Safety practitioner’s assessment will consider:

  • the child’s views about the alleged concerns
  • how the alleged harm may affect the child, having regard to how long the child has resided in the care arrangement, previous harm the child has experienced, the current case plan and other contextual factors
  • any concerns the child or another person expresses about the standards of care the child is receiving
  • if force, corporal punishment or other behaviour management strategies prohibited by the statement of standards (or as outlined in the policy Positive Behaviour Support) have been used
  • the outcome of previous standards of care reviews and harm reports, and any resulting actions
  • the current level of stress within the care arrangement, including:
    • stress resulting from the number of children in the care arrangement
    • whether the child has been placed in a care arrangement that does not match their assessed needs
    • the adequacy of supervision, support and training provided to the carer or staff member
    • any action, inaction or decision by Child Safety regarding the child or other children in the care arrangement that may have contributed to the harm.

Assess harm

To determine whether a child has experienced harm in the care arrangement, assess whether the carer’s or staff member’s treatment of the child has had any detrimental effect of a significant nature on the child’s physical, psychological or emotional wellbeing, taking into account the impact of cumulative harm.

For a detrimental effect to be of a significant nature it must:

  • have more than a minor impact on a child’s physical, psychological or emotional wellbeing
  • be substantial, serious and demonstrable—that is, measurable and observable on the child’s body and/or in the child’s functioning or behaviour.

A detrimental effect of a significant nature is an effect that is likely to be long term (more than transitory) or to adversely affect the child’s health or wellbeing to an extent that the general public would consider unacceptable.

Further reading

Assess cumulative harm

Practice prompt

The assessment of a harm report will also consider whether prior experiences of harm the child has experienced in their family and in any previous care arrangement may exacerbate the detrimental effect the harm experienced in the current care arrangement has on the child. 

Cumulative harm may occur when a child experiences ‘a series or combination of acts, omissions or circumstances’ that have a cumulative effect on their safety and wellbeing (Child Protection Act 1999, section 9(4)). 

Cumulative harm is harm experienced by a child over a prolonged period of time due to the impacts of recurring incidents. This harm may be the result of a single recurring adverse circumstance or event, for example, ongoing neglect.

It may also result from being subject to multiple, different harmful circumstances and events over a long period or concurrently, for example, a combination of persistent verbal abuse, harsh discipline and exposure to domestic and family violence.

Assess risk of harm

Although the immediate focus of the investigation and assessment is on whether the child has been harmed, the risk of future potential harm to the child in the care arrangement is considered throughout the assessment of the harm report.

During the assessment and investigation, consider:

  • the likelihood (and level) of harm occurring to the child in the future
  • the presence of risk factors in the care arrangement and factors that may offset risk
  • the carer’s or staff member’s understanding of the concerns, and their willingness and ability to work with the care team to mitigate future risk
  • evidence that the care arrangement is able to meet the child’s safety needs.

Note

Risk of harm also includes circumstances where the impact of the harm is not yet observable, but harm is a predictable result of what has occurred.

Conduct an investigation and assessment to determine:

  • the child’s immediate safety and support needs
  • if the actions or inactions of the carer or care service contributed to the harm or failed to protect the child from harm
  • if the required standards of care have been met for the child.

In line with the Child Protection Act 1999, sections 14(2) and (3), immediately notify the QPS using the Police referral if the information received about the harm to the child involves allegations that indicate the commission of a criminal offence relating to the child. For further information, refer to Procedure 1 Report information to the Queensland Police Service.

If the child or another person has been identified as a victim of crime or act of violence, refer to Procedure 5 Victims of crime.

Assess harm by another person

If the suspected harm to the child has not been caused by a carer or a staff member of a care service, the investigation and assessment process must consider:

  • how the child is being supported
  • how the carer or staff member has been affected by the harm caused to the child by another person (for example, if a child has been sexually assaulted, the carer may also be emotionally or psychologically traumatised by the events)
  • whether the carer or staff member requires additional support, including counselling
  • the readiness of the carer or staff member to discuss the matter in detail.

If the alleged person responsible for the harm is another child in care, consider and respond to the needs of this child during the investigation and assessment. Refer the child to appropriate support services (for example, medical or counselling services) if required.

Also consider whether:

  • that child, in addition to the subject child, may have experienced harm while in care
    or
  • that child’s harmful actions indicate they may have previously experienced harm (while in the care of their parents or another person) that has not previously been investigated and assessed.

