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3.4.19 Interstate and New Zealand liaison

Last Modified: 19-Feb-2019 Review Date: 04-Jan-2021

Purpose

To provide information to child protection workers about the processes for:

  • exchanging information between the Department of Communities and interstate and New Zealand child protection agencies
  • requesting assistance and services from interstate and New Zealand child protection agencies, and
  • transferring orders and proceedings to other states and New Zealand.

Notes:

  1. CEO refers to the Chief Executive Officer of the Department for Communities (the Department).
  2. In the Children and Community Services Act 2004 (the Act), 'State' is used to refer to all Australian states and territories and New Zealand.
  3. The term 'placement' refers to 'care arrangement'. 
Practice Requirements
  
  • The primary consideration in any interstate placement is the best interests and needs of the child. Where possible and appropriate, the views of the child, their parents and caregivers must be sought and respected. 
  • Children in the CEO's care must not generally be placed in another State unless an appropriate carer assessment has been conducted and a final order has been granted.
  • If a child is in provisional protection and care, the caseworker must consult with the Child Protection Legal Unit and the Department's Interstate Liaison Officer (WA ILO) before the child is relocated from Western Australia (WA) to another state.
  • The district director must approve non-contentious interstate and New Zealand relocations.
  • All requests for the permanent relocation of a child in the CEO’s care to a country other than New Zealand must be approved by the CEO. 
  • The carer for a child who is subject to a WA child protection order, but who lives in another state, must meet all the requirements for approval of carers in WA.
  • An Aboriginal practice leader (or Aboriginal officer) must be consulted for advice and/or assistance in negotiations with an Aboriginal child and his or her family. All consultations must be recorded. Refer to Assist User Guides - Case Plan - Case Plan Consultations (in related resources).
  • Where a child has a culturally and linguistically diverse (CaLD) background, specific language and cultural needs must be considered. Where possible, this information should be obtained from the child's family and community. Additional cultural information is available through the CaLD Resource Library (in related resources).
  • Where applicable, best practice requires the following chronological sequence of events:
    • professional assessment of the carers before approval of an interstate placement
    • timely notice of the placement to the receiving state
    • prompt request for ongoing casework assistance, and
    • confirmation that the placement is stable and appropriate before a request to transfer the child protection order is made.
  • Until such time as the child protection order or proceedings transfer to a receiving State, the sending State is responsible for all case management decisions, legal guardianship and financial support of the placement. The Interstate Liaison Officer (ILO) in each state coordinates referrals to other States and promotes understanding of the processes established between WA and other states.​
Process Maps
  
  • Request for Child Protection Information from Another State Child Protection Agency
  • Request for an Interstate Broadcast Alert
  • Request for an Interstate Notification
  • Request to another State Child Protection Agency for a Carer Assessment
  • Request for Interstate Casework Assistance

Procedures

  • The Interstate Child Protection Protocol
  • Requesting and receiving enquiries and requests for assistance
  • Considerations in deciding to place a child interstate
  • Initial screening and assessment of interstate carers
  • Considerations in deciding to reunify a child with biological parents who reside in another state
  • Use of private practitioners
  • Department of Communities officers undertaking carer assessments in another State
  • Requests from other states to undertake carer, family and significant other carer assessments
  • Assessments of family and significant others for holiday and contact visits
  • Requests for interstate casework assistance for a child on a protection order
  • Requests for interstate casework assistance for a child who does not have a protection order
  • Interstate requests to locate a placement
  • Information sharing between child protection agencies
  • Interstate child protection notifications and alerts
  • Order transfer from WA to another Australian state, territory and New Zealand
  • The Interstate Child Protection Protocol

    All Australian states and territories and New Zealand have agreed upon the Interstate Child Protection Protocol (the Protocol).

    The Protocol (in related resources) provides a framework within which the States work together within their respective legislations to promote the best interests and well-being of children.  The Protocol is based on the principle that all parties to it operate on a basis of mutual respect and co-operation for the benefit of the children to whom it applies.

