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2.1.7 Safety and Wellbeing Assessment - safety and wellbeing concerns regarding children in the care of the CEO

Last Modified: 16-Sep-2019 Review Date: 12-Jul-2021

Purpose

This entry details the procedures to be followed by child protection workers in relation to safety and wellbeing concerns for a child in the CEO's care.   The term ‘safety and wellbeing concerns’ includes all forms of physical, sexual, emotional, psychological harm and neglect.

Note:  CEO refers to the Chief Executive Officer of the Department of Communities (the Department).

Practice Requirements

Child Safety Investigation

  • All safety and wellbeing concerns for children in the CEO's care must be assessed by the the Department, including instances where children are placed in non-government agencies.  

  • Where an allegation is made against an approved carer, the child protection worker (CPW) must advise the senior child protection worker placement services and the team leader.

  • With all safety and wellbeing concerns for children in the CEO's care, the CPW, in consultation with the team leader, must assess whether immediate action needs to be taken to ensure the child’s safety, and the safety of any other children who are either in the care arrangement or who may have had contact with the person alleged responsible.

  • A Child Safety Investion (CSI) must be undertaken for all safety and wellbeing concerns  where:

    • the concern identified is physical, emotional, psychological, sexual harm or serious neglect, and

    • the initial inquiry determines there are concerns about a child’s wellbeing and further information is required.

  • The CSI must be approved by a team leader.

  • All safety and wellbeing concerns for children in the CEO's care are assessed by the Department, including instances where children are placed in community sector (CSO) agencies.  Where the concern relates to a carer or employee, a carer investigation or misconduct investigation may also be required.

  • Where there is a safety and wellbeing concern relating to an approved carer an immediate assessment of the safety of children currently in that placement must be undertaken.

  • Response timeframes for the commencement of a CSI are:

    • Priority 1 (within 24 hours)

    • Priority 2 (within 2-5 working days)

  • Where the Department has assessed that a CSI is required, all high risk cases and those involving children aged 5 years or younger should receive a priority 1 response.

  • The priority of response should be assigned on the basis of the urgency to assess if the child is at risk and what actions are required to protect the child.

  • The CPW must consult with Duty of Care Unit (DoCU) for all safety and wellbeing concerns for children in the CEO's care, and a ‘Safety and Wellbeing Concern in Care’ notification must be completed in Assist where the CSI determines that a child is at risk of harm or has been significantly harmed.  

  • Allegations of harm by an approved carer requires a joint and concurrent CSI by the CPW and a carer investigation by DoCU - the carer’s status should be changed from ‘Approved’ to ‘Under Review’.

  • When a carer is ‘Under Review’ no further children can be placed with that carer. An alert must be placed on Assist to record this.

  • A CSI must be completed within 30 calendar days of its commencement. In circumstances where this is not possible, an extension must be approved by the team leader.

  • Relevant Executive Director must approve all CSIs for children in the CEO's care where:

    • the person alleged responsible for the harm is an approved carer, an employee of an CSO placement provider, or a Department employee, and

    • a decision has been made to substantiate harm to the child.

  • All CSI's must include:

    • clear evidence of harm, and

    • a clear rationale to support the decision to substantiate harm.

  • Individuals over 18 years of age who allege that they were harmed as children whilst in the CEO's care should be encouraged to make a report to Western Australia Police Service (WA Police). In this situation a decision must be made on the appropriateness of the Department investigating the concern.  This depends on factors such as: when the harm is alleged to have occurred, whether other children may still be at risk or were at risk, and whether an investigation is feasible. The adult’s wishes should be taken into account in making all decisions.

Consultation and advice

  • Any allegation of child sexual abuse, or allegation of serious physical abuse or neglect warranting police investigation, must be discussed immediately with the Child Assessment and Interview Team (childFIRST). 

