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2.2.4 Conducting a Child Safety Investigation

Last Modified: 11-Sep-2019 Review Date: 11-Jan-2021

Purpose

To guide child protection workers in:  

  • determining whether the Department of Communities (the Department) has a role and if action should be taken to safeguard or promote a child’s wellbeing
  • conducting a child safety investigation (CSI) to ascertain the current circumstances of a child and family in relation to risk, harm, future danger, safety, wellbeing and protective concerns, and
  • deciding whether we need to take action to safeguard or promote a child’s wellbeing under s.32(1) or s.33B of the Children and Community Services Act 2004 (the Act) and whether a child may be in need of protection.      

 

For investigations relating to children in the CEO's care please refer to the practice guidance in this entry, and the guidance in the following entries:

 

Practice Requirements

 

  • A CSI must determine whether or not a child has experienced, is likely to have experienced, or will likely experience harm as the result of abuse and/or neglect, and whether any further actions are required to safeguard that child.
  • Progression to a CSI must be approved by a team leader.
  • When you proceed with a CSI at the conclusion of an Interaction or Initial Inquiry, you must select a priority level – the priority level determines the timeline for commencing the investigation.
  • Child Safety Investigations must:
    • be conducted under the provisions of s.31 and s.32 of Act.
    • be completed within 30 calendar days
    • utilise the Signs of Safety approach.
  • You must consult with a team leader when making a decision about the appropriate priority response.
  • You must use the Interaction Tool to determine whether or not to proceed with a CSI.
  • You must select an abuse type that correlates to s.28 of the Act to progress to a CSI - this is the grounds under which the investigation is taking place
  • Parents must be informed of the likely outcome of an investigation before completion of the outcome report.
  • A decision to delay sighting and/or interviewing the child, or not to sight and/or interview the child must be clearly documented and approved by a team leader.
  • If there are concerns about the immediate safety of a child, you must consult your team leader before leaving the child.
  • You must assess and analyse the parent's capacity to protect their child.       

 

Process Maps

Referral process concerning young people, or families at risk of radicalisation to violent extremism

Procedures

  • Timeline of a Child Safety Investigation
  • Commencing a CSI in Assist
  • Culturally responsive practice
  • The relationship between abuse and harm
  • Referrals requiring a specific response
  • Investigative actions
  • Procedural fairness
  • Investigation by consultation - when we cannot have contact with the family
  • Investigation not possible
  • Using Signs of Safety
  • Child assessment interview - planning and considerations
  • Undertaking a child assessment interview
  • When there are safety concerns for the child
  • Recording the inteview
  • The Gillick Principle
  • Access under section 33
  • Warrant (access) under section 34
  • Initial inquiries
  • Working with WA Police
  • Planning a joint response
  • Assessing harm
  • Assessing a parent's capacity to protect
  • Writing the Outcome Report
  • Approvals
  • Actions following approval
  • Child Safety Investigation Review process
  • Timeline of a Child Safety Investigation

          
    When a CSI follows the conclusion of an Interaction or Initial Inquiry, a priority level must be selected that determines the timeline for commencing the investigation.

    Priority 1 = the CSI must be commenced within 24 hours.

    Priority 2 = the CSI must be commenced within 2 - 5 calendar days.

     

    You must:

    1. Consult with your team leader when making a decision about the appropriate priority response.

    2. Select an abuse type correlating to s.28 to progress to a CSI; this is the grounds under which the investigation is taking place.

     

    Key dates for recording

    A decision regarding the parents' capacity to protect and the decision date can be recorded at any time during the 30 calendar days.
     

    You are not required to send the CSI for approval immediately after recording these decisions. For example, where you know the likely outcome and are waiting to complete the final right of reply meeting, you can record in Assist a value for the parent's capacity to protect and the CSI decision date. You can then save the CSI, which will remain open, and complete the remaining items when you send the CSI for approval.

    Determining priority level 

    Whichever priority level you record when intaking an Initial Inquiry will remain in place if it progressed to a CSI later.

     

    The following tables can be used as a guide to determine priority level for a specific child. 

    Age of the child

    Priority 1 considerations

    Priority 2 considerations

    Children aged 0 - 5 years are especially vulnerable but older children are also vulnerable when severe injury or threat is present OR infants (aged 0-2 years) determined to be at increased likelihood of harm as the result of risk factors (high risk infants)

    Children aged 0 - 5 years, with younger or developmentally immature children being especially vulnerable

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Functioning and developmental stage of child

    Priority 1 considerations

    Priority 2 considerations

    Child is significantly below chronological age, has severe physical, developmental, mental disability or illness.

     

     

     

     

     

          

    Varies from children whose development is below chronological age or have minor physical/mental developmental disability or illnesses requiring some adult assistance to children where functioning is age appropriate and there is no physical/mental developmental disability or illness.

     

     

    Severity of injury

    Priority 1 considerations

    Priority 2 considerations

     

    Life threatening injury requiring immediate medical attention, sexual penetration or injury, torture, chronic long term harm

     

     

    Ranges from physical harm and sexual harm which may require medical documentation or monitoring to chronic/persistent neglect or emotional abuse which is not life threatening

     

     

    Location of injury

    Priority 1 considerations

    Priority 2 considerations

    Head, face, genitals, internal organs    Injuries on the torso and soft tissue areas may be more serious than injuries located on bony body parts, knees, elbows and buttocks
     

    Recency of harm

    Priority 1 considerations

    Priority 2 considerations

    Same day as report, currently occurring       Ranges from events which occurred within 1 week of the referral to events which happened longer than 1 week ago
     

    Previous incidents

    Priority 1 considerations

    Priority 2 considerations

    Previous substantiated harm or likelihood of harm involving the child or siblings, or a person involved has been identified as Assessed as Causing Significant Harm (ASH) or Actual Harm Continuing Risk (AHCR)       Previous substantiated harm or likelihood of harm involving the child or siblings, or a person involved has been identified as Assessed as Causing Significant Harm (ASH) or Actual Harm Continuing Risk (AHCR)
     

    Likelihood of recurrence

    Priority 1 considerations

    Priority 2 considerations

    Significant likelihood that further harm or issues associated with a concern for a child will re-occur       Quicker response required when there is indication that harm may re-occur within the 2 - 5 day timeframe
     

    Chronicity or persistence

    Priority 1 considerations

    Priority 2 considerations

    Considered together with the severity of harm and includes events where a single incident is associated with severe harm likely to have long term effects; also persistent, chronic, ongoing events which will also have long term effects (for example, chronic neglect of babies which is life threatening)   

    Considered together with indications of severity of injury and may include allegations where events have been spasmodic or once off but where injury has been significant, to concerns where injury has not been significant or there has been no injury

     

     

    Intent of person we are worried about (or impaired self-control)

    Priority 1 considerations

    Priority 2 considerations

    Deliberate intent to cause harm

    Intent cannot be ascertained or is not present; self-control is not significantly impaired through psychiatric illness, substance abuse or developmental disability, or other adults provide for safety

     

    Access to child by person we are worried about

    Priority 1 considerations

    Priority 2 considerations

    Easy, ongoing access to child by a person we are worried about 

     

     

     

     

     

    May include situations where access to a child by the person we are worried about or a person previously responsible for violence within the family is controlled by a family member or by legal provisions such as restraining orders to situations where there is no access to the child or non-abusing/non-violent caregiver

     

    Current location of child/ren

    Priority 1 considerations

    Priority 2 considerations

    Child currently alone or in sole care of the person we are worried about 

        

    Child in the care of a caregiver who is protective or is in a place of safety where access by person believed responsible or of concern can be denied

     
    Protectiveness of caregiver
     

    Priority 1 considerations

    Priority 1 considerations

    No caregiver available, willing or able to care for and protect childPrevious incidents have not been life threatening or severe, or have not been confirmed (there may have been no previous incident); this may vary from situations where there are doubts about a non-abusing caregiver's ability to, or access to support which enables protection of the child, to situations where the caregiver is clearly willing and able to protect the child (or ensure safety in family violence situations)
     
    Capacity of caregiver to provide care for the child      
     

    Priority 1 considerations

    Priority 12considerations

    Caregiver's parenting capacity significantly affected by psychiatric illness, alcohol or drugs, or developmental disability
     
    Precipitating events
     

    Priority 1 considerations

    Priority 2 considerations

    Ongoing, likely to re-occur frequentlyThis may vary from events which have been frequent or which are predictable to events taht are unlikely to re-occur
     

    Stress factors present

    Priority 1 considerations

    Priority 2 considerations

    Family stress factors and distress of person we are worried about or about whom concern is high    

    May include situations where family stress, distress of person believed responsible for harm or about whom there is concern is present but not severe

     

    Information from other agencies

    Priority 1 considerations

    Priority 2 considerations

    Family known to other agency; agency has significant concern about imminent risk of harm to child    

    Information obtained from other agencies will provide information about indicators as well as perception of risk and safety issues

     

    Protective behaviour of caller

    Priority 1 considerations

    Priority 2 considerations

    Caller unable or unwilling to provide short term protection of the child

     

         

    The willingness and ability of the caller to provide immediate or longer term protection or support will impact on response type and time

     
                
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    Commencing a CSI in Assist

    1. Navigate to the Child Safety Investigation from the 360 Degree View screen.  You must have an approved Case Plan to do this. Use the Calendar icon to insert date and time then navigate to the CSI page and select the Save button. 

    2. The CSI will progress from 'initiated' to 'commenced'.

    3. Once the CSI is active, record the parents' capacity to protect. 

    4. Scroll to the bottom of the screen to the 'Parents Capacity to Protect' section. Note, make sure you are ready to record your decision about the parent's capacity to protect their child, as once you enter values in this section, and saved the page, this section they will lock and cannot be edited further. 

    5. Record a response under 'Capacity' of either 'Yes', 'Unknown', or 'No'.  Only a response of 'Yes will allow you to select 'Complete Assessment' under the Action section. 

    6. Record the date in the appropriate section and record an 'Action' from the drop down menu.  The time will populate automatically. 

    7. Record the Decision Date under the 'Decision Details' section. Fill out all available sections, especially the date boxes and save the CSI screen.

    8. These details will remain editable until the CSI is sent for approval.

    Receiving new concerns to an open investigation

    If the Department receives new concerns for an open investigation, consult your team leader to decide if a new interaction is recorded or if the new concern is addressed as part of the current open investigation.

    If…

    Then…

    The new referral contains information regarding the same abuse type as the current open investigation               

    The referral can be recorded as additional information and addressed as part of the current investigation

    The new referral contains information significantly different from the current open investigation or in relation to a different relative

    The referral should be recorded as a new interaction and an intake

    The decision about recording a new referral as additional information or as a new investigation is made in consultation with the relevant team leader, yours, and/or the team leader responsible for the current investigation.

    After hours investigations

    When the Crisis Care Unit (CCU) receives information out of hours and assesses a case as warranting an investigation, the CCU commences the investigation process.

    In the event that the CCU does not complete the investigation they refer the investigation to the responsible district office as soon as possible. 

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    Culturally responsive practice

    When you identify a child or family as Aboriginal and/or culturally and linguistically diverse (CaLD), you must consult with the Aboriginal practice leader (APL) and/or local cultural advisor as soon as possible to gather information to assist in engaging with the parents.

    You must document the consultation either via a case note or using the Assist function. This consultation is to assist in developing an effective plan for your investigation that takes into consideration cultural issues.   

    Working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families

    You should review the resource Stronger Safer Together.  This is a reflective practice resource and toolkit for services providing intensive and targeted support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, developed by the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC).

    When working with Aboriginal families, you should, in consultation with the APL, use the Tindale Map to identify (where possible) each parents' cultural group and languages spoken.  The Tindale Map of Indigenous Australia is developed by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS).

    When families have experienced intergenerational trauma and subsequent contact with child protection systems, you should acknowledge the past and attempt to 'clear the air' for conversations to begin:

    "I know it's hard to talk to me / you might not want to talk to me, but this is really important…"

    I know some of your family have been in care and have had a really rough time, I don't blame you for not wanting to talk to me…"

     

    You must use interpreters whenever required to communicate clearly with parents.  For more information refer to Language and Interpreter Information and Chapter 4.2: Language services - booking and payment.

