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3.4.3 Child and/or parents with disability

Last Modified: 14-Nov-2019 Review Date: 01-Jul-2021


To inform child protection workers of their role and responsibilities in relation to a child and/or parent with disability, including a child in the CEO's care.

Note: CEO refers to the Chief Executive Officer of the Department of Communities, Child Protection and Family Support division (Communities).

Practice Requirements

  • When making decisions on behalf of a child with disability, special consideration must be given to any difficulties or discrimination the child may face because of the child’s disability.  All decisions must be aimed at supporting the child’s full and effective participation in society. 
  • Where a child and/or parent has disability that affects their ability to communicate, child protection workers must use appropriate language and communication methods that can be understood.  
  • When assessing a child concern, child protection workers must consider that children with disability are more vulnerable to abuse and/or neglect, and refer to the Disability Issues Prompts (in related resources).
  • Where a child protection worker identifies that a child in the CEO's care may have disability, he or she must arrange an assessment by a paediatrician and/or school psychologist (if school-aged) and determine the child’s eligibility for specialist disability services funded or provided by the Disability Services Commission division (Disability Services), WA National Disability Insurance Scheme My Way (My Way) or National Disability Insurance Agency National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) Perth Hills trial site[1].
  • If a child protection worker believes that a child or a parent that we are working with may be eligible for services funded or provided by Disability Services, but has not been assessed, they should encourage the child or parent to initiate contact with them to arrange for an assessment to determine their eligibility for services and supports.  This may reduce the chances of children needing to come into care because their parents are overwhelmed and unable to cope and, in turn, reduce the likelihood of safety and wellbeing issues arising in the future.
  • If a child in the CEO's care or their parents have disability - child protection workers must make sure that they are engaged with a Local Area Coordinator (LAC) from Disability Services, a My Way Coordinator (MWC), or a NDIS Plan Support Coordinator (PSC).
  • Child protection workers must involve the relevant coordinator in the care planning process for each child in the CEO’s care who has disability.
  • In the event of a change in placement of a child with disability who is in the CEO's care, child protection workers must engage a coordinator from the relevant agency.
  • Child protection workers must begin leaving care planning when a child in the CEO's care reaches 15 years of age. Leaving care planning for a child with disability must include a coordinator from Disability Services, My Way, or NDIS. 


[1] To be eligible for the NDIS Perth Hills, children must have been resident or in placement on 1 July 2014.  Children who arrive after that date may be eligible under the exceptional circumstances criteria.  Refer to related resources for the eligibility requirements for both the My Way and NDIS Perth Hills trial site schemes.

Process Maps

Not Applicable


  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Support and funding
  • Determining if a child’s wellbeing needs to be safeguarded or promoted
  • Management of complaints from joint clients of Child Protection and Family Support and Disability Services divisions
  • Roles and responsibilities

    Child Protection and Family Support and Disability Services Commission divisions have a shared responsibility to:

    • deliver the best possible outcomes for a child with disability who may need care outside of the family home, and 
    • support parents with disability to care for their children.

    The respective roles, responsibilities, and funding arrangements for children with disability living in family and non-family based placements are set out in the Strategic Bilateral Memorandum of Understanding between the Department for Child Protection and the Disability Services Commission and its associated Operational Procedures (SBMOU) (in related resources).

    The SBMOU outlines the key roles and responsibilities of both divisions and provides guidance in relation to the following matters:

    • reporting a concern of child abuse and/or neglect
    • mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse
    • planning, support, information and funding for children with disability who are in the CEO's care
    • planning for children with disability leaving care
    • children with disability whose continuing care in the family home may be at risk
    • parents with disability
    • children with disability at risk of being left, or who have been left, in respite care
    • children with complex needs
    • information sharing, and
    • dispute resolution (resulting from application of the SBMOU). 

    Child protection workers must understand and implement the directions set out in the SBMOU when working with a child and/or parent with disability. Refer to the SBMOU when the above matters arise.

    Child Protection and Family Support division partners with My Way and NDIS in terms of joint roles and responsibilities. However, the service responses by the two disability bodies differ slightly, and case workers need to be aware of these differences.   

    Overall, each scheme operates on the basis of funding being “reviewable and renewable” on an annual basis.  Any funding provided must meet the criteria of being both “reasonable and necessary”.


    Support and funding

    Communication support

    Where a child or parent has disability that affects their ability to communicate, child protection workers must use appropriate language and/or communication methods that can be understood. The following options could be considered: 

    • engaging an interpreter or someone  who understands their communication needs
    • engaging an advocate for people with disability, or 
    • using augmentative or alternative communication methods – for example, electronic devices that provide voice or paper outputs or non-electronic systems such as books, boards, photographs and signing. 

    Where the child and/or parents with disability are an open case with us, or part of an intake process, we will meet the costs of communication support and the involvement of specialist personnel with knowledge about the disability.   

    Child protection workers may need to allocate additional time to allow for the use of appropriate communication methods.

    For further information refer to the Language and Interpreter Services Information Sheet (in related resources). 

    Disability Services division, My Way and NDIS services and funding

    Disability Services, My Way and NDIS provide a range of direct services and support, and funds community sector agencies to provide services to people with disabilities, their families and carers. These agencies process direct applications based on relative priority need and available resources.  For more information refer to the following in related resources:

    The senior intensive support officers (SISOs) in Service Standards and Contracting are available to support and guide child protection workers in their relationship with Disability Services. This position is responsible for liaising with Disability Services and contracting community sector services for children in the CEO’s care who have disability.   

    Before applying for funding from Disability Services through the Combined Application Process (CAP) for children in the CEO's care, child protection workers should seek support from the SISO – telephone (08) 9222 2874.

    The SISO is available for consultation before children enter the CEO's care and during the leaving care process for children in the CEO's care with disability. For more information on the process for leaving care planning for children with disability, refer to Chapter 3.4: Leaving the CEO’s care.


    Determining if a child’s wellbeing needs to be safeguarded or promoted

    Child protection workers should refer to Disability Issues (in related resources) when gathering and assessing information in cases where a child or parent may have disability.  

    When child protection workers are assessing the parenting capacity of parents who have disability in conjunction with Disability Services, they should:

    • treat the results of IQ testing with caution as IQ results are not a determinant of parenting ability, skills and knowledge, and 
    • focus on the social context of the parent, including strengths and protective factors, such as access to appropriate services, rather than the disability, as this may better indicate potential for safe parenting.

    When assessing a child protection concern where a parent has an intellectual disability, child protection workers must consider the impact of:

    • cognitive limitations on parenting capacity to inform the development of danger statements
    • complicating factors such as poverty, unemployment, social isolation, stress and relationship difficulties to inform the development of harm statements, and
    • family and domestic violence on parenting capacity to inform the development of danger statements. Refer to Chapter 2.3: Family and Domestic Violence.

    Complicating factors are issues that are identified that may make a case more difficult, for example, mental health issues or alcohol and drug use. These are not the actual abuse or neglect, but make the abuse worse, or stop the parents addressing the danger. Child protection workers should seek further information to assess if it is a danger or worry.

    Child protection workers may need to consult with their team leader or senior practice development officer to distinguish if the complicating factor is a danger/worry. Refer to Chapter 2.2: Signs of Safety – child protection practice framework for further information.


    Management of complaints from joint clients of Child Protection and Family Support and Disability Services divisions

    Where a complaint is lodged in respect of an active joint case the Complaints Management Unit (CMU) investigate the component of the complaint that relates to our role. As part of the intake process, CMU assess and, where appropriate, redirect complaints to Disability Services.