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2.1.4 Responding to safety and wellbeing concerns for children in the care of the CEO against approved carers

Last Modified: 21-Aug-2019 Review Date: 01-Mar-2021

Purpose

To guide child protection workers in responding to safety and wellbeing concerns for a child in the care of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in relation to approved Department of Communities and non-government agency foster, family and significant other carers (carers) and, in principle, to non-government agency employees undertaking direct care work.

Practice Requirements

  • Carer investigations must be undertaken by the Duty of Care Unit (DoCU), jointly and concurrently with a Child Safety Investigation (CSI) by the child protection worker (CPW).
  • A carer investigation is undertaken by the DoCU when:
    • an approved carer is the person alleged responsible in a safety and wellbeing assessment, or
    • there are repeated unresolved standard of care concerns and a recommendation for investigation is endorsed by the district director, or
    • other circumstances are endorsed by the Manager DoCU as requiring an independent carer investigation.
  • In undertaking the carer investigation DoCU must determine the carer’s compliance with the competencies outlined in the Children and Community Services Regulations 2006 - Regulation 4 Approval of Carers.
  • Carers must be provided with opportunities to debrief when required - ideally with a senior child protection worker placement services, Department psychologist or by referral to an external provider through the Employee Assistance Program. For further information please refer to Chapter 3.1: Supporting carers.
  • When a child in the CEO’s care alleges they have been harmed by an approved carer, the CPW, in consultation with the team leader must undertake a risk assessment to determine whether any immediate action should be taken to ensure the child and other children in the care arrangements safety, including the carer’s own children.
  • Where it is determined that a child may be at risk of significant harm or has been significantly harmed by an approved carer, the CPW and/or team leader must consult with the DoCU duty investigation officer.
  • The CPW and/or team leader must advise the senior child protection worker placement services when a concern has been received for Department carers.
  • The CPW must record a Safety and Wellbeing Concern in Care Notification on Assist for the child(ren). A Carer Investigation Notification must be recorded on Assist for the carers by DoCU.
  • The senior child protection worker placement services must amend the carer status on Assist to ‘Under Review’ pending the outcome of the investigation.
  • The senior child protection worker placement services must place an ‘Alert’ on Assist advising that the carer is ‘Under Review’ and that no further care arrangements should be made with the carer while the investigation is ongoing.
  • A joint investigation planning meeting will be convened by DoCU involving relevant Department and non-government agency employees (in accordance with the Department for Child Protection and Non-Government Placement Agencies Protocol).
  • The CPW should proceed with the child safety investion for the child.
  • The CPW must ensure safety of the child (and all other children) during investigation.
  • District directors are responsible for approving recommendations to revoke carer approval. The process is detailed in Chapter 3.1: Revocation of carer's approval (foster, family or significant other).
  • Where a carer investigation results from unresolved standard of care concerns or other circumstances, CPWs do not need to undertake a child safety investigation.
  • Relevant Executive Director approval is required at the conclusion of all child safety investigations related to children who are in the CEO's care where:
    • the person alleged responsible for the harm of the child is an approved foster carer or an employee of an NGO placement provider, and
    • a decision has been made to substantiate harm to the child.
  • All child safety investigations must include:
    • clear evidence of harm, and
    • a clear rationale to support the decision to substantiate harm.
  • If the Department is aware of any person having been charged with, or convicted of, a Class 1 or Class 2 offence, or any other offence that in our assessment makes the person inappropriate to carry out child-related work, the Screening Unit must be notified. The Screening Unit must then notify the Working with Children Screening Unit. While this is a general provision, it must also be observed in casework practice relating to approved carers and Department employees, and in regard to charges or convictions relating to safety and wellbeing concerns for children in the CEO’s care.

Procedures

  • Introduction
  • Tier 2 Carer Investigation
  • Introduction

    The Department has a two tiered response to manage standard of care concerns and safety and wellbeing concerns for children in the CEO's care relating to approved carers:

    Tier 1: Carer Standards of Care Assessment is detailed in Chapter 2.1: Responding to standard of care concerns against approved carers.  Child protection workers should refer to this entry when the safety and wellbeing concern relates to an approved carer but there is no indication that the child has been significantly harmed or is at risk of significant harm.

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    Tier 2 Carer Investigation

    A carer investigation is undertaken when an approved carer is the person alleged responsible in a child safety investigation or there are repeated unresolved standard of care concerns.

    Child protection workers undertaking the safety child safety investigation must:

    • determine whether any immediate action should be taken to provide safety for the child in the care arrangement, other children and the carer’s own children
    • consult with the DoCU duty investigation officer
    • advise the senior child protection worker placement services for Department carers
    • record a Safety and Wellbeing Concern In Care notification for the child subject to the child safety investigation if they are in the CEO's care 
    • participate in the joint investigation planning meeting with the DoCU
    • proceed with the child safety investigation for the child
    • make sure that the child is safe during the investigation
    • complete the child safety investigation - include:
      • clear evidence of harm
      • a clear rationale to support the decision to substantiate harm or that harm is not substantiated,
      • if harm is substantiated, record the person as Actual Harm Continuing Risk (AHCR) if known 
    • forward the completed child safety investigation outcome report to team leader and district director for endorsement 
    • district director forwards the child safety investigation outcome report to the relevant for approval where:
      • the person alleged responsible for the harm of the child is an approved foster carer or an employee of an NGO placement provider, and
      • a decision has been made to substantiate harm to the child
    • if approved by the relevant Executive Director, advise the carer in writing of the outcome of the child safety investigation and the review process if recorded as AHCR.