    In accordance with the Protocol each state has a dedicated Interstate Liaison Officer (ILO) who coordinates interstate referrals, requests for information and assistance, and promotes understanding of the Protocol. The specialist WA Interstate Liaison Officer (WA ILO) role sits in the Statewide Referral and Response Service.

    Any queries relating to interstate matters should be sent to:  WAInterstateLiaison@communities.wa.gov.au.

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    Requesting and receiving enquiries and requests for assistance

    The Department may request assistance from another state child protection department in the following circumstances:

    1. We are assessing current child protection concerns and request information from another State about their previous involvement with a child or family.
    2. We have concerns that a parent's own past child protection history may be impacting his or her parenting capacity now, and request a Child Protection History Check for the parent from another State.
    3. We want to alert or notify another State about a risk of harm for a child or children who have relocated to that state.
    4. We make a request for another State to undertake a placement assessment for:
      • proposed foster carers, family or significant other carers or respite carers who live in that state
      • reunification assessments for biological parents who live in that state, and 
      • foster carer, family or significant other carer reviews or re-approvals.
    5. We requests another State to locate an interstate placement.
    6. We are planning an interstate placement for a child and make a request for casework assistance to support and monitor the placement.
    7. We request a transfer of orders.
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    Considerations in deciding to place a child interstate

    Interstate placements should always be planned processes and there should be a formal planning or review meeting with avenues of appeal available to significant parties. The planning or review meeting should clearly articulate the case goals and the nature of work to be undertaken with the child and/or family (including reasons for the care arrangement and a child's relocation interstate).

    The meeting should also confirm the appropriateness of the planned relocation and interstate placement.  It should specifically determine that the placement is in the child's best interests, is likely to remian stable and long term, and that it meets the child's needs. 

    Where interstate placements for children are being planned, decision-making should be guided by the following principles:

    • The best interests of the child are paramount.
    • Where there is a need to place children interstate away from their immediate family members, links to parents and siblings should be maintained.
    • Parents and children's wishes must be taken into consideration (where they have sufficient understanding) when placing a child interstate.
    • When assessing the best placement option for a child, consideration should be given to:
      • the location and access to services needed by the child
      • the carer's capacity to meet the child's needs
      • results of the carer's child protection and criminal history checks
      • the child's cultural and religious needs
      • ease of contact with other family members,
      • maintenance of sibling relationships
      • the safety of the care environment
      • long-term stability and, where relevant
      • the risk the child may present to others.
    • Where we are responsible for placing a child, the carers must be formally assessed to meet the competencies under the Children and Community Services Regulations 2006 and approved as suitable.
        
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    Initial screening and assessment of interstate carers

    Children in the CEO's care must not generally be placed in another state unless an appropriate carer assessment has been conducted.  A request for the relevant State to undertake a carer assessment on WA's behalf must be sent to the WA ILO well in advance of the child's possible relocation.

    The State sending the request (the sending state) is responsible for completing all relevant and prescribed child protection and criminal history checks for a proposed caregiver unless otherwise negotiated.

    Unless there are exceptional circumstances, it is a requirement that the sending state conduct child protection and criminal history checks before the assessment request is sent to the receiving state, and include the results of these checks with the material forwarded.

    The assessment report writer must make a recommendation on the suitability of the proposed placement; however, the decision to proceed with the placement rests solely with the sending state.

    Children must not be placed in another State unless an appropriate carer assessment has been conducted. The interstate carer for a child subject to a WA child protection order must meet all the requirements for approval of carers in this state.

    Note:  Under the Working with Children Check (Criminal Record Checking) Act 2004 a person who does not reside in WA, and is not undertaking child related work in WA, cannot apply for a WA Working with Children Card.  Similarly, WA registered carers who live in another state may not be eligible for a Working with Children Card in that state as WA Department of Communities is considered to be the 'employer'.  Our carers residing interstate will need to refer to the legislative requirements of the state they live in.