If relevant, record:

  • a separate harm report—with the alleged person (child) responsible as a subject child, where the child’s harmful actions indicate that they may have also experienced harm while in care (for example, emerging age-inappropriate sexually reactive behaviour, where there is no known history of the child being sexually abused)
    or
  • a notification—if the child’s harmful actions indicate the child may have previously experienced harm while in the care of their parents. For example, it may be reasonably suspected that the child was sexually abused while in the care of his or her parents and this has not previously been investigated and assessed by the department.

If a child may have been sexually abused while they were in care, respond in line with the policy Response to children who are sexually abused while in care, and initiate a review of the child’s case plan to meet the child’s specific needs. Refer to Procedure 5  When a child is sexually abused while in care.

Assess the standards of care

Include an assessment focus on whether or not the standards of care have been met or are being met for the child. Refer to Conduct a standards of care review.

Remove the child from the care arrangement if necessary

If, during the investigation and assessment:

  • it becomes apparent that the child is at immediate risk of harm or unacceptable risk of future harm in their care arrangement
    and
  • protective intervention would not ensure their safety and wellbeing,

the CSSC manager can make the decision to remove the child from the care arrangement. (Refer to Remove a child from a care arrangement.)

Decide the investigation and assessment outcome

At the conclusion of the investigation and assessment, determine whether the child has experienced harm, or is at risk of harm by:

  • assessing the information that has been gathered
  • considering all contextual factors specific to the child, their care arrangement and the carer or staff member.

Decide the outcome of the investigation and assessment for each child, after consultation with the senior team leader, senior practitioner, foster and kinship carer service staff, care service staff and, if required, the CSSC manager.

Investigation and assessment outcomes

The outcome of the investigation and assessment of a harm report will be one of the following:

  • Substantiated—standards not met
  • Substantiated harm—standards met
  • Unsubstantiated—standards not met
  • Unsubstantiated—standards met.

Substantiated―standards not met

The outcome of the investigation and assessment of a harm report is Substantiated—standards not met when it has been determined that:

  • the child has experienced harm or is likely to experience future harm
    and
  • the actions or inactions of the carer or staff member have contributed to the harm.

When this outcome is reached, record at least one of the carers or a staff member as a person responsible for the harm.

This outcome requires the development of an action plan before the investigation and assessment is finalised. The action plan will address issues relevant to ensuring the child receives the required standards of care in the future. (Refer to Develop an action plan for a carer or Develop an action plan for a care service.)

Tip

This outcome cannot be used if it is not possible to identify the person responsible for the harm the child has experienced.

Substantiated harm―standards met

The outcome of the investigation and assessment of a harm report is Substantiated harm—standards met when it has been determined that:

  • the child has experienced harm or is likely to experience future harm, but the actions or inactions of the approved carer or staff member have not contributed to the harm (for example, there is no indication a carer or staff member failed to protect a child)
    and
  • there is no indication that the carer, staff member or care service has not met the standards of care required under the Child Protection Act 1999.

When this outcome is reached, the person responsible for the harm will be either:

  • another adult who resides in, or frequents, the care arrangement
  • another child (if aged 10 years or over and the child is assessed as having the developmental ability or capacity to understand the consequences of their actions)
  • a person responsible who is unable to be identified.

This outcome requires a review of the child’s case plan to ensure the child’s needs, identified during the investigation and assessment, are addressed.

Unsubstantiated―standards not met

The outcome of the investigation and assessment of a harm report is Unsubstantiated—standards not met when it has been determined that:

  • the child has not experienced harm and is unlikely to experience future harm
    and
  • there is an indication that the approved carer or staff member has failed to meet the standards of care required under the Child Protection Act 1999.

When this outcome is reached, record an Unsubstantiated— standards not met outcome in ICMS.

This outcome requires the development of an action plan before the investigation and assessment is finalised. The action plan will address issues relevant to ensuring the child receives the required standards of care in the future. (Refer to Develop an action plan for a carer or Develop an action plan for a care service.)

Unsubstantiated―standards met

The outcome of the investigation and assessment of a harm report is Unsubstantiated—standards met when it has been determined that:

  • the child has not experienced harm and is unlikely to experience future harm
    and
  • there is no indication that the carer or staff member has failed to meet the standards of care required under the Child Protection Act 1999.

