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Assess the information and decide the response

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This page was updated on 28 September 2020. To view changes, please see page updates

Consult the senior team leader

A senior team leader approves the decision about the intake response to a notifier’s  concerns. Consulting a senior team leader is an important component of gathering and assessing information. It may occur at any stage of the intake process.

Seek cultural advice

All decisions about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children made under the Child Protection Act 1999 must:

  • consider the long-term effect of the decision on the child’s: 
    • identity
    • connection with the child’s family and community
  • be made in a way that: 
    • upholds the child placement principle (prevention, partnership, placement, participation and connection).

If deciding an intake response for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child and cultural advice is needed to inform the decision, consult with:

  • a Child Safety practitioner able to provide cultural advice
     or
  • a local Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander community representative—sharing  only non-identifying information about the child and family.

Provide a consistent response

Concerns received about a child should receive a consistent response from Child Safety, based on the assessed level of risk, regardless of:

  • where the child lives
  • who assesses the information.

To provide a consistent response to child protection concerns:

  • apply the framework for practice
  • apply professional judgement
  • use structured decision making assessments, where relevant.

This will support the critical analysis of the available information and assist in deciding the appropriate intake response.

Apply the framework for practice

The Strengthening families Protecting children Framework for practice and its supporting resources:

  • define principles and values for all work conducted by Child Safety
  • emphasise working collaboratively with children, families and carers during assessment, safety planning and case planning processes
  • identify and support the development of safety networks around children, their families and carers
  • strengthen partnerships with agencies
  • promote enduring safety, belonging and wellbeing in the lives of children and families in contact with Child Safety.

Apply professional judgement

Apply professional judgement by drawing on your:

  • theoretical, research and procedural knowledge
  • practice and personal experience.

Use structured decision-making

At intake, use structured decision making assessments to decide:

  • if a matter meets the threshold for a notification
  • how quickly a response by Child Safety is needed.

Use the following assessments to help ensure relevant factors are gathered and considered at intake:

  • screening criteria
  • response priority.

Tip

A thorough understanding of the screening criteria and response priority definitions is needed to accurately complete the assessments. (Refer to the SDM Policy and procedures manual.)

Check child protection history

Complete a child protection history check before deciding the following intake responses:

To complete a child protection history check, consider and analyse all records of Child Safety’s contact with or about:

  • the child
  • the child’s family
  • other members of the child’s household.

A child protection history check can identify information the notifier may not know or may not report, such as:

  • important contextual information
  • patterns of cumulative harm
  • risk, strengths and protective factors present in the family.

To complete a child protection history check:

  • access all ICMS records and, where indicated, other relevant records such as SCAN team records
  • create a Departmental history report in ICMS
  • review all relevant documents
  • analyse the extent, nature and outcome of previous Child Safety intervention with the child or family, including whether the history: 
    • indicates cumulative harm
    • indicates a pattern of harm or escalating concerns
    • confirms or identifies additional risk factors, including:
      • a previous death of a child or serious injury
        or
      • a current alert, such as suicide risk alert.

Further reading

 Procedure 5  Information sharing

Carry out a pre-notification check

A pre-notification check is an enquiry made only when further information is needed from an external agency to:

  • assist in completing the screening criteria
  • decide if a child concern report or notification is required.

Pre-notification checks are not:

  • used to consult Child Safety staff, check SCAN team documents or re-contact a notifier
  • routine, or required for all intake decisions
  • used to decide an intake enquiry or harm report
  • to be conducted once a decision is made to record a child concern report or a notification.

Agencies can share information with Child Safety for this purpose under the Child Protection Act 1999, section 159MB. If Child Safety needs to formally request that a particular prescribed entity shares information, then the Child Protection Act 1999, section 159N is used.

A pre-notification check is the responsibility of the CSO from the RIS or CSAHSC that receives the child protection concerns.

Tip

Once a notification response is decided, any further information gathering is part of the investigation and assessment.

Relevant information can be obtained from an external agency about a family, including from:

  • a government or non-government agency
  • a service provider, including:
    • a health professional, such as a general practitioner
    • the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) providers
    • the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA)
    • an interstate or international child protection jurisdiction.

Information can also be requested about an unborn child from a prescribed entity or service provider under the Child Protection Act 1999, section 159MB.

Before carrying out a pre-notification check about an unborn child consider:

  • what specific information is needed and why
  • that a pregnant woman’s consent will later be required for any ongoing intervention or support by Child Safety.