         

    Working with Culturally and Linguistically Diverse families

    Parents from culturally and linguistically diverse (CaLD) backgrounds may have experienced trauma, sexual assault, violence, loss and grief in their country of origin and/or refugee camps, resulting in post-traumatic stress, anxiety, depression and/or other mental health difficulties. The effect of this trauma can inhibit some parents from bonding with and caring effectively for an infant and make it more difficult for them to engage in support. 

    Pregnant women and new mothers from CaLD backgrounds can be at heightened risk of anxiety, depression, post-natal depression, social isolation and family and domestic violence.

    Protective factors and strengths for CaLD women and families can include:

    • having the ability to move around the community freely (others not controlling movements);
    • having friendships outside of the home;
    • engaging with neighbours, services and others in the community;
    • having access to transport when required (including access to public transport); and
    • having their own phone and access to finances. 

    Where parents may have a background of trauma, you should approach them with empathy and recognise their difficult experiences. If the parents choose to share this experience, you should listen with genuine interest and allows the parents to tell their story.

    Harmful cultural practices can include female genital cutting and mutilation, arranged or forced and early marriages and the payment of dowries. These practices can also involve family and domestic violence. You should have separate conversations with parents to screen for harmful cultural practices and family and domestic violence.

    When gathering information about cultural (and where relevant, religious) practices (and harmful cultural practices), use a 'naïve enquirer' approach to 'fact check', for example:

                             

    "If someone was worried about your child in your home country, what would happen?... Who would you talk to about what was happening?  Who would give you the most help?"

    "In your home country, if a Mum was feeling very, very sad after giving birth, what would happen?"

    "Would someone in your situation (e.g. arranged marriage) be able to go out on her own / catch public transport / go to the shops?"

     
    You must use interpreters whenever required to communicate clearly with parents.  For more information refer to Language and Interpreter Information and Chapter 4.2: Language services - booking and payment.

     

    Where required, you should refer parents to appropriate trauma informed support and mental health services:

    When working with Aboriginal and CaLD families, you should consult with specialist staff (such as the APL and/or the Principal Policy and Planning Officer, Cultural Diversity) and/or access resources and information specific to the family's cultural group and religion (if relevant) to plan for how best to engage the parents and deliver culturally responsive practice.

    You should use a 'naïve enquirer' approach with parents to gather information about their cultural practices, religious beliefs, family 'norms' and parenting practices, including screening for family and domestic violence. Consider the family's experience of trauma, intergenerational trauma and possible past contact with child protection systems. 

    Where there are cultural considerations which may prevent both parents from engaging with the Department you should seek guidance from the APL and/or the CaLD Principal Policy and Planning Officer, other staff and resources, such as those in the CaLD Resource Library, to plan for how to best to engage both of the parents.

    You can also 'fact check' with parents and families what the cultural expectations are for them according to gender:

    "What kind of role do men take in your family?"

    "I would like to talk to Dad but I know it might not be culturally appropriate for him to speak with me.  Who is the best person to talk to Dad?"

    Cultural safety occurs when a person is not in fear of racism or discrimination.  They feel spiritually, socially, emotionally and physically safe to be themselves.

    You can 'set the scene' for cultural safety by approaching parents in a respectful and non-judgemental way, not 'speaking down' to the parents and showing a genuine interest in what they have to say.

    For more information on culturally responsive practice, refer to SNAICC's Implementation of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle resource.  

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    The relationship between abuse and harm

    The Department's role in a CSI is to investigate abuse and determine whether the child has suffered physical, emotional or psychological harm to the level that it has had a detrimental effect of a significant in nature as a result of abuse and/or neglect as identified in s.28 of the Act.

    Where 'abuse' is an action or inaction against a child, 'harm' refers to the detrimental effect or impact of that action or inaction on the child.

    Harm is defined in s.3 of the Act as harm to the child's physical, emotional or psychological development.

    Harm can be the result of a single act, omission or circumstance, or a series or combination of acts, omissions or circumstances (previously referred to as cumulative harm).

    You must develop a harm statement whenever harm is substantiated.

    Definitions of abuse

    Abuse is an act or failure to act towards or on behalf of a child that may result in harm.

    Abuse can occur on one or multiple occasions; we have previously referred to these concepts as an "omission of care" or "cumulative harm". It is possible to have cumulative abuse (multiple events over time) that results in harm that is cumulative in nature (the impact of the events has been cumulative). 

    The abuse types and grounds for when a child is in need of protection are identified in s.28 of the Act.

    Cumulative impact, risk and harm

    Abuse type and section in the Act    

    Physical abuse s.28(c)(i)i) 


    Physical abuse occurs when a child has suffered severe and/or persistent ill-treatment through behaviours such as beating, shaking, inappropriate administration of alcohol, drugs and medicines, attempted suffocation, excessive discipline, excessive physical punishment, scalding, shoving, hitting, slapping, kicking, biting, burning, strangling, poisoning, female genital mutilation.

    Common measures to determine if physical punishment of a child is reasonable could include the age and size of the child, the method of punishment, the child’s capacity for reasoning and the harm caused to the child.

    Section 257 Criminal Code 1913 states:

    It is lawful for a parent or a person in place of a parent, or for a schoolmaster, to use, by way of correction, towards a child or pupil under his care, such force as is reasonable under the circumstances.

    Physical Abuse Policy

            

    Sexual abuse s.28(c)(ii) 


    ‘Sexual abuse’, in relation to a child, includes sexual behaviour in circumstances where:

    • the child is the subject of bribery, coercion, a threat, exploitation or violence; or
    • the child has less power than another person involved in the behaviour; or
    • there is a significant disparity in the developmental function or maturity of the child and another person involved in the behaviour.

    Sexual abuse occurs when a child has been exposed or subjected to sexual behaviours that are exploitative and/or inappropriate to his/her age and development level. Examples of this include sexual penetration, inappropriate touching, exposure to sexual acts or pornographic materials and using the internet for grooming and soliciting children for sexual exploitation. 

    Sexual activities between young people are not considered as sexual abuse unless:

    • it is non-consensual or there are concerns about the young person’s capacity to give consent
    • there are factors such as bribery, coercion, threats, exploitation or violence
    • the child has less power than the other person, or
    • there is significant disparity in the developmental function or maturity.

    Child sexual abuse can be broadly categorised as ‘intra-familial’ or ‘extra-familial’ child sexual abuse.

    Intra-familial child sexual abuse is perpetrated by a person who is a relative of the child or has a kinship relationship with the child. This applies to any child under 18 years of age.

    The term 'relative' in relation to a child is defined in s.3 of the Act as: 

    (a) the child's:

      • parent, grandparent or other ancestor
      • step-parent
      • sibling
      • uncle or aunt
      • cousin
      • spouse or de facto partner

    whether the relationship is established by, or traced through, consanguinity, marriage, a de facto relationship, a written law or a natural relationship.

    (b) in the case of an Aboriginal child, a person regarded under the customary law or tradition of the child's community as the equivalant of a person mentioned in paragraph (a) above, and

    (c) in the case of a Torrest Strait Islander child, a person regarded under the customary law or tradition of the Torres Strait Islands as the equivalant of a person mentioned in paragraph (a) above.

    Extra-familial child sexual abuse perpetrated by a person who is not a relative of the child or by a person outside the child or young person's kinship system. The Department does not generally investigate allegations of extra-familial sexual abuse, unless there are concerns about the parent's capacity to protect the child following the application of the Interaction Tool.

    Child Sexual Abuse Policy

    Staff must consult with appropriate Aboriginal staff in their districts or with the Senior Advisor, Aboriginal Services or the Senior Advisor, Cultural Diversity, with regards to kinship relationships 

     
     

    Emotional abuse (including family and domestic violence and psychological) s.28(c)(iii) 


    Emotional abuse is the sustained, repetitive, inappropriate, ill-treatment of a child or young person through behaviours including threatening, belittling, teasing, humiliating, bullying, confusing, ignoring and inappropriate encouragement.

    The term ‘emotional abuse’ includes psychological abuse (the sustained, repetitive, inappropriate, ill-treatment of a child or young person through behaviours including threatening, isolating, neglecting, discrediting, misleading, disregarding, ignoring and inappropriate encouragement) and exposure to family and domestic violence, which causes serious emotional, psychological and physical harm to children, as well as placing them at increased likelihood of abuse and neglect.

    Emotional Abuse - Family and Domestic Violence Policy 

            

    Neglect s.28(c)(v)


    Neglect is when a child is not provided with adequate food or shelter, effective medical, therapeutic or remedial treatment, and/or care, nurturing or supervision to a severe and/or persistent extent where the health or development of the child is significantly impaired or placed at serious risk.

    It includes failure by a child's parents to provide, arrange or allow the provision for adequate care for the child or effective medical, therapeutic or remedial treatment for the child.   

    Neglect Policy

               

    Other legislative grounds for intake 

    Abandonment- Section 28(2)(a)(i) and (ii) - a child has been abandoned by their parents and the parents cannot be found and no suitable adult relative or other suitable adult can be found who is willing and able to care for the child.

    Dead or incapacitated - Section 28(2)(b) - the child's parents are dead or incapacitated and no suitable adult relative or other suitable adult can be found who is willing and able to care for the child.

    Unable to provide adequate care - Section 28(2)(d)(i) and (ii) - the child has suffered or is likely to suffer harm as a result of the child's parents being unable to provide, or arrange the provision of, adequate care for the child OR the child's parents being unable to provide, or arrange the provision of, effective medical, therapeutic, or other remedial treatment for the child.

         
    Types of harm

    Harm is the impact of abuse; it is the detrimental effect on the child and significant in nature. 

    Harm is categorised in s.3 of the Act as the impact on a child's physical, emotional or psychological development. A child may suffer physical harm, emotional harm or psychological harm as a result of abuse. It is possible to have cumulative abuse that results in harm that is cumulative in nature. 

    • Physical harm – Evidence of impact on the child's physical body, can be internal or external in nature.

    • Emotional harm – Evidence that the abuse or neglect has affected how the child feels, for example, how the child feels about themselves and the world around them.

    • Psychological harm – Evidence that the abuse or neglect has impaired or impeded the mental life or mental development of the child. The mental life includes things like intelligence, memory, recognition, perception, attention, imagination and moral development.

    Abuse types (grounds for investigation) and evidence of harm for physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse (including emotional abuse FDV and psychological abuse) and neglect, and how they can impact on the child (including but not limited to):

    Evidence of harm/impact on child

    Physical harm:

    1. Bruising
    2. Fractures
    3. Internal injuries
    4. Burns
    5. Bites
    6. Injury as a result of penetration
    7. Injury as a result of FDV
    8. Illness and/or infection
    9. Malnutrition and/or dehydration
    10. Disease (as a result of neglect)
    11. Death as a result of co-sleeping
    12. Failure to thrive (as a result of neglect)
    13. Female genital cutting and/or mutilation

    Emotional harm:

    1. Sadness and/or anger
    2. Poor self-esteem
    3. Fear and/or anxiety
    4. Communication and/or relationship difficulties
    5. Drug and/or alcohol misuse
    6. Antisocial and/or criminal behaviour
    7. High levels of aggression
    8. Emotional regulation difficulties
    9. Dissociation
    10. Suicidality
    11. Somatization (physical symptoms from distress)
    12. Poor interpersonal skills and relationship dysfunction

    Psychological harm:

    1. Sadness and/or anger
    2. Poor self-esteem
    3. Fear and/or anxiety
    4. Communication and/or relationship difficulties
    5. Drug and/or alcohol misuse
    6. Antisocial and/or criminal behaviour
    7. High levels of aggression
    8. Emotional regulation difficulties
    9. Dissociation
    10. Suicidality
    11. Somatization (physical symptoms from distress)
    12. Poor interpersonal skills and relationship dysfunction.
     
