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2.2.3 Initial Inquiry

Last Modified: 18-Oct-2019 Review Date: 01-Aug-2021

Purpose

​To practice guidance on conducting and recording Initial Inquiries to child protection workers (CPWs) in the Department of Communities (the Department).

Practice Requirements
  • If the referral relates to an unborn infant or a child aged 0-2 years you must consider the resource Determining risk factors for an infant when completing the Interaction.

  • Initial Inquiries must be completed within five working days.

  • You must assess the referral using the Interaction Tool and record the Interaction using the Interaction Tool in Assist to conduct an Initial Inquiry.

  • You must not conduct an investigation during an Initial Inquiry. Section 32(d) of the Act states that an investigation is conducted to ascertain whether the child may be in need of protection.

  • When seeking consent for a Child Assessment Interview (CAI) from a parent or guardian where English is a second language, you must consider the need for an interpreting service. Where this is required, you must arrange for this service (refer to Chapter 4.2 Language Services).

  • In an Initial Inquiry you must only interview the child with his or her parent's or other legal guardian's consent.

  • You must consider the following before requesting consent:
    • If the concerns relate to a child's exposure to family and domestic violence and seeking consent from the adult victim for a CAI at Initial Inquiry is likely to increase the risks to them (and therefore the child), then consent should not be sought.

    • Be mindful about limiting the number of times a child is interviewed. If the concerns are indicative that a CAI at child safety investigation (CSI) or a specialist (forensic) child interview is likely, then it is not in a child's best interest to be interviewed at Initial Inquiry.

    • Consider a child's verbal and communication skills. It may not be appropriate to interview very young children at Initial Inquiry. You may need to rely on other assessment methods to determine if the Department has a role.

    • Although disclosure is not the purpose of a CAI at Initial Inquiry, you need to be prepared for this and act accordingly to ensure the immediate safety of the child.

    • Whether the child requires a support person. This could be the parent or another safe adult identified by the child or the parent. If the child refuses to participate in a CAI, do not pursue it and consider other methods of assessment. 

  • Child Assessment Interviews must still occur within the Initial Inquiry timeframe and at an appropriate time and location.

  • All CAI's must be conducted by two authorised officers who have completed the CAI training and have the skills to interview children (s.25 of the Act).

  • Initial Inquiries must be approved by a team leader.

  • You must only proceed to CSI when at least one of the following concerns is recorded:

    • Emotional Abuse – FDV
    • Emotional Abuse – Other
    • Neglect
    • Physical Abuse
    • Sexual Abuse
    • Abandonment
    • Dead or Incapacitated
    • Unable to provide adequate care.

Procedures

  • Overview
  • Conducting an Initial Inquiry
  • Recording an Initial Inquiry
  • What is procedural fairness?
  • Overview

    ​Initial Inquiries are undertaken in order to clarify information referred to the Department to assess whether the Department has a further role in safeguarding or promoting the wellbeing of a child. These inquiries are made in accordance with s.31, s.33A, and s. 33B of the Act.  

    An Initial Inquiry is not an investigation, as such youshould only undertake actions in order to determine whether the Department has a further role in safeguarding or promoting the wellbeing of the child involved.

    If the referral relates to an unborn infant or a childaged 0-2 years, you must refer to the resource Determining risk factors for an infant when completing the Interaction.

    As part of an Interaction, your actions are limited to contact with the referrer, contact with the parents and reviewing Department information. An Initial Inquiry allows information to be requested outside of these sources, such as teachers, other family members, WA Police and Department of Health.

    Initial Inquiries must be completed within five working days.

    In an Initial Inquiry, you must only interview the child with his or her parent or other legal guardian's consent.

     

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    Conducting an Initial Inquiry

    ​You must assess the referral using the Interaction Tool and record the Interaction to conduct an Initial Inquiry. 

    You must record the Initial Inquiry using the Interaction Tool in Assist.