When this outcome is reached, record an Unsubstantiated—standards met outcome in ICMS.

No outcome

In exceptional circumstances, it may not be possible to record an outcome for an investigation and assessment. Exceptional circumstances may include:

  • if the investigation and assessment cannot be completed, for example, because the concerns are historical and relevant people cannot be contacted
  • a decision is made to not conduct an investigation and assessment in line with the process for responding to a vexatious or malicious notifier. (Refer to Procedure 1 Information from a vexatious or malicious notifier.)

Do not record this response if the reason for not assessing and investigating the harm report is resourcing or workload issues.

The senior team leader must consult with the senior practitioner to confirm their assessment and provide a clear rationale prior to approving the recording of an investigation and assessment with no outcome.

If it is not possible to record an outcome for a harm report, complete the Harm report—assessment and outcome form in ICMS and record no outcome in ICMS.

Record the investigation and assessment outcome

Following an investigation and assessment of a harm report, complete the Harm report—assessment & outcome form in ICMS, documenting:

  • the actions undertaken during the assessment and investigation
  • information gathered during the assessment and investigation
  • information about the safety of the child provided by a police officer or health professional, where applicable
  • an assessment of whether the child has been harmed and whether there is any risk of harm
  • the person responsible for the harm
  • an assessment of whether the standards of care have been met for the child, and if not, which standards have not been met
  • the date the investigation and assessment was commenced and completed and the reasons for any delays, if it did not occur within the specified timeframes.

Submit the Harm report—assessment & outcome to the senior team leader for approval.

Support a child who has experienced sexual abuse in care

If the outcome of an investigation and assessment determines that a child in care has been sexually abused, Child Safety will provide a response to meet the child’s safety, belonging and wellbeing needs.  

The response will include a review of the child’s case plan to ensure the child’s immediate safety, and to arrange for the child to receive support and services to help address trauma resulting from the abuse experienced. Refer to Procedure 5 When a child is sexually abused while in care.

Provide information about services and assistance available through Victim Assist Queensland to the child and consider making an application for assistance on the child’s behalf. Refer to Procedure 5 Victims of crime.

Take the child’s age and capacity to understand into account when providing information about services and assistance available through Victim Assist Queensland. Record that the information has been provided, along with any action taken in relation to making an application for assistance, in a Victim of crime case note in the relevant event in ICMS. 

Advise parties of the investigation and assessment outcome

Following the completion of the investigation and assessment, provide advice about its outcome to relevant parties. Verbal advice will be provided to:

  • the child (if appropriate, given their age and level of development)
  • the CSO responsible for any child currently placed with the carer or care service
  • at least one parent of the child, or the long-term guardian.

Provide both verbal and written advice of the outcome of the investigation and assessment, using the Letter to carer—outcome of harm report or Letter to staff member—outcome of harm report.

The carer or staff member receives the original letter. A copy of the letter and the action plan, where applicable, is provided to:

  • the manager or coordinator of the foster and kinship care service
  • the manager or coordinator of the care service
  • the regional team responsible for funding and contract management
  • relevant staff or another government agency, if the care service is funded or regulated by that agency.

If the child is placed with a care service, advise the regional team responsible for funding and contract management to:

  • forward a copy of the letter and the action plan to the nominee of the care service
  • file a copy of the letter and the action plan on the care service’s file.

Attach a copy of the letter to the Harm report—I&A event in ICMS.

In addition, provide all parties with information about complaints and review mechanisms. Refer to Respond to a complaint or request for the review of a decision.

Provide information to a care service if a staff member is responsible for serious harm

If there are substantiated concerns of a serious nature relating to care provided to a child by a staff member of a care service, such as matters resulting in criminal proceedings, ensure that this information is provided to relevant parties in the Letter to staff member—outcome of harm report

Information in the letter needs to be clear and thorough and include sufficient detail to support any action the licensee may need to take in relation to the staff member’s employment status.

A care service licensee is responsible for ensuring the suitability of service employees. Child Safety cannot make decisions on behalf of the care service about human resource arrangements for staff of a care service. However, if there are concerns about a particular staff member, Child Safety will raise these concerns with the care service manager or coordinator for their appropriate action.

If the licensee needs to dismiss a staff member, they must provide clear grounds for the dismissal in order to demonstrate the action was justifiable (in case the matter is referred to the Queensland Industrial Commission). Processes need to be transparent and accountable, and employers may require information from Child Safety’s investigation and assessment to justify the decision to dismiss the staff member.