     

    Abandonment s.28(2)(a)(i)(ii) Child abandoned by parents, parents cannot be found, and no suitable adult relative or other suitable adult can be found who is willing to care for the child.


    Dead or incapacitated s.28(2)(b) Child's parents are dead or incapacitated and no suitable adult relative or other suitable adult can be found who is willing to care for the child.

    The Act does not allow for the consideration of harm in relation to these sections, therefore the recorded outcome will be 'intervention action'.

    With regards to section s.28(2)(a)(i)(ii) of the Act this can only apply when we cannot locate a parent or suitable adult relative. When we are able to locate a parent we should refer to another section of the Act, such as s.28(2)(d)(i) and (ii).

    The implications of these sections is that although there are grounds for the child to enter care, these are not a direct result of parent’s actions, therefore they cannot be held accountable for harm. The parents have acted out of incapacity or inability, rather than with intention to harm their child.                               

     
     

    Unable to provide adequate care s.28(2)(d)(i)(ii)

    The child has suffered or is likely to suffer harm as a result of his or her parents being unable to provide, or to arrange for the provision of adequate care for the child OR to provide, or arrange for the provision of effective medical, therapeutic, or other remedical treatment for the child.                   

    This section allows us to make a determination that the child has or will suffer harm regardless of the parent's inability to provide or arrange care.

    Physical harm:

    1. Bruising
    2. Fractures
    3. Internal injuries
    4. Burns
    5. Bites
    6. Injury as a result of penetration
    7. Injury as a result of FDV
    8. Illness and/or infection
    9. Malnutrition and/or dehydration
    10. Disease (as a result of neglect)
    11. Death as a result of co-sleeping
    12. Failure to thrive (as a result of neglect)
    13. Female genital cutting and/or mutilation

    Emotional harm:

    1. Sadness and/or anger
    2. Poor self-esteem
    3. Fear and/or anxiety
    4. Communication and/or relationship difficulties
    5. Drug and/or alcohol misuse
    6. Antisocial and/or criminal behaviour
    7. High levels of aggression
    8. Emotional regulation difficulties
    9. Dissociation
    10. Suicidality
    11. Somatization (physical symptoms from distress)
    12. Poor interpersonal skills and relationship dysfunction

    Psychological harm:

    1. Sadness and/or anger
    2. Poor self-esteem
    3. Fear and/or anxiety
    4. Communication and/or relationship difficulties
    5. Drug and/or alcohol misuse
    6. Antisocial and/or criminal behaviour
    7. High levels of aggression
    8. Emotional regulation difficulties
    9. Dissociation
    10. Suicidality
    11. Somatization (physical symptoms from distress)
    12. Poor interpersonal skills and relationship dysfunction.
          
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    Referrals requiring a specific response

    There may be contextual circumstances present in a referral which dictate a specific response from the Department. Those circumstances and information about how to respond are detailed below.

    If you are unsure whether a referral requires a specific response, you must consult with a team leader.

    For information and instructions refer to the resource Referrals requiring a specific response (also in related resources).

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    Investigative actions

    Child Safety Investigations are designed to address and assess the initial or immediate child protection concerns for a child. As part of a CSI, you must take actions to gather credible evidence in order to assist them in making a determination.

    The following actions are recommended in order to gather sufficient information to address the three practice requirements of a CSI:

    1. Whether or not the child has experienced harm or is likely to experience harm as a result of the abuse
    2. The parent's capacity to protect the child from harm; and
    3. Whether the child is in need of protection.

     

    The Signs of Safety Child Protection Practice Framework should be used throughout the investigation to promote engagement with parents and families. For more information go to the next section 'Utilising Signs of Safety'.

     

    You are encouraged to consult with other professionals throughout the investigation process, this might include talking to:

    • Senior practice development officer (SPDO)
    • Aboriginal practice leader (APL)
    • Team leader (TL)
    • Other senior workers
    • Professional Practice Unit (PPU)

    Credible Evidence

    The Department's standard of proof is the balance of probabilities, whereas the standard of proof for criminal matters is beyond reasonable doubt.  'Balance of probability' is defined as something that is more likely than not. 

    We are required to gather credible evidence that will support the outcome of our investigation on the balance of probabilities.

    Credible evidence can include:

    • verbal statements
    • medical evidence
    • photographic evidence
    • observations, including behavioural indicators
    • relevant information from other agencies
    • hearsay evidence that has been corroborated, and/or
    • witness to the harm.

    Timeline of Investigative Actions

    In the timeline of a CSI, there are five investigative actions that you must undertake.  They include:

    1. Immediate safety planning
    2. Notify the parents
    3. All the parents the opportunity to respond
    4. Sight and/or interview the child
    5. Notify both parents of the likely outcome of the investigation.

    These are the minimum actions expected of you when completing a CSI.  They are focused on procedural fairness and the voice of the child.  You can complete these actions in the order best suited to your investigation.

    You must use professional discretion and judgement to determine what other actions you might undertake as part of the investigation, in order to gather credible evidence and make a comprehensive assessment.   

    Whilst these are not requirements for every investigation, it is expected that you will undertake any other suitable actions relevant to your investigation.

    Other actions you take should be relevant to the type of abuse and harm you are investigating.  Other suitable actions may include, but are not limited to:

    • use of the Signs of Safety tools to engage with the parents and family
    • further contact with the original referrer
    • contact with other family members
    • contact with the school, general practitioner, other services involved with the child/family to gain up to date assessments of the child/family
    • contact with WA Police/WA Health using s.23 of the Act to request relevant information
    • request information from interstate when you know the family have relocated (AAA Form 901)
    • completing an initial or immediate safety plan
    • home visits to observe the child's environment
    • interview witnesses about any alleged harm
    • obtain relevant assessments or records, e.g. health, psychological
    • referral to services, and/or
    • provision of social services.

    Your response must be based upon information you receive as a result of investigative actions undertaken. This might mean that there are investigations that require immediate safety planning, and other investigations where it is not required. 

    1. Immediate safety planning 

    You may need to conduct immediate safety planning at any given point in the life of an investigation (refer to chapter 2.2: Signs of Safety - child protection practice framework for guidance on safety planning, including developing harm and/or danger statements and safety goals).  

    Safety planning must be conducted in collaboration with parents, children, families and professionals. Please refer to the steps below for guidance regarding immediate safety planning:

    1. You must have clear danger statements and safety goals before commencing safety planning. These state our grounds for involvement and what we need to see achieved to end our involvement.

    2. Think about completing a safety scale at the commencement of safety planning - this lets everyone know how worried people are at the commencement of safety planning and can be used to review whether safety planning is required later.

    3. Use detailed questions to elicit strengths and safety.

    4. Talk to the parents, children and family about their safety networks.

    5. Be clear about your bottom lines and non-negotiables. Remember, these cannot be coercive and must operate within our legislation. Try to discuss these with a senior worker or team leader prior to planning with the family.

    6. Timeframes. An immediate safety plan may only be required for a few days while you undertake some investigative actions to determine whether longer term safety planning is actually required. Give an indication about when you are going to review the safety plan and ensure that you document a rationale if a safety plan is no longer required.

    7. Monitoring. How will you know if the safety plan is/isn't working?

    If you have completed an immediate safety plan early in the investigation and later assess that a longer term, formal safety planning is required, you should try to complete the investigation and progress the matter to Intensive Family Support for comprehensive safety planning to be undertaken.

     Suggested wording:

    "Thanks for allowing us to come and meet with you.  As part of our investigation we need to do some safety planning about what we've talked about today".                           

    "Developing a safety plan is really critical at the moment, because it ensures that we have a shared understanding about what is happening over the next few days".

    "A safety plan will reassure me that there is a clear plan in place for the children to be safe, while the adults do some actions".

    "Once we've done the actions in this safety plan, I'll have more information and we can come back together to discuss whether further safety planning is required or if all our worries have been addressed"

    2. Notifying parents  

    The Department must apply procedural fairness to actions taken as part of a CSI. This begins by notifying both parents, where it is safe to do so, of the investigation and the grounds for the investigation.

    You should consider when the parents are to be advised and by whom. The decision to delay advising or to not advise the parents of our intention to talk to, interview, examine or sight the child should be planned and the rationale documented, including consideration of the impact on the child.

    • Unless there is a court order directly affecting the parental rights of an individual, then both parents, regardless of caring time, have equal parental right. 
    • You must assume that family and domestic violence is a factor in all cases and screen out for this.  As much as possible you should try to hold initial conversations with parents separately.  This allows for FDV screening to occur, but also minimises the likelihood that the parents will influence each other’s recall of events. 

    You can make contact with parents by:

    • phone,
    • in person,
    • in a home visit, or
    • by letter. 

     

    You should use the Signs of Safety framework when engaging with the parents.  It's important to foster a stance of enquirey and use the questioning approach.  

    When there is an increased likelihood of significant harm to an infant, you must decide whether action is needed to safeguard or promote an infant's wellbeing, and whether they may be in need of protection (s.21 of the Act). When your assessment is that concerns for an unborn infant do not require an investigation, you may still consider the provision of social services as per s.32(1)(a) of the Act.

    Suggested wording when contacting parents:

    "Hi, my name is …, I'm calling from the Department of Communities."

    "My role is to investigate some worries that I've received in relation to your child, is it safe for you to talk at the moment?"

    "We've received some worries about ....... abuse of your children and I'd like to organise a time when I can come to your home and talk to you more about this".

     

    3. Allow the parents the opportunity to respond  

    The Department must allow parents the opportunity to respond to the reported concerns and provide their account. It's critical that parents understand your role in undertaking an investigation that will require them to make a determination about harm.

    Whilst it may seem excessive to notify the parents of your role, failure to do so may mean that they are not fully informed of your statutory role in conducting an investigation and the seriousness of the situation, thereby denying them procedural fairness.

    Parents can respond to reported concerns by:

    • phone
    • in person, e.g., at a home visit, or
    • At a Signs of Safety meeting.

    Suggested wording:

    "Thank you for letting us come over. As I said on the phone, my name is ……. and I work for the Department of Communities".

    "My job is to complete a Child Safety Investigation and determine whether or not your child, (name), has or hasn't experienced harm".

    "As part of that investigation I want to get your perspective on the worries that have been reported".

     

    4. Sight and/or interview the child 

    You must sight and/or interview the child during the course of a CSI. The Department places significant value on the voice of the child and this is one way to gather credible evidence.

    You should seek the consent of the parents to interview or sight the child as early as possible in the investigation. 

    A decision to delay sighting and/or interviewing the child or not to sight and/or interview the child must be clearly documented and approved by your team leader.

    The Department must have authority to interview a child. This authority can come from two avenues:

    1. Parental permission; and
    2. Section 33 of the Act.

    Detailed information about interviewing children is provided in the section 'Interviewing the child' below. 

    Suggested wording - requesting parental permission to interview a child:

    "Thanks for giving me so much information about your family. Part of our role is also to talk to children about what they think is going on for them."

    "We think that what they have to say is really important. We usually talk to them at school because it's an independent place and somewhere safe for them."

    "Would you be happy for us to arrange this? I would let you know when it was going to happen."

    "I will contact you following the interview to either give you feedback over the phone or arrange to visit you again."

     

    5. Notify both parents of the likely outcome of the investigation 

    You must inform the parents of the likely outcome of the investigation before you complete your outcome report in the interest of procedural fairness.  This allows the parents a final opportunity to express their views, ask any questions regarding processes and respond to the likely outcome.  You can do this at a:

    • Signs of Safety meeting
    • a home visit
    • an office meeting, or by
    • phone.

    Suggested wording:

    "Thank you for coming in to meet with us. As I've let you know before, my role was to conduct a Child Safety Investigation, which I've done and I wanted to talk to you about the likely outcome".

    "As part of my investigation I've considered whether or not your child, (name), has experienced harm as a result of ……… abuse. My recommendation is that (name) has been harmed as a result of ……… abuse".

    "This means that I will recommending that we substantiate …… harm and that the case remains open for Intensive Family Support so that the Department can continue to work with you to make sure that these worries are addressed".