    The following is the list of issues that can be recorded and intaked to Initial Inquiry: 

     Can progress to Initial Inquiry but not to a Child Safety Investions

      Can progress to Initial Inquiry and/or a Child Safety Investigation

    Adoption
    Child Care Licencing Issue
    Child Concern Report
    Custody Access
    Developmental Delay
    Family Domestic Violence
    Family History/Reunification
    Family Problem
    Financial Problem
    Foster Carer Information
    Foster Carer Recruitment
    Funeral Query
    Homelessness
    Interstate Liaison
    Legacy Child Protection Data
    Legal Problem
    Migrated Data
    Other Relationship
    Parent/Adolescent Conflict
    Parenting
    Post Disaster Support
    Post Trauma Support
    Psychiatric Problem
    Request for Information
    Runaway Child
    School Problem
    Substance Abuse
    Suicide Risk
    Supervised Bail Program
    Transfer of Guardianship
    Transfer of Interstate Order 

    Emotional Abuse - FDV
    Emotional Abuse - Other
    Neglect
    Physical Abuse
    Sexual Abuse
    Abandonment
    Dead or Incapacitated
    Unable to provide adequate care.

     

     

     

     

     

    As part of an Initial Inquiry the CPW should undertake actions to clarify the concerns and assist in determining whether the Department has a further role in safeguarding and promoting the child's wellbeing (s.31 of the Act).

    Actions can include:

    • contacting the referrer
    • contacting the parents
    • contacting other family members
    • contacting support and safety network members
    • contacting the school, general practitioner, other services involved with the child and family to gain up to date assessments
    • contacting the WA Police and Department of Health (s.23 of the Act) to request relevant information
    • conducting a home visit
    • referral to services, and/or
    • provision of social services.

     

    You must not conduct an investigation during an Initial Inquiry.  Under s.32(d) of the Act an investigation is conducted to ascertain whether the child may be in need of protection.

    If you believe that an investigation needs to occur, you should progress the Initial Inquiry to a Child Safety Investigation.

    In an Initial Inquiry you can only interview the child with parental or other legal guardian consent.

    You must not conduct an interview with a child, as part of an Initial Inquiry, without the consent of a parent or other legal guardian of the child.

     

    When seeking consent for a Child Assessment Interview from a parent or guardian who has English as a second language, you must consider the need for an interpreting service. Where this is required, you must facilitate this service.

    The purpose of a Child Assessment Interview (CAI) as part of an Initial Inquiry is to:

    • clarify information obtained in the referral and to determine if we have a role. In some cases, it can be beneficial to interview a child early to negate concerns from a referrer and determine the reported concerns do not warrant a CSI, and to
    • ascertain the child's wishes and feelings and help to identify safe adults.

    A CAI at Initial Inquiry must not be used:

    • to assess whether harm has occurred (although this preliminary assessment can inform the more comprehensive assessment undertaken at CSI, if one is required)
    • to substitute a forensic interview
    • to obtain a disclosure
    • to assess Homeless Young People (who are covered by the Youth Protocol) and require a CSI to be undertaken 
    • to assess concerns relating to children in care, these require referral to the relevant district, and/or
    • where there are obvious harms to children, including injuries, clear disclosures of abuse or where a joint response with the WA Police is required.

    In seeking consent for the CAI you should think about who is providing consent and whether it is in the child's best interests for them to provide consent. You should be open, honest and transparent when discussing the request with the parents and provide clear information about the consequences of not providing consent.

    You must consider the following before requesting consent:

    • If the concerns relate to a child's exposure to family and domestic violence and seeking consent from the adult victim for a CAI at Initial Inquiry is likely to increase the risks to them (and therefore the child), consent should not be sought.

    • Be mindful about limiting the number of times a child is interviewed. If the concerns indicate that a CAI at CSI or a specialist (forensic) child interview is likely, then it is not in a child's best interest to be interviewed at Initial Inquiry.

    • Consider the child's verbal and communication skills. It may not be appropriate to interview very young children at Initial Inquiry. You may need to rely on other assessment methods to determine if we have a role.

    • Although disclosure is not the purpose of a CAI at Initial Inquiry, you need to be prepared for this and act accordingly to ensure the immediate safety of the child.

    • Whether the child requires a support person. This could be the parent or another safe adult identified by the child or the parent. If the child refuses to participate in a CAI, it should not be pursued and other methods of assessment should be considered. 

    If consent is not provided for a CAI at Initial Inquiry and you have determined in consultation with your team leader that there is a further role for the Department to investigate the concerns, the matter should proceed to a CSI.