  • ChildFIRST must be consulted if, at any stage during the assessment, it becomes apparent that the case involves sexual abuse or serious physical abuse or neglect likely to result in criminal charges being laid by the WA Police.

  • When the Department receives safety and wellbeing concerns about a CSO placement agency carer, a senior officer of that agency must be advised immediately.  

  • Where a child has an Aboriginal background, staff must consult with the district Aboriginal practice leader or other relevant Aboriginal officers for assistance in developing an effective client engagement, assessment, and a case management plan that takes into consideration cultural issues. 

  • All consultations must be recorded and saved in the case file and carer file. Record the:

    1. date of the consultation

    2. name of staff members involved in the consultation

    3. issues discussed and outcomes 

    4. if there is another document relating to the consultation include the Objective reference number.

  • In cases involving families or children from 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.  Additional cultural information is available in the CaLD Resource Library and the Reference Guide for Working with Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Families (in related resources).

  • Child protection workers must consult with the Professional Practice Unit if there are any concerns that a young person, or their parents, may be at risk of radicalisation to violent extremism (RVE), and refer to related resources in Chapter 2.2 Conducting a Child Safety Investigation for further information.

  • Where the matter relates to safety and wellbeing concerns about an approved carer or a current Department employee, a joint and concurrent CSI must be undertaken by CPWs, and a carer investigation must be undertaken by the DoCU.  A misconduct investigation by Integrity Services Unit (ISU) may also need to be undertaken.

  • Each investigation has a different purpose and consultation must occur between the CPW, DoCU and ISU before any investigation commences. The Misconduct Investigation determines staff misconduct.

  • If the Department is aware of any person having been charged with, or convicted of, a Class 1 or a Class 2 offence, or any other offence that, in its assessment, renders the person inappropriate to carry out child-related work, the Screening Unit must be notified. The Screening Unit must notify the Working with Children 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 harm in care.

Procedures

  • Overview
  • Response to safety and wellbeing concerns for a child in the CEO’s care
  • Actions that can be initiated during safety and wellbeing assessment
  • Child Safety Investigation
  • Safety and wellbeing concerns against an approved foster carer
  • Safety and wellbeing concerns against a Department employee
  • Safety and wellbeing concerns before entering care
  • Safety and wellbeing concerns after leaving care
  • Overview

    The Department has a duty of care to ensure children are placed in a safe environment and are protected from further harm. Responses to safety and wellbeing concerns for children in the CEO’s care must be consistent with and informed by the Department's Signs of Safety - child protection practice framework.

    Safety and wellbeing concerns for a child in the CEO's care may occur:

    • outside the home
    • in their care arangement
    • at school, or
    • on contact visits with family.

    A child in theCEO's care may allege they have been harmed by: 

    • another child or young person
    • their carer
    • a parent
    • a step parent
    • an adult family member or friend
    • a Department employee, or
    • a CSO agency worker.

    Safety and wellbeing concerns for a child in the CEO’s care may be reported or identified in a variety of ways, including the following:

    • child
    • carer
    • birth parents
    • child protection worker
    • duty officer
    • other Department staff
    • a CSO agency
    • support workers, or
    • any other person involved in the child’s life.

    The safety and wellbeing concerns may relate to harm which occurred recently, or some time ago and the child may have since left care.

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    Response to safety and wellbeing concerns for a child in the CEO’s care

    A CSI must be undertaken by CPWs for all safety and wellbeing concerns where the initial inquiry determines the child is at risk of significant harm. While generally the child’s CPW completes the CSI, there are circumstances where it may be appropriate to allocate the task to another worker, depending on any potential conflict of interest issues.

    The CSI does not need to assess the parent’s capacity to protect if the child is in the CEO's care on a provisional protection and care order, protection order (time-limited) or protection order (until 18) because the CEO has parental responsibility.

    Parental consent is not required to interview a child who is in the CEO's care.  The case plan should consider timing and need in relation to advising the parents of the concern.