    "My decision has to be approved by my team leader. You can appeal my recommended decision by contacting my team leader and discussing the outcome directly".

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    Procedural fairness

    Procedural fairness, also referred to as natural justice, is concerned with the procedures used by a decision-maker to obtain an outcome, rather than the actual outcome reached. Principles of procedural fairness should be applied to all decisions that may negatively affect the rights, interests or legitimate expectations of an individual, such as when identifying and recording a person assessed as Actual Harm Continuing Risk (AHCR).

    The following three principles underpin our processes:

    • The hearing rule – the decision maker must give an opportunity to an individual whose interests may be adversely affected by their decision the opportunity to be heard, before the decision is made.

    • The bias rule – the decision maker should be unbiased in the matter to be decided.

    • The no evidence rule – the decision that is made must be based on logical evidence (proven on the balance of probabilities – that is, there is a real possibility, that cannot be sensibly ignored, having regard to the nature and gravity of the feared harm in the particular case).

    The Department follows the Western Australia Ombudsman's guidelines for procedural fairness which can be found on their website. All authorised officers should be familiar with the concept of procedural fairness and aim to promote this in their work.

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    Investigation by consultation - when we cannot have contact with the family

    In some exceptional circumstances you may undertake investigations where you cannot or are not allowed to have direct contact with the family.

    In these cases, it may be possible to gather sufficient information from other sources, such as the WA Police or an interstate child protection agency, to finalise the investigation.

    An investigation by consultation requires that:

    • the person/s with whom the child protection worker is consulting must have direct contact with the child and the parents
    • that each has had an opportunity to respond to the allegation (age and maturity permitting), and
    • that each has had their responses considered.

    You can then make a determination about whether or not harm is substantiated, and this completes the investigation by consultation. This method of investigation is recorded in Assist as "Investigation by Consultation".

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    Investigation not possible

    ​There may also be exceptional circumstances when you are unable to conduct an investigation. You may have made multiple attempts to engage with the parents, locate the parents and/or locate the children with no success. You should discuss with your team leader if sufficient efforts have been made to conduct an investigation and whether the investigation outcome should be recorded as unable to investigate.

    If you make this decision you must still complete an outcome report that details the efforts made to conduct the investigation and a plan for what should happen if the family comes to the attention of the Department in the future.

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    Using Signs of Safety

    ​You must use the Signs of Safety Child Protection Practice Framework when working with families and other agencies to develop cooperative relationships and better outcomes for children.

    Signs of Safety tools can be used throughout the investigation to promote the three core principles of:

    1. working relationships;
    2. Munro's maxim: thinking critically, fostering a stance of enquiry; and
    3. landing grand aspirations in everyday practice.

    We must establish a working relationship with the child's parents and, if age appropriate, the child to resolve the issues that have led to the concerns. We should also take into account the networks of support that surround a child and seek to engage and include all stakeholders.

    For more information on Signs of Safety, including tools and resources, please refer to Chapter 2.2 Signs of Safety - Child Protection Practice Framework and the Signs of Safety Hive

    Harm statements, danger statements, and safety goals

    Harm statement: 

    The description of who (name of person) caused harm to who (name of child) and the impact of that harm on the child.  These are only created when the Department has already substantiated actual significant harm to a child. 

    Danger statement: 

    The description of what the Department and others are worried might happen to the child in the care of their parents or carers in the future if the harmful adult behaviour doesn't change. 

    Safety goal:

    Department safety goals - clearly describe the specific behaviours the parents or carers need to do for the Department to be confident that the child is safe. 

    Family safety goals - the family's ideas about what needs to happen to keep the child safe.  The Department and family might agree to the same safety goal. 

    You can use different tools to explain harm statements, danger statements and safety goals to children and families, for example:

    • Words and pictures
    • Signs of Safety meetings
    • The Three Houses

    Intake and allocation

    Internal Signs of Safety mappings:

    Many teams utilise internal Signs of Safety mappings at the point of intake or allocation to clarify the Department's grounds for involvement. Internal mappings utilising the three columns can be used by individuals or teams to clarify what we're worried about, what's working well and what we think needs to happen. 

    It's critical that any harm statements, draft danger statements and safety goals are reviewed at this point. These must be developed if they have not yet been at this stage.

    • Harm statements - articulate where harm has previously been substantiated by the Department.

    • Danger statements - articulate the worries that relate to an abuse type under s.28 of the Act and articulate the possible subsequent harm. Each danger statement must only relate to one abuse type.

    • Safety goals - identify the safety that we want to see for the child in relation to the harm and/or danger that has been identified.

    For further information about harm statements, danger statements and safety goals, including how to develop them, please click here.

    This is a great opportunity to review the complicating factors, which may include risk factors. It's critical to establish the missing information at this point and develop the plan/next steps that should be taken in the investigation.

    The scaling question should be used to determine how close/far away we are currently from the safety goal and the level of priority that needs to be given in actioning the next steps for the case. 

    Meetings during the investigation

    The three column mapping:

    The Signs of Safety framework encourages all practitioners to use the three column assessment and planning form when engaging with parents and families. The three column approach is designed to provide a balance between collaborative practice and professional, forensic assessment to generate a comprehensive, balanced child protection risk assessment.

    Three column mappings held with parents and family during an investigation should maintain a focus on the grounds for the Department's involvement (worries), what the parents/family are already doing to achieve safety (strengths) and a plan for addressing the remaining worries and generating sufficient safety for the children that the Department no longer has to be involved. 

    You should utilise the Signs of Safety Assessment and Planning Forms (Form 254 - 2 column and Form 255  - 3 column) to document any meetings and ensure that attendees are provided with copies on the same day wherever possible. For more information about Signs of Safety, including resources, refer to Chapter 2.2 Signs of Safety - Child Protection Framework

    It's not always possible to have a formal Signs of Safety meeting in an office with a whiteboard or smartboard available.  The advantage of the Signs of Safety tools is that they are adaptable to your context.  You can print a copy off and take it with you to meet with the family.          

     

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    Child assessment interview - planning and considerations

    You must sight and/or interview the child during the course of a CSI.

    All of our practice places significant value on the voice of the child, and the child's voice is also used as credible evidence.

    As part of a CSI, child assessment interviews should gather and clarify information, raise the topic of concern, give the child an opportunity to discuss any worries and initiate safety planning.

    A decision to delay sighting and/or interviewing the child or not to sight and/or interview the child must be clearly documented and approved by your team leader.

    Planned child assessment interviews are undertaken when:

    • A team leader has endorsed a decision to undertake a child assessment interview
    • A decision was made at a joint strategy meeting (including childFIRST and WA Police) for the Department to undertake a child assessment interview
    • The child has appropriate language and comprehension to understand questions and provide information (the decision to interview very young children or children with disabilities is made on a case-by-case basis, depending on the capabilities of the individual child).

    A child assessment interview may occur:

    • as a result of a decision not to undertake a joint response with WA Police, and
    • to determine whether a forensic interview (joint response) is warranted. 

     

    A child assessment interview is not required if the child has made a disclosure of a criminal nature.  In these circumstances the child must have a forensic interview only.  If a child assessment interview was conducted as part of the Initial Inquiry, then a further child assessment interview (as part of the CSI) is not required.

    Wherever required, the Department should support and fund the use of professional interpreters for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and Culturally and Linguistically Diverse people.

    This encourages the full participation of anyone who is not proficient in English and requires support to understand workers.

    For more information please refer to Language and Interpreter Information and Chapter 4.2: Language services - booking and payment.

    The Department must have authority to interview a child. This authority can come from two avenues:

    1. Parental permission; and
    2. Section 33 of the Act. 

    Section 3 of the Act defines a parent as a person, other than the CEO, who at law has responsibility for:

    • the long-term care, welfare and development of the child; or
    • the day-to-day care, welfare and development of the child

    When you talk to the parent about the interview and consent, the amount of information you give to, or request of the parent, should be kept to a minimum until after the child has been interviewed.  An exception to this would be when the parent is the referrer of the concern.

    Parental consent

    You must seek parental consent for child assessment interviews unless there are circumstances where this is not in the child's best interests, for example:

    • the parent is the alleged perpetrator of abuse
    • the parent may be colluding with the alleged perpetrator of abuse
    • the parent is the alleged perpetrator of family domestic violence, and/or
    • there are indicators that the alleged perpetrator of family domestic violence intimidates the parent.

    For more information on the matters above please refer to the section 'Access under section 33' below.

    When talking to the parent about the interview and their consent, the amount of information given to or requested of the parent should be kept to a minimum until after the child has been interviewed. An exception to this would be when the parent is the referrer of the concern.

    Who can conduct an interview?

    Child assessment interviews must be carried out by two authorised officers with delegated authority under s.25 of the Act.

    The officers must have completed the appropriate training program through Learning and Development.

    One officer will lead the interview with the second officer is the second interviewer or scribe.           

    Other people are not allowed to be present for the interview.  This includes teachers, counsellors, parents, step-parents or siblings. The presence of another person can substantially impact the interview, and this is an opportunity for the child to speak freely and openly.

    In exceptional circumstances it is appropriate for a professional such as an interpreter or behavioural support person to be present to facilitate communication.  Family members must not be used for these roles.

    Child assessment interview framework

    You must be mindful of your own experience and bias when planning for and undertaking child interviews. Your reactions, body language and impressions can all affect the child, impacting the success of the interview and ultimately your investigation.

    A number of factors that may influence an interview, such as:

    • Age, cultural background, mental health, disability, delay or impairment of the child
    • Environment or location of the interview
    • Delay between the event and the interview
    • Gender of the interviewer, Interviewer bias, body language, voice tone, gestures, verbal responses and the types of questions used
    • Repeated interviewing
    • Stereotyping
    • Peer pressure

    You should be aware that the child may:

    • feel guilt and shame or feel that they are in trouble
    • be highly anxious or fearful of the interviewer's reaction
    • blame others or retract a previous disclosure
    • be sexually reactive, distracted, non-compliant or demonstrate regressive behaviours, and
    • not react as they expect them to.

     

    REMEMBER:  The child may have nothing to tell, or they may not be ready to talk about what has happened to them.  It is not your role to make the child talk, but to give them the opportunity to do so.

     

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    Undertaking a child assessment interview

    The process of completing a child assessment interview can be broken into phases.

    1.  Planning

    Complete Form 853 - Child Assessment Interview Planning Sheet

    Purpose of the interview

    What are the grounds for the investigation (abuse type)? Who are we worried about? What harm do we think may have occurred and what evidence might we observe?

    Find out about the child

    What information do we already have about this child? Are there any concerns about our ability to engage with the child? What kinds of things is the child interested in?

    Practical arrangements

    Where is the interview taking place? Is there an opportunity for us to give the child a choice about the location? Is the school/location aware we are coming and will they be prepared for us? Has a car been booked? Is the second interviewer confirmed?

    Interview structure and process

    Have you developed focused questions? Are you clear on what you will do if the child doesn't want to talk? Do you know what to do if the child makes a disclosure?

       

    REMEMBER:  The interviewer is in control of the process; the child is in control of the content.

    2.  Introduction and rapport

    It is important to introduce yourself and your colleagues, and to explain the purpose of the investigation as simply and clearly as possible. During the introduction:

    • Introduce yourself and invite your colleague to do the same; ask the child to introduce themselves

    • Explain your roles as the interviewers

    • If a parent is present, tell the child where their parent will wait for them; it is important that the child knows this (and particularly important for younger children)

    • Conduct the interview in a confident, straightforward, respectful and empathic way to provide structure and minimise the child's anxiety, and

    • Explain the recording process to the child.

    Suggested wording:

     "Thanks for letting us come to talk to you today. My name is Sarah and I work for the Department of Communities or child protection, have you heard about us before?"

    "My job is to help keep kids safe and my favourite part of that job is talking to kids about their safety."

    "Mum said it was ok for us to come and have a chat to you today."

    "Dad's just going to wait outside while we talk today."

    "It's really important that while we're talking today we only talk about things that have really happened."