    Before requesting an assessment of prospective carers residing in another state, child protection workers must:

    • Discuss the proposed assessment with the client and obtain as much preliminary background information as possible to help inform the assessment.
    • Enter the background information into Form 560 and submit it to the WA ILO  with the Request for Carer Assessment.
    • Confirm with the client that they agree to the carer assessment being undertaken by child protection workers.
    • Provide the client with information about the assessment process, including that it will usually take 1 to 2 home visits to complete, and the tirme-frame for interstate assessments is 6 to 8 weeks.
    • Ask the proposed carers to complete and sign Form 140 Consent to Interstate Child Protection History Check (in related resources). 
    • Request screening checks – the Child Protection (CP) History Check and police criminal record checks. 

    Child Protection History Checks for prospective interstate carers should be requested from the state the person currently lives in and any other states they have previously lived in.  Complete Form 901 Request for Interstate Information/Child Protection History and forward with Form 140 Consent to Interstate Child Protection History Check to the WA ILO via WAInterstateLiaison@communities.wa.gov.au.  Police criminal record checks are carried out by the Screening Unit – complete Form 395 Record Check Consent Form.

    In cases where we wish to request a carer assessment by another State, the request must be to be directed to the WA ILO through the WAInterstateLiaison@communities.wa.gov.au mailbox. The WA ILO negotiates with the ILO in the other State.

    Child protection workers must complete Form 902 Request for Interstate Placement Assessment (in related resources).  If a household safety check is required this must be specified and a copy of Form 715 Practical Checklist for Carer and Adoption Applicants (in related resources) must be attached to the request. A copy of the child's care plan should be attached to Form 902.  Information about the child's behaviour and specific needs must be included in the referral to enable a thorough assessment of the carer's capacity to meet the child's needs to be undertaken.  Child protection workers should attach all relevant specialist reports to help inform the assessment.

    If the receiving state is satisfied that the material provided by the sending state is sufficient to undertake the carer assessment, the receiving state should complete the assessment within six to eight weeks of receipt of the request by the ILO.  If this not achievable, the relevant ILOs should negotiate a timeframe.  Requests for assessments in remote and/or isolated regions must be discussed directly with the ILO - time-frames must be negotiated on a case by case basis.

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    Considerations in deciding to reunify a child with biological parents who reside in another state

    ​The reunification process must be planned.  Screening checks are required for biological parents who reside interstate before an interstate reunification assessment is requested. The screening checks include the Interstate Child Protection (CP) History Check (Form 901, with the client's consent – Form 140) and police criminal record checks. Children must not be reunified with parents residing in another State unless a reunification assessment of the parents has been undertaken, preferably by the child protection department in the relevant State. 

    Child protection workers must discuss the screening and assessment process with the child's parents and ask that they complete the following prior to making a request:

    • Form 140 Consent to Interstate Child Protection History Check
    • a National Criminal History Check (note:  as Form 395 is not applicable, the parents may have to pay for this up front - the district office will reimburse these costs. 

    If a district office requires an interstate reunification assessment, child protection workers must complete Form 905 Request for Interstate Parent Reunification Assessment. If a household safety check is required this must be specified and a copy of Form 715 attached to the request.

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    Use of private practitioners

    If a district office requires an urgent carer or reunification  assessment it can ask for a private contractor to complete the assessment. The district is responsible for all costs related to the assessment including all travel and accommodation.  To obtain a list of preferred providers in other states, please liaise with the WA ILO through the mailbox. The availability of private contractors can vary in rural and remote locations and in some states.

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    Department of Communities officers undertaking carer assessments in another State

    Child protection workers may travel interstate to conduct carer assessments, but the cost is incurred by the district and Department approval processes apply. Workers should be aware that their assessment may not meet the assessment requirements of the receiving State and the carer may not meet the competencies of another State.  This could lead to that State not accepting WA’s request for casework assistance or transfer of a comparable Order at a later stage.  All states undertake their own full carer assessments prior to considering order transfer to ensure their own registration requirements are met.