The Child Safety team responsible for funding and contract management will assist the care service in taking action to comply with the relevant licensing requirements, if applicable.

Provide information to the child’s parents

At least one of the child’s parents will be provided with information about the outcome of the investigation and assessment of the harm report.

If the child is subject to a child protection order granting long-term guardianship to a suitable person, advise at least one of) the child’s parents only if doing so would be in the child’s best interests, having regard to:

  • the child’s views
  • the nature and extent of the child’s connection with their parents
  • the evidence in support of the allegation
  • any other matter relevant to the child’s safety, belonging or wellbeing needs.

The Child Protection Act 1999, section 15(3), provides some discretion in relation to the requirement to inform a child’s parents or long-term guardian of the outcome of the investigation and assessment of a harm report if it is a reasonable belief that:  

  • someone may be charged with a criminal offence for harming the child, and providing advice of the outcome of the investigation and assessment may jeopardise an investigation into the offence
    or
  • providing advice about the outcome of the investigation and assessment may expose the child to harm.

Note

A decision not to advise a child’s parent or long-term guardian of the outcome of the investigation and assessment must be approved by a senior team leader, and the decision, rationale and approval process will be recorded in a Standards of care case note in the Harm report—I&A event in ICMS.

Respond to a complaint or request for the review of a decision

If a person wants to make a complaint about:

  • a standards of care review process or the investigation and assessment of a harm report
    or
  • a decision made in response to a standards of care review or the investigation and assessment of a harm report

provide the person with information about Child Safety’s complaint management process.

Develop an action plan for a carer

Child Safety will work in partnership with the foster and kinship care service when developing an action plan for a carer if the investigation and assessment outcome is:

  • Substantiated—standards not met
    or
  • Unsubstantiated—standards not met.

The action plan will be developed prior to the finalising the investigation and assessment in ICMS. It will address issues identified during the assessment and include actions to ensure the child is safe from harm and that their care meets the standards of care.

The CSSC responsible for the carer will convene a meeting with all relevant parties to collaboratively develop the action plan, unless an exception applies. (Refer to Circumstances in which an action plan for a carer is not required.) Relevant parties include:

  • the carer
  • the foster and kinship care service supporting the carer
  • the child (if age and developmentally appropriate)
  • the CSO for the child
  • the independent person for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child, if the child wishes
  • a member of the PSU, if relevant.

The CSSC manager will ensure the action plan addresses the identified concerns regarding the child’s safety and the standards of care being provided.

The action plan will focus on what is required to ensure that the child’s safety and the standards of care are met in future. The parties will agree on the specific actions required and who is responsible for the actions—the CSO, the carer, the foster and kinship care service, or other relevant people.

Specific actions may include the need to:

  • review the ongoing appropriateness of the care arrangement to meet the child’s needs
  • review the placement agreement and the case plan to ensure there is a shared understanding of the child’s needs and agreement on how they should be met—such as the need for a positive behaviour support plan for a child with challenging behaviours (Refer to Procedure 5 Develop a positive behaviour support plan.)
  • review the foster carer agreement (for an approved foster carer)
  • review the carer’s suitability
  • amend the carer’s certificate of approval
  • address systemic issues that have contributed to the concerns
  • arrange for the CSO or the foster and kinship care service to have more frequent contact with the child and carer.

The CSO will ensure that each party is provided with a copy of the approved plan, (including the child, if age and developmentally appropriate).

The CSO will also complete the Harm report action plan in ICMS.

Tip

Actions and tasks identified in the action plan will automatically appear as Harm report follow-up activities in the carer’s Monitor and support screen once the action plan is approved by the CSSC manager.

Circumstances in which an action plan for a carer is not required

There are three exceptions to the requirement to develop an action plan for a carer. They are:

  • if a decision is made to cancel an approved carer’s certificate of approval
  • if the child is removed from the kinship carer and there are no other children placed with the carer
  • if the carer surrenders their certificate of approval, or their certificate of approval expires during the course of the investigation and assessment.

If a carer’s certificate of approval is cancelled, and the decision is later overturned by the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT), an action plan will be required. (Refer to Respond when a carer’s certificate of approval requires amendment, suspension or cancellation.)

