Consultation with specialist practitioners

This advice outlines the requirements and processes for obtaining, using and documenting advice from four specialist practitioner roles within the child protection program.

Introduction

Strengthening support and supervision is a central objective of the child protection operating model. The model values and promotes the input of practitioners with practice expertise and experience to consolidate a more supportive and educative environment for child protection practitioners in their work with vulnerable children, young people and families.

Consultation with a specialist practitioner is undertaken to broaden understanding of case dynamics and assist with planning and decision making. Consultation in this context occurs outside of a practitioner’s supervisory and management line however should occur with these positions being aware of the consultation occurring, at times with them taking part in the consultation.

Creating a record of the consultation on the client’s file is critical to ensure that:

  • the purpose for the consultation is accurately reflected
  • actions and directions arising from the consultation are accurately reflected
  • the consultation assists to guide implementation of the actions, and is available on CRIS to inform future work.

Definitions

Specialist practitioners

For the purposes of this advice, the term ‘specialist practitioner’, is used generically to refer to:

  • Chief Practitioner Human Services (Chief Practitioner)
  • state-wide principal practitioner
  • divisional principal practitioner
  • child protection practice leader (practice leader).

Consultation

Consultation in this context refers to the process by which information is shared and advice is given outside standard line management. Specialist practitioners can provide primary or secondary case consultation:

  • primary case consultation – direct work with clients, their carers, child protection practitioners and case managers on complex cases
  • secondary case consultation – provide consultation, advice and recommendations to child protection practitioners, case managers and case planners and other key service partners regarding complex cases.

Case review

Specialist practitioners can also undertake case reviews that examine part or all of the history of an individual case to evaluate practice effectiveness and outcomes, and identify opportunities for improvement.

Consultations available from divisional specialist practitioners

Child protection practice leaders

The complexity of child protection practice and decision-making often requires multi-disciplinary and specialist input. Child protection area teams feature practice leaders to support, guide and develop child protection practitioners through co-working, modelling and reflective discussion and advice.

Where additional input into case assessment and decision making is indicated, child protection practitioners should seek to utilise the expertise available to them from their local child protection practice leader.

Child protection practice leaders carry a case load and work with child protection practitioners through hands-on case management, leading and assisting with joint interviews and assessments, family-led and professional case conferences, and professional development. Practice leaders have delegations regarding endorsement of decisions to close cases involving high risk infants. See  procedure High-risk infants for tasks that must be undertaken.

Divisional principal practitioners

Divisional principal practitioners are part of the divisional child protection leadership team and provide practice leadership, consultancy and advice to child protection practitioners. Divisional principal practitioners can work with child protection practitioners through a co-allocation of case management or provide mentoring to practitioners where the principal practitioner is directly allocated a case.

In more complex, challenging and high risk matters, clinical expertise, skill and capability is required to inform assessment and decision making. The role of the divisional principal practitioner is to provide such capability to child protection practitioners including practice leaders, senior practitioners and team managers.

Requests for a consultation with a divisional principal practitioner requires the endorsement of a senior child protection practitioner at the CPP5 level or above. The principal practitioner consultation form should be completed for scheduled consultations with a principal practitioner, and in particular for mandatory consultation requirements. See Other letters, applications, invitations, certificates, requests, advice for a copy of the form.

Mandatory requirements for consulting a divisional principal practitioner

The divisional principal practitioner must be consulted on the following matters:

  • when a child or young person is identified as being at risk of sexual exploitation (see procedure Sexual exploitation for tasks that must be undertaken).
  • when a child is having contact with a convicted or registered sex offender, and
  • when consideration is being given to closing a report about a child in contact with a sex offender in the intake phase or at any time during child protection involvement. (see procedure Child in contact with sex offender for tasks that must be undertaken).

Authority of advice and direction from divisional principal practitioner

The advice and direction provided by a divisional principal practitioner during a consultation is authoritative and should be acted on promptly.

If after a consultation has occurred differing views emerge regarding the direction of a case these should be brought back to the divisional principal practitioner for further discussion and resolution.

If the differing views cannot be resolved with the divisional principal practitioner, the matter should be referred to the divisional assistant director, child protection, to mediate an outcome.

If the matter remains unresolved, the divisional director, child protection, is the final position for resolving the issues and setting the final advice on the case.

Consultation, advice and direction from the Office of Professional Practice

The Office of Professional Practice (the office) provides practice leadership and evidence-informed directions and recommendations about child protection practice.

The office, through the chief practitioner and the statewide principal practitioners, has responsibility for:

  • Providing practice leadership and making authoritative decisions based on sound practice expertise and contemporary research.
  • Intervening in and assisting case management of high risk, extremely complex or sensitive cases across divisions as agreed by the divisional executive.
  • Preparing and presenting comprehensive reports, briefings and submissions on complex cases as required.
  • Providing clinical supervision to divisional principal practitioners.
  • Contributing to the professional capability of practice leaders and other child protection practitioners.

In relation to case practice and leadership, the office has a focus on supporting assessment and management of high risk, complex and challenging cases.

The office is expected to undertake assessments and make decisions in relation to a range of high-risk case matters:

  • proposed kinship placements where a criminal history check of an adult significant to the placement has revealed a category one offence
  • sexual exploitation of a child or young person
  • action to be taken to the Supreme Court and County Courts
  • transfer of young people from youth justice centres to adult prisons
  • when children are being administered medicinal cannabis.

The office must also be advised of client matters with a significant public profile (for example, interest from media or ministers) or the potential for significant public interest and that involve external review bodies (Ombudsman, Disability Services Commissioner, or Commission for Children and Young People).

In addition to specific cases where it is mandatory to either consult with or inform the office, requests for case review and consultation can be made where there are serious concerns and specialist input is required to inform decision making.

Requesting a consultation with a statewide principal practitioner and chief practitioner

Requests to the Office of Professional Practice for a case consultation, or case practice review will be considered on the basis of factors such as complexity, risk, immediacy of incident, opportunity for capacity building, systemic learning and professional development, resource availability and need for specialisation and source of referral or request.

Case consultation request forms are available on the Office of Professional Practice web page.

The principal practitioner consultation form should be completed for scheduled consultations with a principal practitioner, and in particular for mandatory consultation requirements.

Child protection referrals to the office must be discussed with the divisional principal practitioner and child protection operations manager prior to submitting a consultation request.

Completed consultation request forms should include the endorsement of a senior manager at CPP6 or VPS6 level or above, and be emailed to officeofprofessionalpractice@dhs.vic.gov.au.

Authority of advice and direction from the Office of Professional Practice

The chief practitioner and statewide principal practitioners lead the provision of specialist clinical advice and consultation regarding child protection practice and service delivery across the state. The clinical advice and practice leadership they provide is authoritative and should be acted upon promptly.

Should differing views emerge during a statewide principal practitioner consultation the matter should be raised with the chief practitioner who will be responsible for determining the final advice on the case.

Recording specialist practitioner consultation advice and recommendations

See Case recording for requirements regarding case related consultations with a specialist practitioner. Note that all such consultations must be recorded on the client file.

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