    The Deparment has a responsibility to children in the CEO's care to consider the child’s care arrangements as part of the CSI.

    Forensic interviews and the gathering and analysis of forensic evidence, or full narrative statements that may be used and would be admissible in courts of law, are generally be conducted by  childFIRST.

    All safety and wellbeing concerns about approved carers must be responded to as a Priority 1 by childFIRST and WA Police.

    If the safety and wellbeing concern is about an approved carer who is also a Department employee, a Misconduct Investigation may need to be undertaken by ISU.

    The aim of the CSI for children in the care of the CEO is to: 

    • assess the safety and wellbeing of the child and form a view that harm or risk of harm has  occurred

    • assess and respond to any concerns in relation to the child’s care arrangements, or those of any other children affected.

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    Actions that can be initiated during safety and wellbeing assessment

    The Department must make sure that the child does not remain in a situation of risk pending completion of the assessment. Where harm  is alleged to have occurred between children living in the same house, the children may need to be placed separately. There may also be instances which involve removing the carer, or all the children in a family group home or residential care setting, rather than removing one child.

    If the person alleged responsible is an approved carer, actions may include:

    • implementing a safety plan to enable the child to remain in a care arrangment while the CSI is conducted

    • removing the child or the person alleged responsible from a care arrangment while the CSI is conducted

    • consideration of the safety and wellbeing of other children previously or currently placed with the carers, including the carer’s own children.

    If the person alleged responsible is a member of the carer's household, another child in the care arrangment, or a carer’s own child, the CSI should consider the response and protectiveness of the carer. A carer standard of care assessment or a carer investigation may be appropriate.

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    Child Safety Investigation

    When a Child Safety Investigation is conducted the following must occur:

    • A ‘Safety and Wellbeing Concern in Care’ notification is recorded for the child and linked to the safety and wellbeing assessment.
    • A ‘Carer Investigation’ notification is recorded for the carer (both carers if they are a couple) if they are the person alleged responsible for the harm of a child.
    • The status of the carer amended to ‘Under Review’, pending the outcome of the carer investigation, and an ‘Alert’ is recorded on Assist.  No additional children can be placed with a carer who is ‘Under Review’
    • Decisions about the substantiation of harm and recording of Actual Harm Continuing Risk (AHCR) (if known) are made and endorsed by the team leader and approved by the district director. The recommendations are informed by joint and concurrent carer investigations or employee misconduct assessments or investigations.
    • The outcome of a CSI for a child in the CEO’s care is recorded on Assist as ‘No Further Action’ or ‘Social Services Support’. Child protection investigations and/or intervention actions cannot be taken if the child is already in the CEO's care.
    • A completed outcome report with casework recommendations addressing harm and care arrangement concerns. There are circumstances where care arrangement concerns cannot be completely addressed.  When this occurs, a safety plan for the child should be implemented, and the decision and rationale endorsed by the district director.

    Relevant Executive Director approval is required for all CSIs relating to children in the CEO's care where:

    • the person alleged responsible for the harm of the child/ren is an approved carer, an employee of an CSO placement provider, or a Department employee, and
    • a decision has been made to substantiate harm to the child.

    All CSIs must include:

    • clear evidence of harm, and
    • a clear rationale to support the decision to substantiate harm.
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    Safety and wellbeing concerns against an approved foster carer

    Where a CSI regarding an approved foster carer determines that a child may have suffered harm, the district must immediately consult with the DoCU. 

    A CSI is undertaken by the CPW; at the same time, a carer investigation is undertaken by a senior investigation officer in the DoCU. 

    Each investigation has a different purpose. The CSI determines if harm has occurred, if it should be substantiated or not, and the recording of the AHCR. The carer investigation determines the foster carer’s compliance with the foster carer competencies. 