    "It's ok to say 'I don't understand' or 'I don't know' when I ask you something."

    "It's important not to guess an answer."

    "If I say something wrong, it's ok for you to tell me I got something wrong."

    "While we talk my friend Max is going to be taking notes, because what you have to say is really important."

    Do not:

    Talk excessively when introducing yourself, explaining your role or the rules. Simple is better.

    Test the child, for example "If I said this pen was red (pen is blue), what would you say?"

    Tell the child the content of the referral to the Department or introduce information that is not age appropriate or might influence the interview.

    Tell the child "you're not in any trouble".

     

    The rapport-building phase forms the foundation of the interview.  During this phase, you should use open-ended questioning with minimal encouragers to establish the role of the child as the speaker, and yourself as the listener. Rapport is an opportunity to practice interviewing the child in preparation for the free narrative later.

    It is important to use language and sentence structure that is appropriate to the child's age, developmental level and cultural background.

    "Tell me about something you like to do."

    "What do you do at pre-school or school?"

    "What do you like and don't like about school or preschool?"

    "Tell me about your hobbies and interests."

    "What are your favourite television programs?"

    Some children may wonder why they are being interviewed and become impatient with the general questions designed to build rapport.  

    If this occurs move on from building rapport, reiterate your role and start the free narrative stage. For example, "Like I said before, my job is to help keep kids safe and at the moment I'm working with your family to make sure that you're safe. So, tell me about your family."

    3. Free narrative   

    The free narrative is an opportunity to gather a broad amount of information by allowing the child to talk as much as possible.

    You can use free narrative to expand on the topics covered in rapport building or to introduce something else, for example:

    "Mum said that you went to Adventure World during the holidays, tell me everything that happened when you went to Adventure World."

    "I heard that mum got married recently, tell me everything that happened when mum got married."

    Using free narrative can give you a great opportunity to start to learn more about family members and family dynamics from the child's perspective, without asking direct questions. Once the child has introduced a person, you will have an opportunity to refer to them later on if you want more information, for example:  

    "Before you mentioned someone called Ben, tell me everything about Ben"

    "You said before that you don't like it when Sarah comes over, tell me what happens when Sarah comes over that you don't like".

    You should try to:

    • Listen carefully to what the child is saying and explore areas that may be of interest to the investigation.
    • Use open ended questions exclusively, minimising leading or suggestive questioning.
    • Use minimal encouragers.
    • Interrupt the child as little as possible and use open ended questions to encourage them to continue talking.

     

    REMEMBER:

    The child is the speaker, you are the listener! 

         

    4. Questioning  

    Once the child has finished telling their story (their free narrative) you can ask further questions about what the child has told you or use a focused question to talk about something more specific. Questioning is used to:

    • Address all areas of concern
    • Explore any inconsistencies
    • Elicit sufficient information to determine whether a forensic interview is warranted
    • Set clear contexts for the questions asked and respond to what the child says to avoid confusing them – avoid out of context questioning
    • Help the child to give a structure to their account, such as a beginning, middle and end to the incident
    • Check and clarify the child's responses to avoid assumptions and ambiguity

    Use the "T.E.D" question stems:

    Tell me everything about...

    Explain to me...

    Describe to me...

    Do not use "Can you…" at the beginning of a question as that makes it a yes/no question.

    Try to avoid questions that can be simply answered with a yes/no.  A focused question explores inconsistencies or aspects more in depth. The interviewer can raise an event, time, location, routine or question about the child's family to elicit more information.

    Suggested wording:

    "Tell me everything about the family you live with".

    "You said Bob is mean – tell me more about that".

    "You said that you live with two brothers – tell me everything about your brothers".

    "You said that something happened when you were living with your dad – describe to me exactly what happened".

    "You said that mum was hurt when dad got angry - explain to me what happened when mum was hurt".

    You may need to focus the child more by providing some context. You must not tell the child details of the alleged harm you are investigating, or volunteer information that they have not disclosed about an event.

    Suggested wording:

    "I heard that something happened at the weekend, tell me about what happened at the weekend."

    "You've talked about living with mum and your brothers, I heard that you lived with someone else too, tell me who else lives with you."

    "I heard that something happened at you went to stay with your grandma, explain what happened to me."

    "Thank you for telling me about Adventure World, but now I want to talk about something else. I heard that you told mum that you didn't feel safe, tell me all about when you didn't feel safe."

    "You mentioned that one of your brothers doesn't live with you right now, explain that to me."

    "You said that something happened to you when dad got angry, describe to me what happened to you when dad got angry.

    You should use silence, minimal encouragers and prompt questions, such as "what happened next?" to encourage the child to continue their narrative without interruption.

    If a child provides information that you think might be critical to your investigation, then you should ask more questions without leading. You must use the child's exact words when you are seeking more information. 

    Suggested wording:

    "So, you said that dad came into your room and you didn't know what to do. Tell me everything that happened after dad came into your room."

    "You said that mum picked up a bat and started hitting. Describe exactly what happened when she started hitting."

    "You said that dad got really angry and was throwing things around. Tell me more about dad throwing things around."

    Confirming and clarifying questions

    When a child says something that you believe may be a criminal disclosure you should use confirming and clarifying questions.

    • Confirming questions ensure that you have heard what the child has said correctly.
    • Clarifying questions ensure that the interviewer and the child ascribe the same meaning to what has been said.

    Confirming question example

    Child

    Uncle Chris came into my room and laid down with me and hurt my piddle

    Interviewer

    So, you said that Uncle Chris came into your room, laid down with you and hurt your piddle. Is that right?

    Child

    Yes                 

    Interviewer

    Tell me everything that happened when Uncle Chris hurt your piddle.

            

    Clarifying question example

    Child

    He hurt my piddle.

    Interviewer

    What is another word for piddle? OR
    What do you use your piddle for? OR
    Who else has a piddle? 
                   

     

    Disclosure

    When a child discloses an event or incident that is not criminal in nature and won't result in specialist/forensic interview:

    1. Remain calm, listen to the child's disclosure and encourage the child to tell their story in a free narrative - "tell me everything about that from the very beginnings to the very end."

    2. Ensure the disclosure is written down verbatim. You can ask the child to repeat what they have said if necessary, for example "What you just said about uncle Malcolm is very important and I want to make sure we have it written down, tell me again what you just said happened with uncle Malcolm."

    3. Use minimal encouragers – "Tell me more about that."

    4. Ask open-ended questions, then move to more specific questioning.

    5. Clarify any terms that are ambiguous, who else was present during the event and whether anybody else knows about the event. This information can help your investigation and safety planning.

    6. Assess the immediate safety of the child. "When was the last time that happened?" "How old were you when that happened?"

    7. Thank the child for sharing this information and explain the next steps in an age appropriate way. "Remember I said that my job is to help keep kids safe and I'm going to do some work with your mum and dad to make sure that you're safe."

    When a child discloses an event or incident that is criminal in nature and will result in a specialist/forensic interview:

    1. Listen to the child's disclosure, without interrupting them. Do not ask any additional questions about the disclosure as this will be covered during the forensic interview. Safely stop the child from continuing their story. "Thank you for telling me about that, we don't need to talk more about that right now."

    2. You may need to ask when the event occurred, in order to clarify whether forensic evidence needs to be gathered.

    3. You may need to ask whether anybody else knows about the event or whether anybody else was in the room when it happened.

    4. Remain calm and do not show any personal reaction to the disclosure (to prevent the child from retracting the information).

    5. Clarify any words used that are slang, pet names for body parts etc.

    6. Thank the child for sharing this information.

    7. Prepare the child for a forensic interview by advising the child of the need to tell colleagues and explaining the process appropriately.

    If there is a disclosure of a criminal nature a referral must be made using Form 523 Referral of Child Abuse to WA Police.

    In some circumstances, requesting parental permission to proceed to forensic interview will result in risk to the child. An immediate joint strategy meeting should be held to discuss what information will be provided to the parent and the risks to the child.

    Develop a safety plan before taking any further action to ensure that the child is safeguarded following the interview. 

    • Use short, simple sentences
    • Speak slowly and clearly
    • Ask one question at a time
    • Don't interrupt
    • Use the child's terms
    • Avoid leading, misleading or presumptive questions
    • Summarise information back to the child to check for accuracy and clarity
    • Use appropriate body language
    • Avoid repeated questions and 'why' questions
    • Don't display your reactions, beliefs and attitudes.

     

    5.  Safety planning and closure

    The interview should be kept to a reasonable length (between 30 to 45 minutes) unless there is a good reason to continue longer.

    If you haven't already, ask the child if they have any worries about where they live.

    Complete the Protective Behaviours safety network strategy:

    1. Ask the child what they know about protective behaviours and if they have a safety network or helping hand. It is compulsory curriculum for all state and private primary schools to teach the child abuse prevention program.

    2. If they already have a good knowledge about protective behaviours and their safety network then just remind them to always talk to someone on their network if they are feeling unsafe, sad or worried about anything and review their safety network with them.

    3. Ask the child what they think it feels like to feel safe. They might answer calm, happy, loved, comfy, in control, heard, etc.

    4. Ask the child what they think it feels like to feel unsafe.  They might answer scared, yucky, gross, invisible, frightened, etc.

    5. Tell the child that they have the right to feel safe at all times. You can explore what a right is, such as the right to food, shelter, to go to school and to feel safe.

    6. Tell them that if they ever feel unsafe they need to tell someone.

    7. Help them develop a safety network.  Ask them to draw around their hand on a piece of paper.

    8. Ask the child what type of person they want to be on their safety network or helping hand. Encourage them to think about people who make them feel safe by listening to them, believing them, being available to them and getting them help.

    9. Communicate the rules of the safety network to the child. Only one person from where they sleep or home is allowed on the child's hand, if they have more than one, then put them in the same finger or in the palm, the rest should come from other places. Encourage them to think about who keeps them safe at school, sports, church, visiting other family or friends, counsellors, other service providers, etc. The child's faith, pet or favourite things go in the palm of the hand. 

    10. Fill out at least one name for each finger and thumb.

    11. Explain to the child that if one of the safety network isn't available when they try to tell them something, then they must keep telling other people in their safety network until someone listens and helps.

    12. On the wrist include emergency services and encourage the child to contact them if no-one else is available:  

    Let the child know that you have finished talking with them, and ask your colleague if there are any questions they want to ask.

    Ask the child if he or she wants to ask any questions of you and thank him or her for talking with you.

    Explain anything of relevance to the child, and what will happen next.  For example, "As part of my job I will talk to your mum about some of what we talked about today, it helps us work together to keep you safe. I might not see you again, but it was great getting to know you."

    Do not make any false promises. For example, if a child asks "Will dad go to prison?", answer honestly by saying "I don't know".

    Give your contact details to the child if appropriate.

    End the interview on a neutral or happy note.  You can return to what was discussed in rapport building or ask the child a simple question like what they're looking forward to for the rest of the day.

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    When there are safety concerns for the child

    If you have concerns about the immediate safety of a child, you must consult your team leader before you leave the child. For example, if the child has made a disclosure of abuse by a parent and the parent is due to pick them up from school. You must explain this to the child in an age appropriate way.

    Suggested wording:

    "What you have told me is very important and I need to talk to my team leader to make some plans for what will happen next. Would you like to wait here or go back to class while I do that?" (Offer to get them a drink or let them go to the toilet if they need to).

    "What you have said is really important and I'm very concerned about your safety right now. So I'm going to talk to my team leader and figure out some plans for how we can make sure you're safe. As soon as I've talked to my team leader I'll be back to talk to you."

    When you are satisfied about the immediate safety of the child you must consult with a team leader at the earliest opportunity and plan for:

    • Safety issues for the child
    • What information will be provided to the parent
    • Next actions to be taken

    After you have consulted with your team leader about your concerns, you must return to the child and explain what is happening in an age appropriate way.

    Suggested wording:

    "I just talked to my team leader and we agree that we're very worried about your safety right now and what might happen if you go home tonight. I've got some ideas about how we can make sure that you're safe tonight, but first I wanted to ask if you have any ideas about how we can make sure you're safe tonight?"