If necessary, a pre-notification check can be made under the Child Protection Act 1999, section 159N, to compel the following entities to provide information:

  • the Public Guardian
  • a prescribed entity
  • a licensee
  • the person in charge of a student hostel.

To make an information request under the Child Protection Act 1999, section 159N:

Attention

For a pre-notification check for a child with disability seek information from the NDIA using the NDIA Information request form rather than the Section 159N information request.

To carry out a pre-notification check, contact the relevant professional or agency and

  • Tell them: 
    • your name and position
    • why they have been contacted
    • the authority for seeking information (Child Protection Act 1999, sections 14 and 159A, 159MB, 159N). If requesting information under the Child Protection Act 1999, section 159N, explain that they are required by law to provide the information
    • about the confidentiality provisions in the Child Protection Act 1999. 
  • Request information about:
    • any contact the agency has had, or is having, with the child or family
    • the nature and duration of contact with the child or family
    • any child protection concerns they have, or have previously had
    • the child’s presentation and interaction with others. 
  • Inform them of the timeframe in which they need to respond.

Record the information in the pre-notification check section of the intake form in ICMS.  

Make sure to maintain the confidentiality of the professional or agency that provided the information when undertaking case work.

Time sensitive

The decision to record a notification must be made within 48 hours of receiving the initial information. If information is not received within 48 hours, decide the intake response  from the information already gathered.  

Commence a pre-notification check as soon as possible and within 24 hours of receiving the concerns. This allows as much time as possible for the external agency to respond. 

If information is received after 48 hours:

  • assess the information 
  • where required, use the screening criteria and response priority assessments to re-assess the intake response.

Request criminal and domestic violence history

A request to the QPS for a person’s criminal history as part of a pre-notification check:

  • is not routine
  • only occurs if critical to deciding whether to record a notification
  • is considered an urgent request, because the response is needed within 48 hours of Child Safety receiving the initial intake information
  • in some circumstances, may also include a request for domestic violence records held by the QPS
  • is made under the Child Protection Act 1999, section 95(3).

The QPS may provide a written report of criminal history and/or a summary of domestic violence protection orders and conditions, about:

  • a subject child’s parent
  • an adult member of the child’s or parent’s household
  • an adult who may be a person responsible for the alleged harm.

To request an urgent criminal and/or domestic violence history check:

  • Seek approval from the CSSC manager or a senior team leader.
  • Complete a QPS—Urgent s.95 Request (Business Hours) form, and include: 
    • an explanation that the request is needed urgently to decide if a notification is required for a child
    • all requested details. If information such as a person’s full name is not known, the local CPIU may be able to assist. 
    • the name and signature of the approving manager or senior team leader 
  • Forward the form to the Central Screening Unit. Note the QPS will not process requests sent directly to them from a RIS.

The CSU will:

  • check that all mandatory fields are completed on the form before forwarding it to the QPS
  • receive the results from the QPS and email them to the requesting CSO.

To record the results provided by the QPS, complete the following in ICMS:

  • the pre-notification check section of the intake form
  • an Info received from QPS case note and attach or reference the information received.

Note

The QPS will take longer to complete interstate checks.

Time sensitive

If information is not received from the QPS within 48 hours of Child Safety receiving the initial concerns, decide the appropriate response based on the information already gathered.

Complete structured decision-making tools

Complete the screening criteria

The screening criteria tool, within the Intake form helps decide if concerns:

  • meet the legislative threshold for a notification
    or
  • are to be recorded as a child concern report.

The screening criteria tool is not used to help decide:

  • intake enquiries
  • harm reports
    or
  • standards of care matters.

The screening criteria tool and related definitions focus on the child's experience of alleged harm. They do not focus on parental behaviour or the environment affecting the child's safety.

The screening criteria tool provides:

  • broad definitions of physical and emotional harm, neglect and sexual abuse
  • detailed criteria within each abuse and harm type
  • separate criteria for unborn children.

Use professional judgement to apply the criteria and analyse all known information to decide the intake response. Consult the senior team leader as required.

Complete one screening criteria tool for each household where harm has been alleged.

To complete the screening criteria tool:

  • refer to the screening criteria definitions
  • consider all information gathered, including the child protection history, to: 
    • decide if the concerns meet the broad definition for each alleged harm or abuse type
    • select all applicable criteria within each relevant abuse or harm type.

For an unborn child, consider:

  • the parents’ child protection history, if any
  • the parents’ current circumstances and behaviour
  • risk factors for the child once they are born.

(Refer to the screening criteria in the SDM Policy and procedures manual, Practice guide Assessing harm and risk of harm and the practice kit Child sexual abuse.)