    Each investigation will have its own outcome.  The separate outcomes should be consistent, however substantiation of harm will not always warrant revocation of foster carer’s approval or disciplinary action for an employee. Likewise an unsubstantiated CSI may result in revocation of foster carer’s approval or disciplinary action where the carer is a Department employee, if the respective investigations determine that the foster carer competencies have not been met or a breach of the Public Service Management Act has occurred.

    Where appropriate, foster carers should be kept informed, however, the assessment process may require that certain information is withheld from the foster carer. The foster carer should be advised that the amount and the timing of information released to them is dependent upon a number of factors, including the nature of the allegation and the police investigation if relevant.

    The carer investigation should include interviewing the person alleged responsible in a timely manner and ensuring that he or she has support, is given the right of reply, and receives information about:

    • the assessment outcome
    • any decisions regarding recording the carer as PR or ASH, and
    • opportunities for review. 

    This process informs the CSI.  Refer to Chapter 3.1 Revocation of a carer's approval (general, family or significant other).

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    Safety and wellbeing concerns against a Department employee

    If the person alleged responsible is a Department employee, before commencing a CSI, the CPW must inform his or her team leader and district director. Where the employee works outside the district office, the district director will advise the employee’s director.

    Where appropriate, reportable misconduct is referred to the ISU via the employee’s director. ISU, in consultation with the employee’s director, will make a decision in relation to the employee’s status, including their contact with children while the parallel CSI and potential employee misconduct assessment and/or investigation is undertaken.

    If the CPW remains concerned that the employee’s work arrangements do not provide sufficient safety to the child, or are not in the child’s best interests, then it is appropriate for the CPW to make alternate arrangements for the child.

    A joint and concurrent CSI by the CPW and/or misconduct investigation by ISU may need to be undertaken. If the employee is also an approved foster carer, a carer investigation by the DoCU may also need to occur.

    Each investigation has a different purpose and consultation must occur between the CPW, DoCU and ISU before any investigation commences.

    • The CSI determines substantiation, or not, and the recording of the AHCR. 
    • The Misconduct Investigation determines staff misconduct.
    • The carer investigation determines the carer’s compliance with the foster carer competencies, and
    • The CSI with harm assessment determines if harm has occurred.

    Each investigation has its own outcome.  The separate outcomes should be consistent however, substantiation of harm will not always warrant revocation of a foster carer approval or disciplinary action for an employee. Likewise an unsubstantiated CSI may result in revocation of a foster carer's approval or disciplinary action, where the carer is a Department employee, if the respective investigations determine that the foster carer competencies have not been met, or a breach of the Public Service Management Act has occurred. 

    Refer to Chapter 3.1 Revocation of a carer's approval (general, family or significant other).

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    Safety and wellbeing concerns before entering care

    If the concern relates to an incident before the child entered the CEO’s care (and the information was not already known to the Department), the CPW, in consultation with his or her team leader, should assess the concern to determine whether:

    • a new intake and CSI is required, or
    • the information should be recorded as a file note and saved in Objective.

    Refer to Chapter 3.3 Legal rights of children and caseworker responsibilities.

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    Safety and wellbeing concerns after leaving care

    In some instances, young people under 18 years of age who have left care may disclose harm that occurred while they were in the CEO’s care. Child protection workers, in consultation with their team leaders, should assess the concern to determine whether:

    • a new intake and CSI is required, and if
    • the concern raises safety and wellbeing concerns for children either currently or previously in the care of the person alleged responsible.

    Safety and wellbeing concerns by a former child in the CEO’s care who is over 18 years of age

    A CSI cannot be undertaken for a person over 18 years of age and previously in the CEO’s care, however, leaving care and/or other support services, and potential legal claims should be considered.

    An adult reporting safety and wellbeing concerns when in care as a child can be recorded on Assist as a ‘family support’ case with the issue of ‘post trauma support’ (or any other relevant issue), and a notification can be lodged with the DoCU.  

    Refer to Chapter 3.3: Legal rights of children and caseworker responsibilities.

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