    Child protection workers should:

    • notify colleagues in the other state of their plans to undertake the assessment in their State as a matter of professional courtesy, and 
    • email details of their plans to the WA ILO via WAInterstateLiaison@communities.wa.gov.au.
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    Requests from other states to undertake carer, family and significant other carer assessments

    A district may be requested to undertake an assessment on behalf of interstate colleagues under the Protocol.

    If the district is unable to complete the requested assessment internally within the timeframe of six to eight weeks, and an alternative timeframe cannot be negotiated, the district must meet the costs of contracting an appropriately qualified private practitioner or agency worker to undertake the assessment.

    The assessment report writer must make a clear recommendation regarding the suitability of the proposed placement; however the decision to proceed rests solely with the sending state.​

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    Assessments of family and significant others for holiday and contact visits

    There are reciprocal arrangements in place for holiday and contact visit assessments – these must be competed in four to six weeks from the date of receipt of the request.  These assessments are brief and usually involve one home visit to complete a Household Practical Checklist and meet with prospective family carers.

    All requests for these assessments must be submitted to the other states at least two months before the holiday or contact visit.

    Child protection history and criminal history checks should be undertaken before a request for an assessment is made.

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    Requests for interstate casework assistance for a child on a protection order

    Child protection workers can request a one-off casework task as well as ongoing casework assistance.  Complete Form 904 – Request for Interstate Casework Assistance from WA (in related resources).  

    Case management responsibilities and decision making remain with the State holding the protection order.  If a child has been relocated interstate, monitoring and general support of the child’s placement can be requested from the State the child moved to.

    When a child subject to a WA child protection order is placed interstate, child protection workers should request casework assistance from the other state as soon as possible after placement.

    Child protection workers must complete Form 904 – Request for Interstate Casework Assistance from WA (in related resources). When requesting casework assistance, as much information as possible should be provided about the child, as well as a copy of the child's protection order, current case plan and carer assessment.

    A request for casework assistance must also contain a clear contingency plan in the event that the placement breaks down. The assistance is usually limited to general support and monitoring of the placement through home visits.

    Unless there are extenuating circumstances, the receiving state should respond to the request for casework assistance within six weeks of receipt by the ILO, accepting or declining the request in writing. If a response has not been received within nine weeks and the issue remains unresolved, the sending state may refer the matter in accordance with the dispute resolution process.

    If a child is on a WA Order, but residing interstate, the Department of Communities retains legal guardianship, and is responsible for all case management decisions and financial support of the placement until the child protection order has been transferred to the other state.  

    The WA child protection worker is expected to maintain contact with the carer and child to provide as much support as is reasonably practicable. The receiving State’s role is to provide local assistance and casework tasks such as face to face contact that are not practical for the sending State to provide. The aspects of case management that can be managed remotely via phone, skype and email should be handled by the WA child protection worker.  The WA child protection worker is also responsible for maintaining regular communication with the child's school, support services and professionals involved with the child and family, and ensuring regular feedback is obtained from the co-worker in the receiving State.

    The management of cases involving children should ideally be undertaken by the state in which the child resides.  Child protection workers should seek to transfer protection orders where appropriate.  After a minimum period of ongoing casework assistance by another state for a child in the CEO’s care (usually three to six months), a request may be made for transfer of a comparable child protection order.  Order transfer is a complex process and WA cannot compel another State to accept WA protection orders.  There are essential requirements that must be met before requesting an order transfer. All requests for order transfers must be discussed with the WA ILO.  For detailed information on transferring WA protection orders, refer to Chapter 3.3 Transferring child protection orders to other Australian states or territories and New Zealand.

    In cases where the transfer of the child protection order is not possible, not necessary, or not in the child or family’s best interests, the State holding the order may request ongoing casework assistance. The casework assistance request, without transfer of the order, should be reviewed every two years by consultation between the two departments involved.  The State holding the order remains responsible for case management decisions and all financial costs associated with the placement.