If no screening criteria is selected, record a child concern report and submit it to the senior team leader for approval. 

Practice prompt

Consult the senior team leader if no screening criteria is selected and a notification response appears to be warranted.

If one or more screening criteria are selected, complete the response priority.

Apply the criteria for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child

To apply the screening criteria tool for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child, consider Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child rearing practices. These include:

  • children’s earlier independence
  • children taking on responsibility at an earlier age
  • cultural authority within kinship/clan groups
  • cultural responsibility among the extended family and community.

Complete the response priority

The response priority tool recommends a timeframe for Child Safety to commence an investigation and assessment. The timeframe starts at the time the decision is made to record a notification.

The response priority tool helps weigh up:

  • the child protection concerns
  • the child’s need for immediate safety
  • the likelihood of the child experiencing significant harm in the near future.  

The response priority tool is completed for each matter that requires an investigation and assessment, that is:

  • a notification
  • additional notified concerns—with a notification response.

The response priority tool is not completed for a:

  • harm report
    or
  • standard of care review.

The recommended response timeframe will be:

  • 24 hours
  • 5 days
    or
  • 10 days.

For an unborn child the recommended response timeframe will be either:

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

Note

All investigation and assessments are to be commenced within the recommended timeframe.

5 or 10 day responses refer to business days.

Use the SDM: Response priority definitions to complete one response priority for each household. Consult the senior team leader as required. (Refer to the SDM Policy and procedures manual.)

To complete the response priority tool:

  • Answer the series of questions in Section 1: 
    • about each abuse or harm type selected in the screening criteria tool
    • until each abuse or harm type has a recommended response timeframe—for an unborn child, identify the likely estimated date of delivery
    • if uncertain about how to respond to a question—respond in the most protective way
    • if more than one timeframe is indicated, the shortest will be the final response timeframe.
  • Identify in Section 2 if a policy or a discretionary override is to be used and if so, provide a clear rationale for the change in response timeframe.
  • Record a policy override (changing it to 24 hours) if one of the two mandatory circumstances apply. (Refer to Apply policy override.)
  • Finalise the intake form and submit it the senior team leader for approval.

Apply discretionary override

A discretionary override is optional and only to be used for circumstances not captured in the response priority questions and definitions. For example:

  • if there is concern that physical evidence may be lost if a response is delayed
  • if a child is known to be in a safe environment (out of the harm household).

Apply policy override

If one of the following situations is identified, apply the mandatory policy override  and change the response timeframe to 24 hours:

  • The family is likely to move to avoid Child Safety and a previous 24-hour priority notification has not been investigated and assessed.
  • The current notification involves a parent who has previously caused a child’s death or serious injury due to abuse or neglect.

Transfer from the Regional Intake Service

When the response timeframe has been decided, the RIS will transfer the open investigation and assessment to the pending allocation tray of the relevant CSSC.  This must occur:

  • immediately—for an investigation and assessment with a 24-hour response—the RIS will also telephone the CSSC senior team leader to tell them of the response required
  • within 3 business days—for an investigation and assessment with a 5-day response
  • within 5 business days—for an investigation and assessment with a 10-day response.

Decide the intake response

Information received at intake is assessed and one of the following responses recorded:

Decide if a limited intake response is appropriate

A limited intake response is suitable if information received does not:

  • contain allegations of harm or risk of harm to a child, regardless of where in Australia the harm or risk occurred—the harm does not have to be significant
  • relate to Child Safety’s core business
  • require: 
    • further action
    • a report to the QPS under the Child Protection Act 1999, section 14(2)
    • a review of ICMS to determine if it is an appropriate response.

A limited intake response may be appropriate in these circumstances:

  • A father breaches a no contact provision of a domestic violence order by sending a text message to the mother and the text contains no threats.
  • A child displays sexual behaviours within the normal parameters for their age. For example, a 15-year-old is seen on one occasion watching pornography on his home computer. There is no evidence that this occurs regularly. If the behaviours are outside of normal parameters a limited intake response is not suitable. (Refer to the practice kit Child sexual abuse.)
  • A parent breaches custody arrangements and there is no concern for the safety or wellbeing of a child.
  • A caller seeks information about services in their area.

Decide if an intake enquiry is appropriate

An intake enquiry is the appropriate response to the following types of information.

