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2.2.7 Mandatory reports of child sexual abuse

Last Modified: 31-Jul-2018 Review Date: 02-Jan-2017

Purpose

To guide child protection workers in managing and responding to mandatory reports of child sexual abuse that are made to the Department of Communities, Child Protection and Family Support division by teachers, police officers, doctors, nurses, midwives and boarding facility supervisors.

Practice Requirements

  • Child protection workers must comply with the legal requirements outlined in Division 9A Reporting sexual abuse of children of the Children and Community Services Act 2004 (the Act).
  • The practice requirements relating to our response to a mandatory report of child sexual abuse are of the same standards as assessment and investigation processes of other types of notifications.
  • Assessment and investigation processes of child sexual abuse are holistic.  Responses are provided through district offices, or by the joint childFIRST Child Assessment and Interview Team (CAIT), depending on the nature of the allegation and protective issues for the child. Refer to the Child Sexual Abuse Policy.
  • The Mandatory Reporting Service (MRS) intakes all mandatory reports received, unless Communities already has an open case relating to the specific incident of child sexual abuse which is the subject of the report.  If the circumstances of the allegation meet the childFIRST referral criteria, consideration is given to whether a Joint Response Strategy Discussion will be held between the district office, childFIRST, and the Western Australia Police Service (WA Police).
Process Maps

Not applicable.

Procedures

  • Background information
  • Mandatory reporters
  • The Mandatory Reporting Service (MRS)
  • What happens to mandatory reports received by the MRS
  • What to do if a mandated reporter of child sexual abuse contacts a district office
  • Process for referral to the MRS from a local district office
  • Other practice issues
  • Other existing mandatory reporting legislation
  • Background information

    The Mandatory Reporting Service (MRS) determines:

    • whether we have a role in relation to concerns for a child’s wellbeing based on the information received (including the care, development, health and safety of the child)
    • if there are concerns about the parent’s capacity to protect, and
    • whether inquiries need to be made about this child, the parent, or the referrer outside the Department of Communities.

    Factors considered in addressing extra-familial child sexual abuse include whether parental protectiveness:

    • has contributed to the sexual abuse
    • may lead to placing their children at risk of being sexually abused, and 
    • has contributed to the inability to provide adequate support or protection to the child.
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    Mandatory reporters

    According to Division 9A of the Act, Reporting Sexual Abuse of Children (s.124B of the Act), a mandatory reporter is a person who:

    • is a doctor, nurse, midwife, police officer or teacher or boarding facility supervisor
    • believes on reasonable grounds that a child has been the subject of sexual abuse that occurred on or after 1 January 2009 (the commencement date), or is the subject of ongoing sexual abuse, and
    • forms this belief in the course of the person’s work (paid or unpaid) on or after 1 January 2009.

    Boarding supervisors are those working in country and other boarding schools, including government agricultural colleges and non-government and Catholic schools.  'Boarding supervisors' include house managers and supervisors whose duties include the supervision of the children living at the facility. 

    A mandatory reporter is required by law to make a report, based on a belief formed on reasonable grounds in the course of their paid or unpaid work, that a child has been the subject of sexual abuse or is the subject of ongoing sexual abuse.

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    The Mandatory Reporting Service (MRS)

    The MRS, within Crisis Care Unit (CCU), is responsible for receiving, assessing, processing and recording all mandatory reports of child sexual abuse, and for providing general information and advice to mandatory reporters. MRS is a state-wide 24 hour centralised telephone reporting service which receives and processes verbal and written reports from mandatory reporters regarding child sexual abuse as defined under the Act.

    MRS conducts an initial assessment to determine whether we have a role with a particular child or family. The MRS has a process for clarifying information to determine if a child or young person’s wellbeing needs to be safeguarded or promoted.

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    What happens to mandatory reports received by the MRS

    The MRS receives mandatory reports of child sexual abuse via emails, fax, post or telephone calls.  When the MRS receives a verbal and/or written mandatory report of child sexual abuse, information must be entered from the report onto the Mandatory Reporting Component Assist Phase 4.  This generates a report identification number (MR number) and an acknowledgement receipt is then issued to the reporter. The MRS takes the following steps following receipt of a mandatory report: 

    1. Information gathering and assessment by the MRS

    The MRS assesses the information received to ascertain what, if any, further information and assessment is needed, and whether we have an ongoing role with the child. The MRS may undertake limited initial inquiries to seek information from WA Police. The MRS assessment is recorded in Assist and Objective, and referred to the relevant district office, who complete an initial inquiry and undertake a Safety and Wellbeing Assessment (SWA).

    2. Referrals to WA Police and childFIRST Child Assessment Interview Team (CAIT)

    MRS make referrals to the WA Police through childFIRST CAIT under s.124D(2) of the Act. ChildFIRST CAIT is given a copy of the written mandatory report and the assessment of the information received  by the MRS.

    Child sexual abuse of a criminal nature where parents are protective falls outside our mandate to investigate. The MRS intakes these cases with no further action, and refers them to childFIRST Child Assessment and Interview Team (CAIT).

    3. Acknowledgement letter sent to the mandatory reporter by the MRS

    The MRS must send a standardised letter to the mandatory reporter acknowledging that a copy of the report has been forwarded to the WA Police through the joint agency childFIRST CAIT and, if further action is recommended by the MRS, states which district office the report has been referred to.

    4. Recording

    MRS must record all mandatory repots as a duty interaction in Assist with a primary issue of “child protection”, an outcome of “concern for a child”, and a next action of “intake”.  The intake is completed and the approved intake case plan is recorded on Assist. MRS commence the initial inquiry, add the task of SWA and then allocate the case to the appropriate district office.

    If the report contains information which is not new and relates to a case already open to us, the MRS records the information in an interaction in Assist and send an email reference through Objective to the case manager.

