Consultation with community-based child and family welfare services - advice

This advice provides additional information about Section 38 consultations.

Document ID number 2020, version 2, 1 March 2016.

Introduction

See Section 38 consultations for tasks that must be undertaken.

This advice provides additional information regarding intake assessment consultations with senior child protection practitioners (community-based).

The CYFA places children’s best interests at the heart of all decision making and service delivery. The ability to consult is a key component of the legislation which aims to:

  • ensure all information relevant to the assessment of risk is gathered and appropriate referrals are made to support the child and family
  • promote and support the partnership, interface and operation of child protection and Child and Family Information Referral and Support Teams (Child FIRST) and family services, including cradle to kinder programs.

Consultation is the process by which information is shared and advice is given to achieve the best possible outcomes for vulnerable children and their families.

Note: when reference is made to Child FIRST and registered family services, this includes cradle to kinder and services connect as these are all types of community-based child and family services and are members of the Child and Family Services Alliances.

Legal provision for consultation

Consultation is a key component of the CYFA. The intention is that child protection is specifically enabled to consult in response to a report, and to provide information, support and broad advice to Child FIRST and family services and vice versa. The Act provides for:

  • consultation by Child FIRST or a registered family service or child protection at intake with each other and with service agencies and specified classes of professionals for the purpose of assessing risk or determining the agency best able to provide assistance where referrals or reports have been received.
  • consultation by Child FIRST or registered family services with child protection at any time regarding to any matter relating to their purposes under s. 22 of the CYFA.

Note that whilst Child FIRST is the primary central community intake, registered family services may also provide a local intake, particularly for self referrals or intra agency referrals.

Consultation for intake assessment

The CYFA permits Child FIRST or registered family services and child protection to consult widely during the intake assessment for the purposes of assessing risk or determining the agency best able to provide assistance.

When Child FIRST or a registered family service receives a child wellbeing referral or unborn child referral, they may consult with:

  • child protection
  • another community-based child and family service
  • service agencies (other government sectors and services like disability, health, psychiatric, and drug or alcohol)
  • information holders (key professionals like police, principals and teachers, doctors and nurses, psychologists, persons in charge of children's services, and drug and alcohol treatment services).

When child protection receives a report, child protection may consult with:

  • Child FIRST
  • registered family services
  • cradle to kinder
  • service agencies (other government sectors and services like disability, health, psychiatric, and drug or alcohol)
  • information holders (key professionals like police, principals and teachers, doctors and nurses, psychologists, persons in charge of children's services, and drug and alcohol treatment services).

Authorised people who are consulted by, and provide information, to child protection or Child FIRST in good faith are protected against legal and professional liability (s. 37, CYFA). However, there is no legal requirement in the CYFA to protect an authorised person's identity as there is with reporters or referrers. Child protection should encourage the person with whom it has consulted to consider consenting to the disclosure of their identity. Where the person does not want their identity to be disclosed, child protection will keep their identity confidential unless it is required by law to disclose that information or it is necessary to do so in the course of child protection carrying out its functions.

An ongoing partnership

Consultation with community-based child and family services at intake and beyond

Consultation and effective information sharing between child protection and community-based child and family services will:

  • enable Child FIRST and registered family services to seek advice from child protection on risk assessments at the point of initial intake assessments and in ongoing work with families
  • enable child protection to provide professional advice and support to Child FIRST and registered family services as they undertake risk assessments and make decisions about how best to work with more complex families
  • allow opportunities to offer effective earlier intervention and prevention services and support to vulnerable children and families before there is a need for child protection intervention
  • support the earlier identification of cumulative harm to children and assist in ensuring that families receive appropriate services
  • provide a mechanism to follow-up on referrals between registered family services and child protection if need be to ensure families are engaged in appropriate services and supports
  • improve outcomes for vulnerable children and their families.

Community-based child protection

Community-based child protection is the term used to describe a range of roles and functions in divisional child protection programs which support the partnerships between and service delivery of community-based child and family services and child protection.

Community child protection teams are comprised of the senior child protection practitioner (community-based), supported by the practice leader and area manager. Senior child protection practitioners (community-based), practice leaders and area managers are assigned to each Child FIRST catchment to support service delivery of child protection, Child FIRST and registered family services to the community.