  1. No harm or risk of harm to a child or unborn child is alleged and no further action is required by Child Safety. For example, information:  
    • reported through an IJIS report or from a family law court staff member—not including concerns reported in a Notice of Child Abuse, Family Violence or Risk of Family Violence (Form 4)
    • requested by youth justice or another jurisdiction about child protection matters. 
  2. Harm or risk of harm to a child or unborn child is alleged and relates to:
  3. The death of a child is reported as:
    • suspicious or non-accidental and the child had no siblings
    • accidental or there are no suspicious circumstances—a child protection record is still required for the family. (Refer to Information about a child's death.)

Complete a child protection history check for all matters in type 2 (harm or risk of harm) and 3 (the death of a child) to help confirm that an intake enquiry is an appropriate response.  (Refer to Check child protection history.)

To record an intake enquiry, refer to Record an intake enquiry.

Decide if a child concern report is appropriate

Decide a child concern report is the appropriate response if the information does not reach the threshold for a notification, that is:

  • It is not reasonably suspected that:   
    • a child is in need of protection
    • an unborn child may be in need of protection, after birth.
  • There is alleged risk of harm to an unborn child prior to, or during the birth process but:
    • it is not reasonably suspected the child may be in need of protection, after the birth.
  • It is reasonably suspected a child is in need of protection but duplicate concerns have previously been received and recorded. (Refer to Record duplicate concerns.)

To decide if a child concern report is the appropriate response:

  • Gather information from the notifier.
  • Check for child protection history.
  • Consult with a CSSC, if relevant.
  • Carry out a pre-notification check, including a request for criminal and domestic violence history (only if necessary).
  • Refer to the screening criteria.
  • Consult the senior team leader, as needed.
  • Seek approval of the decision from the senior team leader.

Once a child concern report response is decided, provide one of the following responses:

  • information and advice
  • referral to another agency: 
    • refer to Family and Child Connect
    • refer to Intensive Family Support 
    • refer to Family Wellbeing Service
  • information provision —to the QPS or another state authority.

Information and advice

Give the notifier general information and advice, aimed at:

  • increasing safety for the child,
  • preventing the need for Child Safety involvement in the future.

This may include talking with the notifier about:

  • strategies to deal with the situation causing concern
  • ways of talking with the family to encourage and assist them to seek alternative means of support.

If the notifier (either a child or adult) provides information that indicates they may have been injured as a result of an act of violence, give them at least one of the following contact details for Victim Assist Queensland―in line with Child Safety’s responsibility under the Victims of Crime Assistance Act 2009 :

Refer to Procedure 5 Victims of Crime.

Practice prompt

Always encourage the notifier to re-contact Child Safety if they have further concerns about the child.

Referral to another agency

One of the functions of Child Safety is to provide, or help provide, preventative and support services to:

  • strengthen and support families
  • reduce the incidence of harm to children (Child Protection Act 1999, section 7).

The referral to another agency response:

  • assists children and families to access prevention, early intervention and support services
  • may be appropriate if: 
    • it is assessed that the family may benefit from access to support services,
    • the child and family have had previous involvement with Child Safety
    • the child and family are at risk of progressing into the statutory child protection system.

If considered appropriate and the relevant referral criteria are met (see below), refer the child and family to:

Practice prompt

If the notifier is a professional working with the family, ask them to refer the family to Family and Child Connect or an Intensive Family Support Service as they are best able to provide information about the family.

A referral to Family and Child Connect for active engagement or to an Intensive Family Support Service is appropriate if the family would benefit from the service, and:

  • there is a child under 18 years, or an unborn child not currently assessed to be in need of protection
  • without support the child or family is at risk of entering or re-entering the statutory child protection system
  • the family has multiple and or complex needs—at least one family member has behaviours or circumstances that are negatively impacting on the family, particularly children. 

To refer:

Note

If the child concern report is about an unborn child, a referral cannot be made to a service without the consent of the pregnant woman.

Family and Child Connect and Intensive Family Support services will only work with a family with their consent. If the family declines the service when contacted, the service will make no further contact. 

It is preferable to refer a family after obtaining their consent to the referral. If the notifier is a parent and the referral was not discussed with them during the initial contact, attempt to re-contact them to discuss the referral. If the parent is not contactable or was not the notifier, make the referral. The service will seek the family’s consent to work with them.

Make a referral to Family and Child Connect only if further assessment is required to determine the family’s needs. If it is clear that the family’s need can be met by a particular service, such as Intensive Family Support, make a referral directly to that service. Contact Family and Child Connect to seek advice if unsure of relevant services.

Information provision

Report information to the QPS immediately if information is received about alleged harm to a child that may involve the commission of a criminal offence relating to the child, and:  

  • encourage the notifier to contact the QPS directly
  • record actions taken in the intake event.