    If the report relates to a case already open to us, but it contains new information, the MRS create the interaction and intake as described above, and then notifies the case manager of the intake. MRS also notifies the district office of the transfer via CPFront Desk. All documents are stored in the relevant client file in Objective.

    5. Recommended action when an immediate response is required

    If the case is assessed as requiring an immediate response during business hours, MRS phones the relevant district office duty officer to advise them that a prioritised response is required. MRS also contact childFIRST CAIT to advise them of the priority response as stipulated in the Memorandum of Understanding CPFS and WAPOL Mandatory Reporting of Child Sexual Abuse (in related resources).  

    If immediate action is required after normal business hours, MRS makes a referral to Crisis Care.

    6. Document storage and access

    All mandatory reports are stored in a separate Mandatory Reporting Component which is only accessible to the MRS officers. An electronic copy of each written mandatory report of child sexual abuse received by MRS is saved in virtual client files, accessible to child protection workers through Objective.

    For more information about this process refer to the:

    • Mandatory Reporting FAQ
    • Sexual Assault Resource Centre, and  
    • MRS and SARC Mandatory Reporting of Child Sexual Abuse Protocol - Procedure.

     

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    What to do if a mandated reporter of child sexual abuse contacts a district office

    All general enquiries about mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse must be referred to MRS. If a mandatory reporter contacts a district office to make a mandatory report of child sexual abuse, that person must be referred to the MRS. However, if the district office receives information which requires immediate action, the district office should:

    • deal with the concern
    • complete an intake to commence initial inquiries, and/or move directly to a SWA, and
    • advise MRS that the office has had a contact regarding a mandatory report.

    The district office duty officer should assess any mandatory reports with child protection concerns requiring immediate action.

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    Process for referral to the MRS from a local district office

    The district office duty officer should clarify the following before making a referral to the MRS:

    • whether the caller is a mandatory reporter making a report about child sexual abuse, and
    • whether the caller has formed a belief that sexual abuse occurred on or after 1 January 2009.

    If the caller is a mandatory reporter, the duty officer must call MRS to explain the situation then transfer the caller to the MRS.

    If the caller is not a mandatory reporter, the duty officer should process any child protection concerns according to our guidelines. 

    If duty officers are uncertain whether a caller qualifies as a mandatory reporter or not, they should consult with MRS to clarify.  District staff may advise that mandatory reports of child sexual abuse can be:

    • submitted online
    • emailed to the Mandatory Reporting Service
    • faxed to 1800 610 614
    • posted to PO Box 8146, Perth Business Centre, WA 6849, or 
    • made verbally by telephone on 1800 708 704

    Contact from a mandatory reporter about any matter other than reporting child sexual abuse should be processed by district office. Please refer to Chapter 2.2: Assessment and investigation processes.

    All mandatory reports of child sexual abuse that occurred prior to 1 January 2009 must be assessed and managed by the local district office.

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    Other practice issues

    Case management

    Mandatory reports of child sexual abuse are assessed in the same manner as all allegations of abuse and neglect. For further information, refer to:

    • Chapter 2.2: Assessment and investigation processes, and
    • Chapter 2.2: Child sexual abuse.

    Working collaboratively with mandatory reporters

    In working collaboratively with mandatory reporters the following is recommended:

    • contacting mandatory reporters, providing them with feedback, and keeping them informed of any relevant case management decisions
    • acknowledging any safety concerns for mandatory reporters and being proactive in addressing those issues
    • consider including mandatory reporters in a Joint Strategy Meeting, where appropriate, and
    • using Signs of Safety mapping meetings to develop joint collaborative partnerships.

    Maintaining the confidentiality of the mandatory reporter (s.124F of the Act) 

    To ensure confidentiality of mandatory reporters, all staff must identify themselves as being from Department of Communities, Child Protection and Family Support division (not MRS) when engaging with staff from external organisations when making mandatory report enquiries.

    Child Protection and Family Support division staff must not use the term “mandatory reporting” when leaving messages or speaking to anyone other than the mandatory reporter. This minimises the potential for conclusions to be drawn by third parties about whether a mandatory report has been made, by whom and about whom.

    There are limited circumstances where disclosure of a reporter’s identity is permitted. Refer to s.124F(2) of the Act for further information.

    In cases not covered by specific legislative exceptions, a Court may give permission for identifying information to be revealed in legal proceedings under s.124H(2) of the Act, but can only do so where satisfied that this is:

    • necessary to safeguard and promote the wellbeing of the child 
    • critically important in the proceedings and there is compelling reason in the public interest to make the disclosure, or 
    • the reporter consents to the disclosure.

    Reporters are also protected when making a report in good faith from the following:

    • civil or criminal liability
    • a breach of any duty of confidentiality imposed by law, and 
    • a breach of professional ethics, standards, principles of conduct or from engaging in unprofessional conduct (s.129 of the Act).
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    Other existing mandatory reporting legislation

    The mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse legislation does not change existing legislation that requires Family Court personnel and child care licensees to report child abuse to us as outlined below. These reporting obligations and practices will continue as normal.

    The Family Court Act 1997 (s.16​0) and the Family Law Act 1975 (s.67ZA) require Family Court personnel, such as Family Court registrars, counsellors and independent legal practitioners who represent children in Family Court matters, to report to us when they have reasonable grounds for suspecting a child has been, or is, at risk of being abused.  These mandatory reports are referred to the district office from the senior practice development officer located at the Family Court.

    Regulations made under the Child Care Services Act 2007 (WA) require persons who hold a child care license to report to us any allegation of abuse, neglect or assault of an enrolled child during a care session that is made against a licensee, managerial officer, staff member or volunteer of the child care service.  These mandatory reports are received by the district office.

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