The senior child protection practitioner (community-based) undertakes a range of key functions, including:

  • case managing cases that are in transition to Child FIRST
  • facilitating referrals from child protection to Child FIRST
  • facilitating reports from Child FIRST to child protection
  • providing consultation and advice on specific cases to Child FIRST and registered family services in the sub-regional catchments, including safety planning to enable ongoing case management
  • providing advice to the child protection practitioners regarding making referrals to Child FIRST and registered family services
  • identifying cases within child protection requiring enhanced referral
  • participating in Child FIRST allocation meetings to provide advice and clarification on cases referred by child protection.
  • participating in alliance operations group meetings to provide advice regarding processes and transactions between Child FIRST and family services, and child protection
  • participating in local professional development and community education activities.

The practice leader undertakes a range of key functions in the child protection program, those functions relating to Child FIRST catchments include:

  • supervision of the senior child protection practitioner (community-based) to support and strengthen the interface between Child FIRST and registered family services and child protection
  • establishment of a local consultative panel to enable Child FIRST practitioners to seek advice on complex case matters.

The area manager undertakes a range of key functions in the child protection program. Those functions relating to Child FIRST catchments include:

  • supervision of the practice leader.
  • becoming the formal departmental representative on the local Child and Family Service Alliance.

Role of the senior child protection practitioner (community-based) in providing consultation

A report from Child FIRST and family services to child protection can be made at any time. Child FIRST and registered family services can also consult with child protection at any time if necessary.

Child FIRST and registered family services should consult with the senior child protection practitioner (community-based) in the first instance prior to reporting concerns to child protection, unless the case is open in child protection or there are specific circumstances (such as an urgent matter that may require an immediate report to child protection).

Child FIRST and registered family services may, with the agreement of the senior child protection practitioner (community-based), request that a complex case be subject to consultation at the local consultative panel in their catchment.

Child protection practitioners should consult with the senior child protection practitioner (community-based) when considering the need for, or appropriateness of, referring cases to Child FIRST and registered family services, at all phases of Child Protection involvement.

Recording of consultations

The senior child protection practitioner (community-based), Child FIRST and registered family services must record all consultations on their respective client files.

The senior child protection practitioner (community-based) records all consultations on CRIS.  See procedure Section 38 consultations for tasks that must be undertaken. The s38 consultation form provides a detailed record of the consultation.  The consult should be closed on CRIS on the day it is opened, after all notes have been recorded.  Any subsequent consultations regarding the client are recorded via a newly registered s38 consultation on CRIS.

See procedure Receiving, registering and classifying a report for tasks that must be undertaken and Case recording – advice.

Where the consultation results in significant concerns for a child's safety, a new report must be initiated. The practitioners must agree on who is best placed to make the report to Child Protection; normally this will be the practitioner who has the most direct knowledge of the child and family circumstances.

New allegations or reports from other sources

Any new allegations or concerns raised by Child FIRST or family services, or a report to child protection from a third party, irrespective of whether the case is open or closed in Child FIRST and a registered family service, must be treated and recorded as a new report which may then be classified as a child wellbeing report or protective intervention report.

Where a report is received from a third party, if there is an indication of Child FIRST and a registered family service involvement, the relevant community-based child and family services agency should be informed that a new report has been received and about the outcome of that report.

Considerations for good practice

Case conferences

In the majority of instances child protection will provide and seek consultation over the phone. However, case conferencing is an important mechanism for consulting, sharing information and coordinating services with relevant professionals to achieve best outcomes for vulnerable children and their families. For complex case matters consideration should be given to referring the case to the local consultative panel established in each sub catchment. See Case conferences - advice.

Professional judgement

It is expected that professional analysis and judgement will be applied on a case by case basis whenever Child FIRST and family services consult with child protection on case related matters. Any concerning information which indicates significant risk of or actual harm to a child’s safety, development and wellbeing needs to be considered for classification as a protective intervention report rather than recorded as a consultation either on the original or subsequent child wellbeing report.

Additional information

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