If a carer’s certificate of approval is cancelled, surrendered or expires, the CSSC will consider preparing an action plan to keep on file to enable previous concerns to be taken into account if the former carer applies to be approved at a later date.

Implement the action plan for a carer

All parties involved in the development of the action plan are responsible for undertaking the agreed actions and for monitoring and supporting the implementation of the action plan within the designated timeframe.

The CSSC responsible for the carer staff will assist in this process by:

  • ensuring the placement agreement is current and addresses the child’s care and support needs
  • having regular contact with the child, the carer and the foster and kinship care service, to assist with actions required to meet the child’s needs and support the carer in providing the required standards of care.

The CSO will record information about the implementation of the action plan and related activities in the relevant Harm report follow-up activities in the carer’s Monitor and support screen in ICMS.

If an issue or action requires further follow up, and was not identified in the original Harm report action plan, the CSO will record the details of the additional requirement in a Harm report follow-up activity created in the carer’s Monitor and support screen in ICMS.

Review carer suitability

The CSSC manager may determine that a comprehensive assessment of the carer’s suitability and ability to meet the standards of care is required. This may occur:

  • whenever there are ongoing concerns about the carer’s capacity to meet and sustain safe care for the child and meet the standards of care
  • following a standards of care review or an investigation and assessment, if the outcome is that the standards are not met, and a more detailed review is required
  • as a result of a change in carer circumstances.

To decide whether to review a carer’s suitability, the CSSC manager will consider:

  • the expiry date of the carer’s current certificate of approval
  • previous standards of care reviews or investigation and assessments, regardless of the outcomes
  • the seriousness of the concerns and the impact on the safety and wellbeing of the child
  • the presence of recurrent patterns, or if the supports or training provided have not resulted in sustained improvements to the child’s care.

Note

The CSSC manager is responsible for ensuring that the review is conducted by a person with the appropriate level of skill.

The review process is not to be delayed because the renewal of a carer’s approval is pending.

Plan the review of carer suitability

The CSSC responsible for the carer will plan the review in partnership with the carer’s foster and kinship care service and the CSSC senior practitioner. As part of the planning process, decide:

  • how the carer or carers will be advised of the decision to review their suitability
  • what information will contribute to the review, for example, the views of staff from each CSSC that has a child in the care arrangement, or services that have provided support or intervention to the carer
  • how the views of the child will be incorporated into the review
  • any additional requirements to be considered by the reviewer.

Note

The CSSC manager is responsible for approving the plan before the review commences.

Complete the review of carer suitability

The reviewer will:

  • review the issues and concerns identified in the most current foster carer assessment report or kinship carer renewal report, including the rationale for approval
  • review previous standards of care reviews, investigation and assessments and action plans relating to either the carer or the child
  • take into account the support and training that has been, or is being provided, to the carer, including whether the carer achieved the required competencies, and if not, the factors that prevented this occurring
  • consider any factors that may be impacting on the standards of care provided to the child, for example, sudden changes in the carer’s household, serious illness in the carer’s family or a change in supports available to the carer.

The reviewer will prepare a report for the CSSC manager recommending what action is required. The report will specifically identify the standards of care the carer is meeting and, if relevant, the standards of care not being met.

If difficulties are identified, the report will:

  • explore the contributing factors
  • consider the impact on the child, where appropriate
  • propose what actions are required to improve the care to the child
  • assess the capacity of the carer to gain the knowledge and skills required to meet the standards of care.

If the review identifies that the carer is unable to ensure the safety of the child or to meet the standards of care, refer to Respond to concerns about the child’s care arrangement.


Develop an action plan for a care service

An action plan for a care service is required when the investigation and assessment outcome is:

  • Substantiated—standards not met
    or
  • Unsubstantiated—standards not met

The care service is responsible for developing an action plan, in partnership with Child Safety. The care service will arrange for relevant parties to meet to determine the review process and timeframes and to agree on specific actions. Relevant parties include:

  • staff members of the care service, as advised by the care service
  • the CSO with case responsibility for the subject child
  • the child (if age and developmentally appropriate)
  • the independent person for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child, if the child wishes
  • the senior team leader or senior practitioner, if required
  • a member of the regional team with responsibility for funding and contract management
  • a member of the PSU, where relevant.

The action plan will be developed prior to finalising the investigation and assessment in ICMS. It will address issues identified during the assessment and include actions to ensure the child is safe from harm and that their care meets the standards of care.