Advise the CSO with case responsibility immediately, if a child concern report is recorded about a child in the care of a guardian under a:

  • long-term guardianship order
    or
  • permanent care order.

Notify the Family Responsibilities Commission within 5 days if a child concern report or standard of care review is about a child whose family resides in a welfare reform community. (Refer to Send notice to the Family Responsibilities Commission.)

Advise another RIS or CSSC of the response

If a child concern report is recorded about a child:

  • who resides in another region, inform the local RIS, as they are responsible for: 
    • completing any specific local procedures, for example, referring a family to a local support service
    • referring the child and family to a local support service
    • providing feedback to the notifier or SCAN team core member agency representative 
  • subject to an open case, advise the relevant CSSC.

To advise the local RIS or CSSC:

  • finalise the intake event
  • email the ICMS client ID to the relevant RIS or CSSC mailbox, for review by the relevant senior team leader.

Decide if a notification response is appropriate

A notification is the appropriate response if it is reasonably suspected that:

  • a child is in need of protection, that is: 

This is often referred to as the threshold for recording a notification. 

In this context, harm refers to any detrimental effect of a significant nature on the child’s physical, psychological or emotional wellbeing. The harm may be caused by:

  • a single act, omission or circumstance
  • a series or combination of acts, omissions or circumstances that may have a cumulative effect on the child’s safety and wellbeing (Child Protection Act 1999, section 9).

Note

Every notification is responded to with an investigation and assessment of the child protection concerns.

To decide if a notification is the appropriate response:

  • Gather information from the notifier.
  • Check the child protection history.
  • Consult with a CSSC, if relevant.
  • Carry out a pre-notification check, including a request for criminal and domestic violence history, only if necessary.
  • Complete the screening criteria.
  • Complete the response priority.
  • Consult the senior team leader, as needed.
  • Seek approval from the senior team leader.

If information received is about harm or risk of harm to a child and the person allegedly responsible is not a member of the child’s household, a notification response is appropriate when there is a reasonable suspicion that the child does not have a parent able and willing to protect them from the harm. Immediately report information alleging harm to a child that may involve the commission of a criminal offence relating to the child to the QPS—regardless of the Child Safety response. (Refer to Report information to the Queensland Police Service.)

Attention

Household members include all persons who have significant in-home contact with a child, including those who have a familial or intimate relationship with any person in the home. The person does not have to permanently reside in the home to be considered a household member.

Decide if a notification about an unborn child is appropriate

A notification is the appropriate response about an unborn child when it is reasonably suspected the unborn child may be in need of protection after birth. For example:

  • If the parents’ current behaviour or circumstances continue after the birth, the baby would be at risk of emotional or physical harm, sexual abuse or neglect.
  • Changes in the parents’ circumstances that are planned or probable after the birth are likely to place the child at risk of harm.
  • If a pregnant woman who receives medical advice that the unborn child will need paediatric care immediately after birth has stated an intention to ignore the medical advice.

A notification is not the appropriate response if the risk relates solely to the unborn child being harmed before or during the birth, for example, if a pregnant woman chooses, even after receiving medical advice, to take action that is likely to result in death or disability to the foetus.

Note

The gestation period of the woman’s pregnancy has no bearing on:

  • the decision to record a notification about an unborn child
    or
  • the response timeframe for commencing the investigation and assessment.

Advise the Office of the Public Guardian

Advise the OPG that a notification has been recorded.

The information must be provided, excluding notifier details:

Decide if additional notified concerns is the appropriate response

Additional notified concerns is the appropriate response to concerns received about a child, unborn child or family, if:

  • there is an open event in ICMS with: 
    • a notification not yet approved
      or
    • an investigation and assessment not yet approved.

If the information to be recorded as additional notified concerns duplicates concerns that have been previously recorded, record an additional notified concerns form:

  • with a child concern report response
  • regardless of whether the concerns meet the threshold for a child concern report or notification.

Additional notified concerns is not the appropriate response if:

  • There is an open intake event with a child concern report not yet approved.
  • New concerns are received about the level of care provided to a child by an approved carer, and there is an open event in ICMS with: 
    • a notification or an investigation and assessment about the child in the parents’ care
    • a harm report or investigation and assessment about the child in the care of a different approved carer. 
  • Ongoing intervention is occurring with a family and new concerns do not meet the threshold for a notification. (Refer to New child protection concerns.)
  • Concerns relate to a child aged 10 years or older, as both: 
    •  a subject child
      and
    •  an other child allegedly responsible for harm to another child.

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