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    Requests for interstate casework assistance for a child who does not have a protection order

    ​Where a carer has been granted Guardianship (such as a Special Guardianship Order or Family Court Order), or where the child is residing with his or her biological parents and there are no current protective concerns, the general understanding is that the receiving State would not be involved in providing ongoing case work support.

    In exceptional circumstances, a specific time limited case work assistance request may be made by the sending State, subject to discussion with, and agreement by the receiving State.  This might occur, for example, in situations where the child has recently been reunified with biological parents and further assistance is required to support the child and family. 

    In these circumstances the referral must be discussed with the family, and the family must be willing to engage with service providers.  The family's interstate address and contact details must be provided.  Complete Form 904 – Request for Interstate Casework Assistance from WA (in related resources). Acceptance of the request is at the complete discretion of the receiving State in accordance with its own policy and practice frameworks, service eligibility criteria and resourcing capacity.

    Whenever possible, WA child protection workers must attempt to locate local support services at the time of the child and family's relocation interstate and ensure referrals are in place to support the child and family's transition to living interstate and case closure.

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    Interstate requests to locate a placement

    ​In specific circumstances, the Department may request another State to assist in locating a suitable non-relative placement for a child subject to a Protection Order (Time Limited or Until 18).  A referral to locate an interstate placement may be requested for a child if it is deemed to be in the child's best long-term interests to reside in another State, and may occur in situations when:

    • The Department is seeking to return the child to a placement in their home state where the child's family members reside and the child has established connections. 
    • We are actively pursuing reunification of the child with parents or significant family members who live interstate or in New Zealand and are strongly motivated to work toward reunification of the child to their care, or to maintain longer term positive contact with the child, and they intend to remain at that location.
    • The child's current interstate placement has broken down and it is deemed to be in the child's best interests to remain interstate to ensure ongoing contact with parents, siblings and family members.
    • The child is an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, and another State is considered to be their country. 

    All child protection agencies in Australia and New Zealand experience placement shortages and difficulty in locating appropriate non-relative placements for children on protection orders.  This is particularly relevant for older children, children with behavioural and/or development issues, sibling groups, and identified indigenous children. 

    Given the overall shortage of placements throughout Australia and New Zealand, it is unlikely that an interstate placement will be found, and parallel planning should also occur. 

    To request a placement interstate or in New Zealand, complete Form 906.  Provide as much information as possible to assist in locating an appropriate placement for the child.  A current care plan, and where relevant, reunification proposal details must be attached.  The request must be endorsed by a district director before it is sent to WAInterstateLiaison@communities.wa.gov.au.  

    In accordance with the Interstate Protocol, another state will attempt to locate a suitable placement, and will provide an update on the status of the referral within eight weeks.  The receiving state is required to make active efforts to locate a placement, but this can only be actioned according to capacity and resources.  If a placement has not been located after three months, the Department will be advised in writing, and the request closed.

    If the interstate placement of a child on a WA Protection Order breaks down, the requesting district office is responsible for making immediate arrangements for the child's accommodation, and this includes returning the child to WA if another interstate placement cannot be located. 

    All placement costs remain the responsibility of the State holding the Protection Order.

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    Information sharing between child protection agencies

    The Protocol allows for the exchange of information between child protection departments in other Australian states and New Zealand.  The Protocol does not apply to the exchange of information between other Australian state government departments, with child protection agencies overseas or with third party non-government agencies.  Interstate provision of information (provided by in the agreed Protocol) is subject to the confidentiality and privacy provisions of each state's legislation.

    Child protection workers may wish to seek information from another child protection department for various reasons:

    • Where there are current child protection concerns for the safety and wellbeing of a child and the family may have a child protection history with another state (no consent required).
    • Where information is sought for the purpose of a carer assessment or contact with a family member or adult household member (written consent is required before the request is made – Form 140 Consent to Interstate Child Protection History Check).
    • Where there are concerns that the child protection history of an adult may impact on their parenting capacity, ​ a department may seek relevant information from another child protection department about that person's own child protection history (written consent is required before the request is made – complete Form 140 Consent to Interstate Child Protection History Check).