    "My team leader and I are very worried about you right now and we're going to talk with mum and dad about that. What that means is that mum and dad won't be picking you up from school today, because we need to talk to them first about our worries."

    "Because we are so worried about your safety we're going to talk to mum before you go home from school and that might mean that someone else will pick you up and look after you tonight. Do you have any ideas about somewhere safe you could stay tonight?"

     

    Depending on the nature of the disclosure, you may need to consider whether a medical assessment is required. This may be required to assess any injury and to gather forensic evidence. If a child discloses sexual abuse that may have occurred in the last 72 hours, a medical examination should be a priority. 

    If a decision is made not to seek a medical assessment for a child who has been physically or sexually abused then a rationale must be documented. 

    It's important to involve the children in safety planning as much as possible and you must still finish the interview as normal regardless of any safety concerns. Talking to the child about their safety network might reveal a number of people who can be contacted to be a part of safety planning.

    If you are at a school, communicate and work with the school to explain what is happening and what role you need them to take.

    If there is a disclosure of a criminal nature a referral must be made using Form 523 Referral of Child Abuse to WA Police

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    Recording the inteview

    The second interviewer or scribe should take comprehensive notes throughout the interview, including observations. Any disclosures must be captured verbatim. The lead interviewer should also take notes, as required, to assist them during the interview.

    The handwritten notes should be typed into Form 854 Child Assessment Interview (CAI) Notes. These notes are generally typed by the scribe and should be quality assured by the lead interviewer before being placed on file. Be mindful that any notes can be subpoenaed and used in a court process.  

    Be mindful that any notes can be subpoenaed and used in a court process.

    All original interview notes must be kept and scanned to Objective. 

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    The Gillick Principle

    ​The Gillick Principle stipulates that a minor is capable of giving informed consent when he or she "achieves a sufficient understanding and intelligence to enable him or her to understand fully what is proposed".  If these criteria are satisfied, then the child is considered to be "Gillick Competent".

    The child's competence is viewed as being an emerging one. As such, the parent's authority decreases in proportion to the growth of the child's competence.  In practice this means that the age of the child should not be the sole criteria of their maturity and competence.  Consideration needs to be given on a case-by-case basis to judge whether the child is "Gillick Competent" (capable enough) to give informed consent on each particular issue.

    In order to do this the child needs to be provided with appropriate and adequate information to help them understand what is being proposed.

    You need to consider:

    • the age of the child;
    • the child's history of making their own decisions;
    • the length of time the child has been living independently (if applicable);
    • the child's intellectual functioning – i.e. presence or absence of any decision-making or psychiatric impairment, or drug/alcohol use that may affect the child's ability to understand the implications/impact of decisions being made; and
    • the child's level of understanding of the particular issue/s and the likely consequences of any decisions made.
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    Access under section 33

    ​If during the investigation, you believe on reasonable grounds that:

    1. it is in the best interests of the child for you to have access to the child before the child's parents become aware of the investigation; or

    2. if the child's parents were to know in advance about the proposed access, the proper and effective conduct of the investigation would be likely to be jeopardised

    You may have access to the child at a school, hospital or a place where a child care service is provided without informing the child's parents and can remain for as long as you consider reasonably necessary for the purposes of the investigation.

       
    You must be an authorised officer with delegated authority under s.25 of the Act to use s.33 powers.  This does not include police officers.

    Before exercising power under s.33, you must notify the person in charge of the school, hospital or place they intend to exercise the power.

    After exercising power under s.33, you must inform at least one of the child's parents that you have exercised the power and the reasons for it. 

    You must document the rationale for utilising s.33 and this must be approved by a team leader.

    Any decision not to notify the parents must be made in consultation with a team leader and the rationale must be documented.

    Circumstances when you do not have to inform the child's parents:

    1. when you believe that a person may be charged with an offence involving harm to the child and telling the parent may jeopardise an investigation, or

    2. when you believe that telling the parent may expose the child to harm or risk of harm, or

    3. when the child has asked that their parents not be told and you believe that it is in the child's best interests to comply.

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    Warrant (access) under section 34

    ​You can apply to the children's court if, during the course of the investigation, you:

    1. are denied access to the child;
    2. believe that you will be denied access to the child; or
    3. are unable to obtain entry to a place where you suspect the child to be.

     

    You must have district director approval to apply for a warrant (access) under s.34

    If you are granted a warrant (access) you can have access to the child to sight and/or interview the child. The warrant does not give the authority to move the child. 

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    Initial inquiries

    ​The purpose of a child assessment interview conducted as part of Initial Inquiries is to inform a holistic assessment, gather and clarify information, determine if the Department has a role, ascertain the child's wishes and feelings, and identify safe adults. 

    Child assessment interviews undertaken as part of Initial Inquiries can only be carried out with parental consent.  You must document parental consent.
           
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    Working with WA Police

    ​It is common that actions taken by the Department and WA Police intersect, especially when conducting CSIs that involve allegations of child abuse that meet the threshold for criminal investigation.

    You should liaise directly with WA Police when a criminal investigation coincides with a CSI and identify opportunities where actions can be undertaken jointly.

    Specialist child interviews, also known as forensic interviews, are conducted by trained interviewers from either the Department or WA Police. Specialist child interviews are designed to capture victim or witness evidence relating to a criminal offence that will be admissible in a court of law. In the metropolitan area, these interviews are generally conducted by members of childFIRST and/or WA Police jointly.

    A specialist child interview can only be conducted by a trained interviewer following determination that the case will require a joint response between the Department and WA Police.  childFIRST is co-located with WA Police and they can be contacted on (08) 9428 1666.

    childFIRST provides a child-focused service and uses electronic equipment to visually record specialist interviews of children who:

    • have made a clear disclosure that they have been sexually or physically abused
    • have witnessed physical or sexual abuse of another child. or
    • require other interviews at the discretion of the Director of childFIRST.

     

     

    The Department and WA Police have trained interviewers in regional areas.  Interviews conducted regionally are largely arranged locally with local detectives, however you can consult childFIRST at any time.

     

     
     
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    Planning a joint response

    1. ​When you become aware of a disclosure of physical or sexual abuse of a child you must refer the disclosure to WA Police using Form 523 Referral of Child Abuse to WA Police.  ChildFIRST must be consulted if it becomes apparent that your investigation involves sexual abuse or serious physical abuse or neglect likely to result in criminal charges being laid by WA Police.

    2. When WA Police receive a referral of alleged child abuse their duty officers assess whether WA Police have a potential role in conducting an investigation. You will receive one of the following responses:

      1. An email identifying that WA Police have assessed the matter as requiring a single agency response by the Department; or

      2. Confirmation that WA Police have a role in investigating the allegation.

    Where you receive an email specifying single agency response you can continue with your investigative actions. If WA Police state they have a role in conducting an investigation then a joint strategy meeting should occur. The table below is a guide for how strategy meetings should be conducted depending on the context:

    Sexual abuse

    Metropolitan

    Regional

    Attendees: ChildFIRST, WA Police (detectives or Sergeant), Perth Children's Hospital Child Protection Unit, local district case manager and others as appropriate.

    Roles: ChildFIRST will organise, chair and minute the meeting. An agreement will be reached about next steps relating to interview and any other investigative actions. Attendees: local WA Police, local district case manager and others as appropriate e.g. local health service.

    Attendees: local WA Police, local district case manager and others as appropriate e.g. local health service.


    Roles: Local district case manager to take the role of childFIRST in ensuring a strategy meeting is arrange and minutes taken. An agreement should be reached about next steps relating to interview and any other investigative actions. Recommend consult with childFIRST.

         

    Physical abuse

    Metropolitan

    Regional

    Attendees: local WA Police, local district case manager and others as appropriate.

    Roles: Local district case manager to take the role of childFIRST in ensuring a strategy meeting is arrange and minutes taken. An agreement should be reached about next steps relating to interview and any other investigative actions. 

    Attendees: local WA Police, local district case manager and others as appropriate.

    Roles: Local district case manager to take the role of childFIRST in ensuring a strategy meeting is arrange and minutes taken. An agreement should be reached about next steps relating to interview and any other investigative actions.

          

     Other 

    There are exceptions to the above, and any time you are not sure about a joint response process you should contact childFIRST for a consult. Strategy meetings should all be recorded using Form 850 Record of Strategy Meeting.

     

    WA Police investigations

    Any investigation by WA Police should not unnecessarily delay completion of a CSI. Actions such as safety planning and interviewing a person when it is proposed to record an Actual Harm Continuing Risk (AHCR) are critical to safeguarding children and should be completed in a timely manner. 

    The child's safety is the priority of all investigations.

      

    It is important to be respectful and transparent while engaging with WA Police to promote ongoing working relationships and the best outcomes for the child involved.

    Suggested wording:

    "Hi, my name is ...... and I'm conducting an investigation into allegations that I believe you are also investigating. I wanted to introduce myself and see if there's any planning we could do together"

    "I'd be grateful for any information you could give me about the current police investigation and any next steps you plan on taking. This will help me in planning for my investigation."

    "Thanks for your email letting me know about your investigation. Some of the next steps I need to take include talking with the alleged perpetrator, which I plan to do on ....... date. Is there anything I should be aware of before proceeding with this?"

    "I need to conduct safety planning with the family to make sure that the children are safe, is there any way WA Police could be a part of that conversation?"

    "I know you might not be available to participate in safety planning with the family, what information are you comfortable with me disclosing to the family right now?"

    "I need to meet with the alleged perpetrator as we are planning on recording him as AHCR (provide an explanation) and the person is entitled to meet with us to discuss this. What information are you comfortable with me disclosing to the alleged perpetrator?"

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    Assessing harm

    You must make a determination at the conclusion of the CSI as to whether or not it is recommended that harm be substantiated. There are three outcome options:

    1. Substantiated significant harm (actual)
    2. Substantiated likelihood of significant harm (has or will occur), or
    3. Not substantiated.

    You should base any recommendation to substantiate harm on credible evidence gathered from a range of sources and relating to the abuse type that formed the grounds for their investigation.  

    You should develop a harm statement whenever harm is substantiated.

     Continuum of Significant Harm

    Actual significant harm

    Definition

    Based on a balance of probability, the child has suffered actual significant harm as a result of abuse or neglect.

    Evidence

    There is credible evidence that the abusive/neglectful event occurred on one or more occasions and that the child has suffered actual significant harm which is demonstrated through their behaviour or other evidence.

    Examples

    1. The child was physically abused when their parents hit them with a belt multiple times and there was actual physical harm as a result because they were left with bruises, welts and scars.

    2. The child was sexually abused when their father sexually penetrated them and there was actual physical harm because they had internal injuries and emotional harm as a result because they said that they started self-harming as a result.

    3. The child was emotionally abused when their father repeatedly hit, kicked and punched their mother and there was actual emotional harm as a result because they said they were terrified that their father was going to kill their mother and them and they have been displaying significant aggressive behaviours.

     

    Likelihood significant harm has occurred 

    Definition

    Based on a balance of probability, the child is likely to have suffered significant harm as a result of abuse or neglect.

    Evidence

    This decision must be informed by research on the known impacts of that type of abuse on the child and the credible evidence available to demonstrate how significant harm is likely to have occurred.

    Examples

    1. Actual significant harm was substantiated for sibling 1, as a result of an incident of physical abuse, and the evidence is consistent that this incident of physical abuse occurred to sibling 2, but there is currently no evidence of harm to sibling 2.

    2. You have assessed that the child has been sexually abused, but there is no evidence of impact on the child.

    3. You know that a child has been present consistently during domestic violence incidents where the child's father has yelled at, hit and kicked the child's mother. You have no current evidence of impact on the child, but based upon substantial research and evidence you know it is highly likely that significant harm has happened to that child.

         

    Likelihood significant harm will occur

    Definition

    Based on a balance of probability, the child is likely to suffer significant harm as a result of abuse or neglect.

    Evidence

    There is credible evidence of past/current harm and a likelihood that the harmful pattern of behaviour will continue and neither of the parents have the capacity to protect.