    The senior child protection worker placement services must:

    • amend the carer status to ‘Under Review’, and
    • place an ‘Alert’ on Assist advising that the carer is ‘Under Review’ and that no further care arrangements should be made with the carer.

    The DoCU duty investigation officer must:

    • quality assure the notifications, and 
    • create a Carer Investigation File.

    The DoCU Manager will:

    • allocate the carer investigation to a senior investigator, DoCU and develop an allocation plan.

    The senior investigator, DoCU will:

    • record a Carer Investigation Notification for the carers
    • review the carer’s care arrangement history and assess the need to undertake a child safety investigation for other children currently and previously placed with the carers
    • convene a joint investigation planning meeting with the CPW
    • consult with the district Aboriginal practice leader if the allegation involves Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander carer 
    • refer to resources available on the CaLD SharePoint Resource Library (link in related resources) or consult with a colleague  who can provide relevant cultural information in cases involving families or children from a CaLD background. For further detailed information on this process please refer to the Reference Guide for Working with Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Families.
    • advise the director of the non-government agency and invite them and/or their delegate to attend the planning meeting, if the allegation involves a non-government agency carer
    • review the safety plan for the child and other children in the care arrangement or household
    • clarify process to advise carer about allegations, including who, what and when the carer will be advised. The carer should be advised of the concern in a timely manner
    • provide the What Happens if a Foster Child Says I Have Hurt Them? booklet to the carer to ensure that the carer is informed about the chld safety investigation and the carer investigation process (in related resources)
    • ensure that the carer has a support person
    • identify the tasks that need to be undertaken, and timeframe, in consultation with the CPW and the agency (if relevant)
    • interview carers and others as per investigation plan
    • review Department carer files
    • ensure all persons who have allegations made against them are given the opportunity to respond
    • track the progress of the investigation and the review investigation plan as appropriate and
    • keep the carer and/or the agency informed of the investigation’s progress.

    For non-government agency employees undertaking direct care work who are not approved under Regulation 4(1) the district director will:

    • recommend that the non-government agency consider the impact of the carer investigation on the employee’s existing work contract, and 
    • request that the agency provide written evidence of the action undertaken to address the concerns.

    If the carer is also a Department employee, DoCU will consult with Integrity Services Unit (ISU) and include ISU in the joint planning meeting. 

    Carer investigations may involve multiple child safety investigations and/or multiple districts.

    The DoCU may have an additional coordination role in complex carer investigations involving multiple children across districts.

    The Carer Inves​tigation Report is completed by the senior investigator DoCU, and is informed by the relevant child safety investigations completed by the CPW. The report is a holistic assessment identifying individual, district and systemic issues that may have impacted on the events.

    In general the timeframe, from commencement of the carer investigation intake to completion of the investigation, is 30 days. The Manager DoCU has authority to endorse extension of this timeframe in extenuating circumstances (for example when there is police involvement).  The carer investigation is an information gathering and analysis process that informs the decision to proceed or not proceed with the revocation of a carer’s approval.

    The process for managing the outcome of carer investigations is as follows:

    • the child safety investigations are completed by the CPW and the outcome is documented in the Carer Investigation Report
    • the final report is quality assured and endorsed by the Manager, DoCU and forwarded with the child safety investigation outcome reports via the district director to the relevant Executive Directors
    • the relevant Executive Director has authority to endorse and direct implementation of recommendations in relation to Department carers
    • the Director Non-Government Policy and Funding has authority to endorse and direct implementation of recommendations in relation to non-government agency carers.

    The Carer Investigation Report will address carer compliance with the five competencies outlined in Regulation 4(1), and will include a recommendation about the ongoing approval status of the carer. The carer should be advised in writing of the endorsed recommendations of the carer investigation and be advised of the process. Where revocation of a carer’s approval is recommended, follow the process set out in Chapter 3.1: Revocation of a carer’s approval (foster, family or significant other).

    The documentation is placed on the DoCU's Objective file, the carer's Objective file and, where appropriate, the relevant child’s file.

    If an approved carer is charged with, or convicted of, a Class 1 or Class 2 offence under the Working with Children (Criminal Record Checking) Act 2004 (WWC Act), or any other offence that in our assessment renders the carer inappropriate for child-related work, the Screening Unit (as opposed to the Working with Children Screening Unit) must be notified.  

    If at any stage during the carer investigation process the Department becomes aware that the carer has been issued with an Interim Negative Notice or a Negative Notice under the WWC Act:

    • the CPW must remove the children placed with that carer immediately, or verify that the carer has been removed from the care arrangement household
    • the CPW, in consultation with DoCU, where DoCU is managing the carer investigation, must commence the process for revocation of the carer’s approval – refer to Chapter 3.1: Revocation of a carer’s approval (foster, family or significant other) for details of this process.
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