The senior team leader or CSSC manager will ensure that the action plan addresses the identified concerns regarding the child’s safety and the standards of care being provided.

The action plan will outline specific actions required and who is responsible for the actions (the care service, CSO, or other relevant people), within a timeframe of no longer than 3 months.

Specific actions may include the need to:

  • review the ongoing appropriateness of the care arrangement to meet the child’s needs
  • review the placement agreement and the case plan to ensure there is a shared understanding of the child’s needs and agreement on how they should be met, such as such as the need for a positive behaviour support plan for a child with challenging behaviours (Refer to Procedure 5 Develop a positive behaviour support plan.)
  • provide care service staff with additional training, supervision and support
  • request changes to the care service’s policies, procedures or protocols if they are not clear or not aligned with legislation or Child Safety policy
  • address systemic issues that have contributed to the concerns
  • arrange more frequent contact between Child Safety and the child and care service
  • introduce a process to monitor the implementation of the action plan, the placement agreement and the child’s case plan.

The care service and CSO will ensure that each party is provided with a copy of the approved plan (including the child, if age and developmentally appropriate).

Tip

It is not appropriate for broader licensing issues, or issues that require a long-term solution, to be included in an action plan.

When the action plan developed by the care service has been finalised, attach a copy to the:

  • Standards of care event in ICMS for a standards of care review
  • Harm report—I&A event in ICMS for a harm report investigation and assessment.

Seek the senior team leader’s or CSSC manager’s approval of the action plan.

Implement and monitor the action plan for a care service

All parties involved in the development of the action plan are responsible for undertaking the agreed actions and for monitoring and supporting the implementation of the action plan within the designated timeframes.

Child Safety staff will assist in this process by:

  • ensuring the placement agreement is current and effective in supporting the care services ability to meet the child’s care and support needs
  • having regular contact with the child and the care service to support actions required to meet the child’s needs and ensure the care the child receives is consistent with required standards of care.

The CSO will record the details of actions and follow-up information in a Standards of care (SOC) follow-up document/communication created in the care service’s record in ICMS.

Review action plan

An action plan for a carer or care service must be reviewed within 3 months. An action plan review meeting, including all people responsible for implementing the action plan, will be convened to review progress and the current standards of care the child is receiving.

Child Safety must determine whether or not the issues of concern have been adequately addressed to ensure the care provided to the child now meets the required standards of care.

An action plan relating to a carer

If the action plan relates to a carer, Child Safety is responsible for reviewing the action plan. The CSO will attach a copy of the minutes of the action plan review to a Harm report action plan review document created in the carer’s Monitor and support screen in ICMS and add any relevant subject children. 

If the review of a carer’s action plan identifies that the concerns remain unresolved after 3 months, or that new standards of care concerns have been recorded within the 3-month period, the CSSC manager will consult with the PSU director and the foster and kinship care service, where applicable, to determine the most suitable action to be taken.

An action plan relating to a care service

If the action plan relates to a care service, the care service is responsible for reviewing the action plan. The care service will provide Child Safety with a copy of the minutes of the review. The CSO will attach the copy of the minutes to an SOC follow-up document created in the care service’s record in ICMS and add any relevant subject children.

If the review of a care service’s action plan identifies that the concerns remain unresolved after 3 months, or that new standards of care concerns have been recorded within the 3-month period, the CSSC manager will consult with the PSU director, the regional team responsible for funding and contract management, and the care service, to determine the most suitable action to be taken.

Consideration will be given to:

  • whether the care service needs to take action in relation to the employment status of the relevant staff member
  • whether the care service’s license should be amended, suspended or cancelled (in extreme circumstances).

Respond to a carer’s or care staff member’s request to obtain or amend Child Safety records

If a carer or staff member requests a copy of Child Safety information relating to a standards of care review, or the investigation and assessment of a harm report, or a previous matter or concern, provide the person with information about Child Safety's Right to Information, Information Access and Amendment Unit. (Refer to Right to Information.)

If a carer or care service staff member asks for information in a departmental record to be changed, or if they ask to add information to a record associated with a standards of care review or the investigation and assessment of a harm report:

  • Invite the carer or staff member to provide written advice of the amendment or additional information to be placed on:
    • the carer’s file or the care service’s file
      or
    • the child’s file

and referred to in the standards of care review or the investigation and assessment.

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