    Examples

    1. The child's step-father was previously convicted of child sexual offences and the child's mother is non-believing and not protective, therefore it is likely that the child will suffer significant harm in the future as a result of sexual abuse.

    2. You have substantiated physical harm of a sibling as a result of physical abuse by the father. You have identified significant ongoing risk factors which precipitated the previous physical abuse, including the father's drug and alcohol use and they are continuing.

    3. You have been conducting pre-birth planning for an unborn infant who has two siblings already in care. You previously substantiated actual significant harm as a result of neglect when the siblings came into care, at the time the mother was using drugs and alcohol and failing to provide for their basic needs. The mother has continued to use drugs and alcohol and this is likely to significantly impact on her capacity to care for the newborn baby (neglect).

    4. You know that the child's father has been physically and emotionally abusive to the child's mother, but you have not been able to gather any credible evidence that the child has been present during any incident, and there is no current evidence of impact (harm) to the child. The parents are continuing their relationship and deny that there is any potential impact on the child. You know from research and evidence about the impact on family and domestic violence on children that it is likely that significant harm will occur to the child as a result of emotional abuse - FDV if nothing changes.

     

    Assessment

    Assessment is the process of gathering relevant credible evidence in relation to the abuse type and harm you are investigating. Assessment is the ongoing process of receiving information, considering it in the context of your investigation and making a professional judgement about whether that information is credible.

    During the assessment, you should consider:

    • The types of evidence gathered and their credibility.
    • The child's voice and the value placed on this.
    • Patterns of behaviour, including events that led to the abuse and/or harm.
    • Observations made of the parents behaviour.
    • Observations or information collected regarding the child's development and behaviour.
    • Strengths that the parents and/or family have demonstrated and why this equates to safety.
    • Missing information and the relevance of this in the investigation.
    • Complicating factors and why they aren't worries.
    • Barriers identified for the parents and/or family.

    Refer to the Child Development and Trauma Guide when articulating the impact on the child (harm).

    Analysis

    Analysis is making a determination about the abuse type and harm to the child, based upon the relationship between your assessment and the credible evidence of impact on the child. Your CSI is an analysis of the assessment information collected through the course of the investigation.

    The analysis should include reference to:

    • Severity - type and degree of harm.
    • Vulnerability - age, development, functioning and opportunity.
    • Probability - patterns, beliefs and complicating factors.
    • Safety - strengths and protection.

    The analysis should consider:

    • Was the harm significant in nature and detrimental in effect on the child's wellbeing?

    • What were the most important pieces of credible evidence that led to the conclusion regarding harm?

    • If we are not substantiating harm, why? What evidence was lacking or what evidence was gathered that proved harm did not occur/will not occur?

    • What actions/inactions have been observed of the parents? How does this relate to the harm of the child? How does this impact the child's safety and wellbeing?

    • What has the child said or not said and how does this relate to harm of the child?

    • What risk factors have been identified? How do these relate to the harm being investigated?

    • Did the safety identified mitigate any substantiation of harm? If so, why?

    • Has there been a time when the family were faced with a similar situation but were able to provide adequate care?

    • What do we know about child development and how does this relate to our observations or information about this child?

    • What do we already know about this family and harm? Is there a cumulative nature to the abuse this child has experienced?

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    Assessing a parent's capacity to protect

    You must assess and analyse the parents capacity to protect their child. Section 28 of the Children and Community Services Act 2004 (the Act) refers to:

    • the child's parents have not protected the child from harm or further harm; or

    • the child's parents are unlikely or unable to protection the child from harm or further harm.

     

    You must make a determination at the conclusion of the investigation about whether or not the parents have capacity to protect their child according to the information below.

    Before continuing with the investigation, you should have:

    • Spoken to the parents separately and screened for FDV;

    • Made observations about each parent's response to the concerns;

    • Given each parent sufficient opportunity to respond to the concerns;

    • Tried alternative approaches if you have been unable to engage with a parent;

    • Consulted with others about ways to engage the parents;

    • Reflected with colleagues who have also met the parents about their view of the parents' capacity.

    Your investigation should take into consideration:

    • Have the parents acknowledged the concerns?

    • What is their current attitude to the concerns?

    • What have the parents done to address the concerns so far?

    • Have the parents demonstrated willingness to change? Do their actions reflect this?

    • What have the parents done that shows they want to protect their child from further harm?

    • Have the parents been open to the Department's suggestions? Have they been willing to engage with supports, services or counselling?

    • Have they demonstrated change over any period of time?

    • Are there barriers to the parents capacity to protect?

    You need to make a determination regarding the parents:

    • ability to provide a safe, stable and secure environment that will support the child's development;

    • ability to regulate impulses and emotions;

    • ability to empathise with and meet their child's needs;

    • ability to identify and prioritise their child's needs ahead of their own;

    • the parent's understanding of how their past behaviours (actions and inactions) are likely to cause harm to their child, and their capacity for, and willingness to change.

    The capacity of parents involved in family and domestic violence should be considered separately. For example, the non-offending parent's capacity to protect their children is impacted upon by the perpetrator, as they are a victim of violence. You should think about any acts of resistance by the non-offending parent to protect themselves or their children.

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    Writing the Outcome Report

    ​You must use the Child Safety Investigation Outcome Report Template when completing the CSI outcome report. This ensures consistency across the Department and clarifies the expectations of you in completing the report.

    You can write the outcome report as soon as your investigative actions have gathered sufficient credible evidence to make a determination about:

    1. Whether or not the child has experienced harm or is likely to experience harm as a result of the abuse

    2. The parent's capacity to protect, and

    3. Whether the child is in need of protection.

    It is up to you if you want to write the outcome report directly into Assist or into a Word document first and then copied into Assist.

    • Write short sentences and use dot points;  use simple and clear language easily understood by everyone.
    • Minimise the use of organisational jargon.
    • All acronyms and abbreviations must be written in full when mentioned for the first time in your report.  Include all the initials or abbreviations in brackets - for example, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Department of Health (DoH).
    • All calendar dates should be written in text format - for example, 12 May 2015.
    • Write in the 3rd person - for example,  "Author assessed".
    • Be mindful of the length of the report.
     

    Template headings and information required

    Family Group

    Who is the investigation related to?

    • Child (age)
    • Parents
    • Significant others

    Grounds for investigation 

    What are we worried about? Summary of the information that was reported; incident; disclosure; date. For example:

    On 21 May 2018 the Department received a referral from Maylands Primary School that Sam (5 yrs) arrived at school upset and crying and disclosed to her teacher that 'last night' mum (Rebecca) 'punched me in my eye'. Sam was observed to have a round bruise to her left eye. Maylands Primary School advised that Sam has presented at school with previous bruising to her face in Term 1. The Department is worried that mum may have physically abused Sam and as a result a Child Safety Investigation was opened to assess harm or likelihood of harm.

    Previous contact with the family. Summary of any prior investigation involvement relevant to this investigation; consideration around cumulative abuse and the impact of this or risk factors that may increase our worries; past harm; complicating factors. For example:

    The family have been known to the Department since 2015 for concerns pertaining to parental substance misuse (methamphetamine); mental health (diagnosed Depression) concerns for Rebecca; 8 contacts for Family and Domestic Violence (between 2015 – 2017) and Homelessness issues resulting in two Safety and Wellbeing Assessments for Sam (2015) for Neglect – outcome being not substantiated and (2017) Safety and Wellbeing Assessment for Emotional Harm- Family and Domestic Violence with the outcome being Substantiated Likelihood of Harm.

    Rebecca is known to the Department as a child in the care of the CEO from 1998 – 2007 for substantiated Neglect.

    Bill is known to the Department as a perpetrator of Domestic Violence towards Rebecca (2015 – 2017) as well as two previous relationships (2010 and 2012).

    Initial assessment/draft danger statements (commencement of your analysis). What is the initial assessment (judgement) of the information whereby the case requires further action under an investigation. Summarise our concerns; link this to abuse type/possible harm/likelihood of harm to the child if further investigation is not undertaken. Include strengths, safety, complicating factors, missing information and draft danger statements. For example:

    The Department is worried that Rebecca punched Sam in the eye leaving her with a bruise and crying and upset. If Rebecca physically abuses Sam this could lead to Sam having bruises, broken bones or being seriously injured (physical harm), Sam could also feel scared, upset and like her mum doesn't love her (emotional and psychological harm).

    Next steps to progress CSI. Summary of recommended next steps to gather credible evidence to formulate assessment and analysis of harm to the child; consider any missing information. For example:

    Does this include interviewing the child or just sighting the child within the environment? Does this include referral to police? Has there been FDV screening or does this need to be completed? Does this include any section 23's to gather further information? Does this include contact with the police to obtain criminal history / background / knowledge of family or address etc Does this include making contact with the school / other support networks?

    Scaling question (initial judgement). On a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being we are extremely worried for the child's safety and the child is in need of protection and 10 being that there are no worries and the case can be closed, where do you scale?

    Action taken  

    What did we gather in terms of credible evidence? Summary of the critical events or actions and credible evidence that was gathered to inform this outcome. This is not a chronology of all the activities taken.

    • Do not - copy and paste.
    • Do - summarise interviews and outcome of each action taken that is listed.
    • Three unannounced home visits to sight the home environment ​(​Objective reference QA111111)

    • Specialist child interview (SCI) for Sam in which Sam made a consistent disclosure ​​​​(Objective reference QA111112)

    • Medical assessment of Sam pertaining to her bruise ​(Objective reference QA111113)

    • Two Signs of Safety meetings ​(Objective reference QA111114, QA111115)

    • Liaison with school to gather evidence around Sam's presentation and wellbeing (Objective reference QA111116, QA111117)

    • Liaison with Police (WAPOL) inclusive of obtaining criminal history (Objective reference QA111118)

    • Safety planning meeting with the safety network (Objective reference QA111119, QA111120). 

     Harm analysis and parents' capacity to protect 

    Analysis is making a determination about the abuse type and harm to the child, based upon the relationship between your assessment and the credible evidence of impact on the child. Your CSI is an analysis of the assessment information collected through the course of the investigation.

    Your analysis should include reference to:

    • Severity - type and degree of harm.

    • Vulnerability - age, development, functioning and opportunity.

    • Probability - patterns, beliefs and complicating factors.

    • Safety - strengths and protection.

    Your analysis should consider:

    • Was the harm significant in nature and detrimental in effect on the child's wellbeing?

    • What were the most important pieces of credible evidence that led to your conclusion regarding harm?

    • If you are not substantiating harm, why? What evidence was lacking or what evidence did you gather that proved harm did not occur/will not occur?

    • What actions/inactions have you observed of the parents? How does this relate to the harm of the child? How does this impact the child's safety and wellbeing?

    • What has the child said or not said and how does this relate to harm of the child?

    • What risk factors have you identified? How do these relate to the harm you are investigating?

    • Did the strengths you identified equate to safety? If so, why?

    • Has there been a time when the family were faced with a similar situation but were able to provide adequate care?

    • What do you know about child development and how does this relate to your observations or information about this child?

    • What do we already know about this family and harm? Is there a cumulative nature to the abuse this child has experienced?

    Parents capacity to protect

    You do not consider this section when a child is in the CEEO's care; rather, this is an opportunity to examine the care arrangement.  

    You must make a determination about both parents capacity to protect their child in the context of the abuse type and harm you have assessed. Here you must define:

    • Do the parents have capacity to protect? Yes/No

    • What is your evidence for your determination?  Please refer to the section 'Assessing a parents' capacity to protect' above for guidance about what you should include in your assessment.

    Key decisions and rationale

    These are statements and should be clear and concise.

    • Is the child in need of protection?

    • Record the AHCR criteria (if it has been applied).

    • Document your final harm statements (where actual significant harm is being substantiated), danger statements (where likelihood of significant harm is being substantiated) and safety goals.

    • Include a decision statement of:

      • Has the child suffered actual significant harm.

      • Is there a likelihood of significant harm - on a balance of probabilities it is more likely than not that the child has or will suffer significant harm.

