This entry details the procedures to be followed by child protection workers in relation to safety and wellbeing concerns for a child in the care of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Department of Communities (the Department). The term ‘safety and wellbeing concerns’ includes all forms of physical, sexual, emotional, psychological harm and neglect.
Safety and wellbeing assessment
Consultation and advice
The Department of Communities 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 safety and wellbeing assessment framework.
Safety and wellbeing concerns for a child in the CEO's care may occur:
A child in theCEO's care may allege they have been harmed by:
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:
The safety and wellbeing concerns may relate to harm which occurred recently, or some time ago and the child may have since left care.
A safety and wellbeing assessment 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 safety and wellbeing assessment there are circumstances where it may be appropriate to allocate the task to another worker depending on any potential conflict of interest issues.
The safety and wellbeing assessment 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 parent/s 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 safety and wellbeing assessment.
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 safety and wellbeing assessment for children in the care of the CEO is to:
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:
If the person alleged responsible is a member of the carer's household, including another child in the care arrangment or a carer’s own child, the assessment should consider the response and protectiveness of the carer. A carer standard of care assessment or a carer investigation may be appropriate.
When a safety and wellbeing assessment is undertaken the following must occur:
Executive Director State-wide and South East and State-wide and South West approval is required for all safety and wellbeing assessments relating to children who are in the CEO's care where:
All safety and wellbeing assessments must include:
Where a safety and wellbeing assessment regarding an approved foster carer determines that a child may have suffered harm, the district must consult immediately with the DoCU.
A safety and wellbeing assessment 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 safety and wellbeing assessment determines if harm has occurred, if it should be substantiated or not, and the recording of the PR or ASH. 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 safety and wellbeing assessment 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:
This process informs the safety and wellbeing assessment. Refer to Chapter 3.1: Revocation of a carer's approval (general, family or significant other).
If the person alleged responsible is a Department employee, before commencing a safety and wellbeing assessment, the CPW must inform his or her team leader and district director. Where the foster carer 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 child/ren while the parallel safety and wellbeing assessment 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 safety and wellbeing assessment 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.
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 safety and wellbeing assessment 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).
If the concern relates to an incidentbere 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:
Refer to Chapter 3.3: Legal rights of children and caseworker responsibilities.
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:
Safety and wellbeing concerns by a former child in the CEO’s care who is over 18 years of age
A safety and wellbeing assessment 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.