Identifying Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children

Follow this procedure when identifying and recording a child’s Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander status.

Document ID number 1405, version 1, 23 June 2017.

Introduction

Identifying Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children who are involved with child protection in Victoria is essential to fulfilling legislative, policy and practice requirements.

Early identification of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children ensures:

  • the child’s cultural rights are protected and promoted
  • legislative obligations under the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 (CYFA) that promote cultural safety and connectedness are adhered to, and  
  • Aboriginal specific services are offered to the child and family as early as possible.

Some families may be worried about telling child protection that their child is Aboriginal. Demonstrating respect for Aboriginal culture and for Aboriginal children and families may assist, as may providing information about why child protection needs this information, and the difference it will make for the child.

Sometimes families may know little about their Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander connections. They may not know, or may not be willing to share, details such as mob, traditional country, totems or details of significant people in the family or community.

See Identifying Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children – advice for further information.

Procedure

Case practitioner tasks

Intake

Ask the reporter if the child is Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander

Ask:

“Is the child(use name) Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander?”

             If the answer is “Yes”, clarify:

             “Is the child (use name) Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander or both?”

             If the answer is “No”, clarify:

             “What is the child’s (use name) cultural background or heritage?”

Refer to the script provided in Identifying Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children – advice.

  • Ask the question for each child in a sibling group. If the reporter (or other source) does not know if a child or sibling is Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, the child’s Indigenous status should be recorded as under assessment on CRIS.
  • Record the response for each child separately on CRIS both in the case note and demographics section. (Refer to the CRIS CP – Intake Phase Page Quick Reference Guide or CRIS CP – Case Practice: Information guide for details on where to record this information correctly).
  • Ask if the child or parent is Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander when contacting services such as a school, childcare centre, hospital, medical professional or police officer during the course of an intake assessment. These services, and others, routinely identify if a child or family is Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander in the course of their work.
  • If the reporter (or other source) identifies the child or parent as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, ask “Is there any other information about the child’s (use name) Aboriginal family, community or significant people that may help to support this child (use name)?” as they may know more information that could assist child protection work in culturally sensitive ways with the child and family.

It’s important to remember though that a ‘no’ response by the reporter (or other source) may only indicate that the information has not been collected or recorded accurately. In such cases, the child’s Indigenous status should be recorded as ‘under assessment.

Investigation and response

It will not always be possible to identify if a child is Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander during intake.

During the first face-to-face contact with a family, usually the first home visit:

  • Ask each parent and child (where age and development permits) if the child is Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander.
  • Ask each parent whether they are Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander.
  • If asked why the information is needed, provide a simple and clear explanation and clarify this question is asked of all children and families and that the information is used to help support children. Give the information sheet for families regarding identifying Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children.
  • If the child or parent objects to the question or declines to answer, confirm they have the right to decline to answer and they also have the right to provide this information at a later time if they chose.

If you are asking a person directly ask:

          “Are you Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander?

          If the answer is “Yes”, clarify:

         “Are you Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander or both?

          If the answer is “No”, clarify:

         “What is your cultural background or heritage?”

Refer to the script provided in Identifying Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children – advice.

  • Record their response in the first home visit document, as well as on the client file (CRIS) in the client profile, demographics. (Refer to the CRIS CP – Case Practice: Information guide for details on where to record this information correctly).  
  • Where either parent identifies as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, the child is to be recorded on CRIS as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, irrespective of whether the other parent or carer identifies the child as such. Record the parent’s Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander status on CRIS, on the parent’s demographics page, accessed via the person details icon in the relationship component.

It is a practice requirement to ask the question and record the answer as accurately as possible, and practitioners should be able to explain why the question has been asked. However, practitioners are not obliged to convince an unwilling parent or child to respond or justify the use of the standard question.

  • Develop a genogram with the family. Remain curious and ask questions about extended family members and other people who may be significant to the child and family.
  • Provide information about ACSASS to the child and their family during the first home visit if the child is identified as  Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, and explain the requirement for child protection to consult with ACSASS regarding all Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children. In consultation with your supervisor, if assessed as safe to do so, offer to reschedule the visit, or visit again, when ACSASS is available to attend.
  • If the child is identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander during the investigation, contact ACSASS, provide details of the report and consult with them on all significant decisions.

Throughout child protection involvement

At any time following substantiation

  • Confirm cultural and other client details with families when preparing formal documentation, such as case plans and court reports, are check they are accurately recorded.

This provides regular opportunities for children and parents to check information about their Aboriginality, and make changes as necessary. It also prevents practitioners from having to repeatedly ask families for this information.

It is possible that families who have not previously identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander may wish to at a later time. Practitioners need to be sensitive to, and accepting of this. Should this occur:

  • Contact ACSASS and advise them that the child has just been identified as  Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, and of the decisions made to date.
  • Consult ACSASS on all future significant decisions.
  • If the child is subject to a protection application or under a Children’s Court order, prepare a letter for the child’s case planner to notify the Court in writing that the child’s Aboriginal identity has become known, as they will update their records.
  • If the matter is before the Children’s Court inform the Child Protection Litigation Office (CPLO) or your divisional legal representative.
  • Update the case plan and actions table as required.

There are additional considerations to be addressed in court reports and that a magistrate must take into account under the CYFA when making decisions in relation to children who are Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander.

Where the child is identified be someone else as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander during child protection involvement:

  • Ask; “Is there any other information about the child’s (use name) Aboriginal family, community or significant people that may help to support this child (use name)?”
  • Record the information in CRIS and consult with ACSASS – it may be that the family has not wished to identify the child as Aboriginal to date, and ACSASS may be able to confirm or assist with engaging with the family to raise the question again with them.
  • If confirmed, follow the additional procedures above.

Where a child is in out-of-home care

  • Where a child in out-of-home care is newly identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, in addition to the above, arrange for the care team to prepare a cultural plan for the child.
  • Where a letter of confirmation of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander heritage has been provided by an ACCO for a child in out-of-home care, attach a copy to a case note in CRIS with the subject ‘confirmation of …’, and retain the original for provision to the parent, permanent care parent or child as appropriate when Child Protection involvement ceases.

Supervisor tasks

  • Confirm the child protection practitioner is asking about Aboriginality as required and correctly recording the child’s status.
  • Provide on-going supervision and consultation about working with Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait islander children.

Team manager / practice leader tasks

  • Monitor compliance with legislative, policy and practice requirements
  • Provide on-going supervision and consultation about working with Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait islander children.
  • Sign the letter for the Children’s Court where applicable.

 

 

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