      • Whether you are recording someone as AHCR or placing an alert on the system in relation to a person.

      • Whether the parents have protected the child from harm or are they likely or able to protect the child from harm or further harm.

      • Are further actions required to safeguard the child, such as Intensive Family Support or Intervention Action.

      • Is safety planning required?

    AHCR criteria

    This can only be considered when actual significant harm has been substantiated. Please refer to the Actual Harm Continuing Risk (AHCR) criteria page for complete information about when consideration of this criteria is required and how to apply the criteria.

    If you are completing the CSI outside the 30 day timeframe you should include a rationale for that here.        

    Plan

    Actions from the CSI can include the following: 

    • No further action.

    • The provision of social services s.21(1)(a).

    • The provision of Intensive Family Support Services s.32(1)(a).

    • Arranging or facilitating a meeting between key stakeholders to develop a plan to address the ongoing needs of the child s.32(1)(b).

    • Entering into a negotiated placement agreement s.32(1)(c).

    • Take, or cause to be taken, intervention action in respect of the child s.32(1)(e).

    • Take, or cause to be taken, any other action in respect of the child that the Department considers reasonably necessary s.32(1)(f).

    • Further actions by the CEO before a child is born s.33B(a)(b)(c). 

    The following actions can be taken if the child protection worker forms a view that the child may be in need of protection:

    • take a child into provisional protection and care with a warrant (s.35)(s.123).

    • take a child into provisional protection and care without a warrant (s.37) (s.38).

    • make an application for a protection order s.44.

    • provide a service response to the child and family if required, whether or not the child is in need of protection (s.32).

    Other considerations:

    • What do you want to happen if this family come to the Department's attention again?

    • If you have recorded someone as AHCR, make note of that here and that it will require review at next contact.

    Assist recording options (grounds for CSI)

    Be aware!  When you enter this information in Assist there may be more options available to you, the status and outcome options detailed below are the recording options that you must follow.    

     

    Record the following types of abuse according to guidance in the table below:     

    Abandonment - s.28(2)(a)(i)(ii)

    Dead or Incapacitated - s.28(2)(b)

     

    Status and outcome recording options

    What does this recording mean?

    Status choice:

    • No suitable adult OR suitable adult

    Outcome choice:

    • No suitable adult OR suitable adult 

     

     

     

    The status and outcome of the CSI are a record that you either were able to locate the child's parents or a suitable adult relative or other suitable adult who was willing and able to care for the child or not.

    If you were unable to locate the parents or another suitable adult (no suitable adult), then you would be progressing to intervention action.

     

    Record the following types of abuse according to guidance in the table below:    

    Physical Abuse - s.28(2)(c)(i)    

    Sexual Abuse - s.28(2)(c)(ii) 

    Status and outcome recording options

    What does this recording mean?

    Status choice:

    • Did not investigate

    • Unable to investigate

    • Not substantiated

    • Substantiated Harm

    • Substantiated Likelihood Harm

    Outcome choice:

    • Discontinued

    • Not substantiated

    • Substantiated Harm

    • Substantiated Likelihood Harm

    • Unable to complete investigation 

     

     

     

    Status:

    Did not investigate - you made a decision not to investigate this.

    Unable to investigate - despite your best efforts, you were unable to take any investigative actions to assess the reported abuse and any subsequent harm.

    Not substantiated - there is insufficient evidence to suggest that the child has or will suffer harm as a result of the abuse/neglect.

    Substantiated Harm - there is sufficient evidence to substantiate that actual harm occurred to the child as a result of the abuse/neglect.

    Substantiated Likelihood Harm - there is sufficient evidence to substantiate that it is likely that the child either was or will be harmed as a result of the abuse/neglect.

    Outcome:

    Discontinued - the investigation into this abuse type is being discontinued as it was not required.

    Not substantiated - as above.

    Substantiated Harm - as above.

    Substantiated Likelihood Harm - as above.

    Unable to complete investigation - you made attempted to undertake the investigation, despite this you were unable to gather sufficient evidence to make any determination about whether or not harm occurred.

       

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    Approvals

    ​There are different lines of approval depending on the circumstances relating to a CSI, they are listed below. Someone who is able to review and approve Child Safety Investigations is now referred to as a CSI Reviewer.

    • All CSIs must be quality assured in order to be approved. CSIs will be quality assured by CSI Reviewers.

    • CSI Reviewers must be Level 6 or above.

    • A CSI Reviewer cannot endorse or approve a CSI they have written themselves.

    When there is no recording of AHCR and the CSI does not relate to an approved carer, Community Sector Organisation or Department employee the team leader can approve the outcome, provided they are a CSI Reviewer.

    For information about the formal review process of a completed CSI, including AHCR reviews, please refer to the section 'Child Safety Investigation Review Process' below.

    Approval delegations

    If…

    Then…

    Substantiating actual harm and recording AHCR for both children in the CEO's care and not in the CEO's care

    Team leader endorsement and district director approval

    Substantiating likelihood of harm in relation to an approved carer, Community Sector Organisation or employee

    Asistant district director endorsement and district director approval

    Substantiating actual harm and recording AHCR where the AHCR relates to an approved foster carer or employee

    District director endorsement and (relevant) Executive Director Service Delivery approval

    Naming a child under 18 years of age as AHCR

    Team leader endorsement and district director approval, following consultation with General Manager, Professional Practice Unit

    Local district director and the General Manager, Professional Practice Unit do not agree on the naming of a child under 18 years of age as AHCR

    District director has final decision and approval

    Review of person's AHCR status at subsequent contact, such as CSI (not a CSI Review), results in a recommendation to change the person's AHCR status

    Team leader endorsement and district director approval

    CSI Review

    District director approval

    ​Contentious CSI Review completed outside the district​District director with Executive Director Serviced Delivery endorsement

     

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    Actions following approval

    You must select a next action when completing a CSI. The actions available for selection depend on the outcome recorded in relation to harm, but they may include:

    • No further action.

    • The provision of social services s.21(1)(a).

    • The provision of Intensive Family Support Services s.32(1)(a).

    • Arranging or facilitating a meeting between key stakeholders to develop a plan to address the ongoing needs of the child s.32(1)(b).

    • Entering into a negotiated placement agreement s.32(1)(c).

    • Take, or cause to be taken, intervention action in respect of the child s.32(1)(e).

    • Take, or cause to be taken, any other action in respect of the child that the Department considers reasonably necessary s.32(1)(f).

     

    Assist will require you to select a next action to proceed.  Your selection should correlate directly to the determination and recommendation made in your CSI outcome report.  

    For specific procedures relating to the different options please refer to the entries below:

    Notifying parents and/or other significant people

    You must notify the parents and/or other significant people of the outcome of the CSI. This should include notifying the child, in an age appropriate way. The notification should be done in writing where possible using the CSI outcome letter (AAA form pending).

     

    It may not always be possible or appropriate to notify people in writing of the outcome of the CSI, for example, they may have no fixed address or be unable to read.  You must still make every effort to communicate the outcome verbally.

     

    The information in the outcome letter should not come as a surprise to the person receiving it, especially if harm has been substantiated. If you have followed the investigative actions listed here then the significant people should have already been notified of the likely outcome of the investigation and given the opportunity to respond to this.

    Significant personalisation of the outcome letter is not recommended.  It might be appropriate to include phrases like:

    "Thank you for working with us during the time" or "We have appreciated your cooperation during this investigation and wish you and your family all the best in the future". 

     

    If…

    Then…

    The outcome letter is for a CSI where harm was  not substantiated

    A team leader can sign it.

    ​The outcome letter is for a CSI where likelihood or actual harm was substantiated​A district director must sign it.

     

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    Child Safety Investigation Review process

    ​The Child Safety Investigation Review replaces the previous practice guidance on Independent Internal Reviews. A CSI Review must be completed within 30 working days of the district receiving the request

    Criteria for a request:

    • The person requesting is a significant person who was provided with a letter outlining the CSI outcome (Form 230 or Form 231)
    • The request can be made in writing or as a verbal request to the relevant district office and should:
      • Identify the specific decisions to be reviewed
      • Clarify the specific reasons for seeking the review
    • The request should be made within 30 days of the person receiving the letter or as determined by the district director.

    A Review must determine:

    1. Whether the Department's policy and practice guidance were followed at the time the CSI was completed
    2. If the assessment and rationale were informed by full and credible evidence and considered all available information
    3. Whether procedural fairness requirements were met and the CSI outcome decisions were based on the balance of probabilities, and
    4. If the CSI outcome decisions are upheld or overturned based on the information gathered during the CSI and CSI Review.

    A Review must be undertaken by:

    • A CSI Reviewer, Level 6 or above, who has completed the CSI Reviewer training
    • A CSI Reviewer from the relevant district office who has had no previous significant involvement in the CSI subject to review.

     

    The Professional Practice Unit can be consulted at any point in the CSI Review process.

           

    Grounds for review

    A significant person who was provided with a Letter of Advice CSI Outcome can request a CSI Review on the basis that:

    1. They do not agree with the decision made at the outcome of the CSI, regardless of whether or not harm was substantiated.
    2. They do not agree with a recording in relation to an individual i.e. AHCR.

    Other circumstances:

    • A CSI Review can be district generated and undertaken to consider new information that impacts on the CSI decisions, such as a court outcome (conviction, acquittal) that may require amendment of the AHCR decision.

    • A CSI Review can be generated by a district director or the Professional Practice Unit, at the request of other Departmental work units, in response to Ministerial requests or contentious matters.

    The person must make the CSI Review request within 30 days of receipt of the outcome letter. They can make their request for review in person or in writing. They must identify:

    • the specific decisions to be reviewed
    • the specific reasons for seeking the review.

    Review process

    The CSI Review must determine:

    1. Whether Departmental policy and practice guidance were followed at the time the CSI was completed; and
    2. If the assessment and rationale were informed by full and credible evidence and considered all available information; and
    3. Whether procedural fairness requirements were met and the CSI outcome decisions were based on the balance of probabilities; and
    4. If the CSI outcome decisions are upheld or overturned based on the information gathered during the CSI and CSI Review.
    1. All requests for a CSI Review should be forwarded to the relevant district director or their delegate.

    2. The district director or delegate allocates the CSI Review to a CSI Reviewer from the relevant district who has had no previous involvement in the CSI subject to Review.

    3. When the CSI Review is complex, contentious or when there is a potential conflict of interest, it may be appropriate for another district office or the Professional Practice Unit to undertake the CSI Review.

    4. Once the CSI Reviewer has been allocated the CSI Review they must contact the person who requested the CSI Review, within seven working days, to discuss and provide them an opportunity for input into the CSI Review.  Form 232 is a letter that can be sent to the person who requested the review to acknowledge their request. 

    5. The CSI Reviewer must send a letter to advise anyone else who received the letter outlining the CSI outcome (Form 230 or Form 231) of the CSI Review, the timeframe and offering them the opportunity for input into the CSI Review.

    6. The CSI Reviewer must consider any relevant information provided by the significant people. Significant people can include anyone provided with a letter outlining the CSI outcome (Form 230 or Form 231) or a member of the Family Group during the CSI.

    7. The CSI Reviewer can contact other relevant parties at their discretion.

    8. The CSI Reviewer must consider relevant Objective files and Assist records relating to the CSI.

    Review outcome

    The CSI Review will either uphold or overturn the original CSI outcome. The CSI Review must determine one of the following outcomes:

    • Not substantiated harm of the child
    • Substantiated likelihood of significant harm (has or will occur) of the child
    • Substantiated significant harm (actual) of the child.

    If significant harm (actual) is substantiated, the CSI Reviewer may consider whether a person meets the criteria for being recorded as causing Actual Harm and posing a Continuing Risk to children (AHCR). The CSI Reviewer should also consider and make recommendations for consideration by the district in relation to further action.

    The district director approves the CSI Review. The district director advises all significant people of the CSI Review outcome. The CSI Review is recorded in Assist and documents:

    • The review details and rationale
    • The review outcome and recommendations.
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