    The worker conducting the CSI should consider whether a warrant (access) should be sought to interview the child;  You cannot use s.33 of the Act any longer as the parent has been advised of the intention to interview the child.

    Seeking consent for CAIs at Initial Inquiry may not be appropriate where:

    • a parent is the alleged perpetrator

    • a non-offending parent may be colluding with or intimidated by the alleged perpetrator

    • if it is likely that seeking consent would result in the child being influenced or coerced to give an inaccurate account of how they are feeling, and/or

    • if parents are affected by drugs and alcohol and/or there are concerns about their mental health and their ability to understand the request.

    In these cases, Initial Inquiries should not include either sighting or interviewing the child to assess their safety and wellbeing. This should only occur once a decision has been made to undertake a CSI.

    Child Assessment Interviews must still occur within the Initial Inquiry timeframe and at an appropriate time and location.

    All CAI's must be conducted by two authorised officers who have completed the CAI training and have the skills to interview children (s.25 of the Act).

    For more information about interviewing children, please refer to the section Undertaking a child assessment interview in Chapter 2.2 Conducting a Child Safety Investigation.

    You should gather sufficient information to be able to make a determination about whether the Department has a further role or not. Once this is done, proceed to completing the Initial Inquiry by recording it appropriately on Assist. 

    Initial Inquiries must be approved by your team leader.

     All CAIs at Initial Inquiry must be recorded in Assist and Objective (including any scribed notes).

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    Recording an Initial Inquiry

    ​Initial Inquiries should be concise and focused on assessing and analysing the further information gathered during the Initial Inquiry. You should make a recommendation about whether the matter should progress to a CSI or closure and provide a supporting rationale.

    Headings

    When an Initial Inquiry is proceeding to case closure:

    1. CURRENT CONCERN (as taken from the Intake to Initial Inquiry)
    2. ASSIST/ TRIAGE HISTORY (as taken from the Intake to Initial Inquiry)
    3. ACTIONS TAKEN UNDER INITIAL INQUIRY (include date of action, with who, and Objective File reference number)
    4.  WHAT'S WORKING WELL? (can be in dot point format)
    5.  ASSESSMENT
    6.  FEEDBACK TO REFERRER (contact and feedback given to original referrer)
    7.  AUTHOR (include author name, position and work unit)

    When an Initial Inquiry is proceeding to CSI:

    1. CURRENT CONCERN (as taken from the Intake to Initial Inquiry)
    2. ASSIST/ TRIAGE HISTORY (as taken from the Intake to Initial Inquiry)
    3.  ACTIONS TAKEN UNDER INITIAL INQUIRY (include date of action, with who and Objective File reference number)
    4.  WHATS WORKING WELL? (can be in dot point format)
    5.  DRAFT DANGER STATEMENT(S)
    6.  DRAFT SAFETY GOAL(S)
    7.  COMPLICATING FACTORS (can be in dot point format)
    8.  MISSING INFORMATION (can be in dot point format)
    9.  ASSESSMENT
    10.  TEAM LEADER CONSULT (include who was consulted, date of consult and summary of consultation)
    11.  FEEDBACK TO REFERRER (contact and feedback given to original referrer)
    12. AUTHOR (include author name, position and work unit).

    Refer to Assist User Guides - Initial Inquiry.

    There are the legislative grounds under which an investigation can be conducted to determine whether a child may be in need of protection (s.28 of the Act). 

    You must only proceed to CSI when at least one of the following concerns is recorded:

    • Emotional Abuse - FDV
    • Emotional Abuse - Other
    • Neglect
    • Physical Abuse
    • Sexual Abuse
    • Abandonment
    • Dead or Incapacitated
    • Unable to provide adequate care.

     If you determine that the Department does not have a role, record 'No Further Action'.

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    What is 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. The principles of procedural fairness should be applied to all decisions that may negatively affect the rights, interests or legitimate expectations of an individual, this can include actions taken as part of an Interaction. 

    These principles underpin the Department's processes:

    1. 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.

    2. The Bias Rule – the decision-maker should be unbiased in the matter to be decided.

    3. 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. All authorised officers should be familiar with the concept of procedural fairness and aim to promote this in their work.

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