    A summary of child protection concerns and information about a particular child can be provided to enable that department to carry out its responsibilities under the relevant legislation.  Other child protection departments are not obliged to release all of their records to WA upon request, and the information obtained from that department cannot be attached as an exhibit to an affidavit without a subpoena unless otherwise agreed by the relevant state.

    Child protection workers must complete Form 901 Request for Interstate Information – Child Protection History and forward to the WA ILO via WAInterstateLiaison@communities.wa.gov.au

    Form 140 Consent to Interstate Child Protection History Check must accompany requests for child protection history check for a prospective carer.  Form 140 is also required for a parent or another adult's own child protection history. The WA ILO forwards the forms to the receiving state.

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    Interstate child protection notifications and alerts

    ​If child protection workers have safety and wellbeing concerns about a child or family they are working with, and that family may have, or is believed to have, left WA, it is a practice requirement and obligation under the Protocol that case workers forward an Interstate Notification or Alert to the child protection agency in relevant States to initiate follow-up and further investigation.

    Notifications (Form 903) are used when a child or family’s location or interstate address is known.  Alerts (Form 661) are used when the child or family’s location is not known.

    Locating the child

    In the first instance, child protection workers should try to locate the child with a request to Centrelink or Medicare.  Before requesting a notification or alert, child protection workers should attempt to locate the child or family by completing:

    In urgent situations child protection workers should send Form 661 while awaiting the responses from Centrelink and Medicare

    Child protection notifications

    Form 903 Request for an Interstate Notification (in related resources) is used for the following purposes:

    • Notification of concern – there is a current risk of harm and/or neglect to a child, and the family has left WA. The family's exact interstate location is known.  A notification formally advises the other State about the concerns, so that they are aware and can take appropriate action according to their legislation.
    • Interstate advice of significant child protection involvement - we want to advise another state child protection department of a family's history and involvement with us in WA for information purposes, as there is a reasonable likelihood that the family will come to the attention of interstate authorities.  This form must only be used if the family's exact interstate location is known.
    • Notification of travel for a child in the CEO's care where possible concerns may arise while the child is interstate - district approval processes apply for interstate travel.   If difficulties are likely to arise while the child is interstate, careful consideration should be given before allowing the interstate travel to occur.

    If a current new address is provided by Centrelink or Medicare, child protection workers should complete Form 903 Request for an Interstate Notification with the new address and email it to: WAInterstateLiaison@communities.wa.gov.au.  The WA ILO will liaise with the relevant state's child protection department to record the Notification on their system.   

    Child protection alerts

    Where child protection workers have safety and wellbeing concerns for a child or family who they believe has moved to another State and their location is unknown, they must consult with their team leader to consider whether to request an interstate alert.  In the first instance child protection workers must attempt to locate the child and family by requesting information through Centrelink or Medicare (refer above 'Locating the child'); however, if this is unsuccessful, they should obtain their team leaders approval to request an interstate alert. 

    To request an alert be placed on another State's child protection system complete Form 661 – Request for Interstate/New Zealand Alert (in related resources) and email it to WAInterstateLiaison@communities.wa.gov.au. The WA ILO will liaise with the relevant State's child protection departments to record the alert on their systems.

    Note:  Child protection workers should be aware that recording an Interstate Alert on Assist does not mean that an Alert has been created and forwarded to other States.  All child protection departments have their own client information systems and requests for Interstate Alerts are actioned through each State's Interstate Liaison Officer.

    For more information, refer to the Interstate Child Protection Protocol in related resources. 

    When the family's whereabouts become known the child protection worker must notify the WA ILO to request:

    • that Alerts are withdrawn when no longer required, and/ or
    • a Notification is forwarded to the relevant State.
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    Order transfer from WA to another Australian state, territory and New Zealand

    For detailed information on transferring child protection orders to other Australian states or territories and New Zealand please refer to Chapter 3.3 Transferring child protection ordersto other Australian states or territories and New Zealand.

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