Unborn child reports

Follow this procedure when managing reports about unborn children.

Introduction

Under the CYFA, child protection can:

  • receive an unborn child report
  • share information about the mother of the unborn child with an information holder or service provider, for the purpose of assessing risk or seeking advice on the most appropriate service to provide assistance
  • provide advice to the person who made the report
  • provide advice and assistance to the mother of the unborn child
  • refer the mother of the unborn child to a community-based child and family service or a service agency to provide advice, service and support.

For an unborn child report:

  • intervention can only occur with the mother’s consent
  • the report cannot be classified as a protective intervention report so there can be no investigation, substantiation decision, or protective intervention
  • a protection application cannot be made prior to the child’s birth.

Procedure

Case practitioner tasks

Identifying Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children who are involved with child protection in Victoria is a practice requirement.

If the reporter (or other source) does not know if a child or sibling is Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, the child's Aboriginal status should be recorded as under assessment on the client file (CRIS) and further enquiries made later.

Practitioners are to proactively ask if each child and each parent is Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander.

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 identified the child as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander.

  • Register the report in CRIS as an ‘Intake – unborn child’ report and group the unborn child in CRIS with any siblings or the mother if  she is a current or previous client. The worker allocated to siblings and/or mother may also undertake any of the actions in this procedure.

If the mother is transient the case should be managed by the division that received the report until the mother is in stable accommodation or the location of the child's birth is known. If, at the time of report, the mother is in hospital or prison, the mother's last known home address determines case responsibility.

  • Seek further information, develop a risk assessment and transfer the client file to the community-based senior child protection practitioner, or allocate the report to the existing practitioner  allocated to the children in the unborn child's sibling group.
  • Consult with ACSASS where it is known or believed that the unborn child is Aboriginal. The mother’s consent is not required for this consultation to occur.
    • Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (Lakidjeka) ACSASS (entire state except for the Mallee area) - (03) 9388 2488
    • Mallee District Aboriginal Services ACSASS (Mallee area only) - 0429223833 (daytime), 0427474863 (after hours)
  • Convene a case conference if required.
  • Consult with your supervisor and determine the report outcome.
  • Inform the reporter of the outcome of the report, unless contrary to the best interests of the unborn child.

If the mother is a child protection client

  • Consider whether an unborn report should be made if the mother is subject to child protection intervention or a protection order. Consult with your supervisor regarding this decision.
  • Consult with Victoria Police if evidence suggests the mother became pregnant while under the age of 16 years or the pregnancy is the result of a crime.
  • Complete a category one Incident Report where she is subject to a family reunification order, care by Secretary order or long-term care order.

If providing advice to the reporter only

  • Complete CRIS requirements, including records of actions, decision and rationales.
  • Complete the intake phase requirements in CRIS and move the case to closure phase.

If referring the mother to a child and family service or a service agency

  • Contact the mother, advise her of the report and seek her consent to referrals.
  • If consent is provided, complete referrals.
  • Complete CRIS requirements, including records of actions, decisions and rationales.
  • Complete intake phase requirements in CRIS and move the case to closure phase.

If providing advice and assistance to the mother (either existing child protection practitioner or community based senior child protection practitioner where applicable)

  • Contact the mother to:
    • advise her of the report
    • seek her consent to child protection involvement, and involvement of the father of her unborn child or others. The mother’s consent must be obtained before involving the father or any other non-professional person.
  • Complete Worker safety checklist.
  • Consult your supervisor and the practice leader when high-risk factors are present if the mother refuses or withdraws consent at any time. Consider a professional case conference.
  • At the initial contact with the mother:
    • identify yourself and show identification
    • explain the role and legal mandate of child protection, including explaining the limited mandate in relation to unborn child reports
    • interview the mother about the reported concerns
    • comply with the confidentiality provisions of the CYFA
    • consider interviewing other children in the home not subject to the report, with parental consent or by initiating a report, unless the other children are current clients.

Other than in legally prescribed circumstances, the name of the reporter or any person who has provided information in confidence during the investigation or any information likely to lead to their identification must not be disclosed without the written consent of the person – s. 209 (1) CYFA.

  • Undertake further assessment and casework consistent with the Best interest case practice model.
  • Record the details of the contact in a case note, including:
    • safety and wellbeing statement
    • decisions and rationales for them.
  • Consult your supervisor about the assessment, plans for pre-birth support, safety plan following the birth, and next steps including convening a case conference or endorsement for case closure if assessment indicates sufficient safety will be present after the birth of the child.
  • Complete the intake phase requirements in CRIS and move the case to closure phase.

If the infant is born during an open unborn child report

Community-based senior child protection practitioner tasks during an open unborn child report

  • Undertake practitioner tasks above if case is allocated to the community-based senior child protection practitioner.
  • In the event the mother moves to another area or division, consider whether to continue to manage the unborn child report until it is closed.

A case transfer may be negotiated where the mother is seeking assistance to connect her with services local to her new location and it is her intention to remain in that location. Alternatively, a request to undertake case tasks in the new division may be made.

  • Enter a case note in CRIS noting the hospital details and the mother's residential details at the time of closure if the mother has moved since the unborn report was made.
  • Maintain case responsibility until the birth of the child in cases where a report is considered to be high risk and a decision is made for the report to remain open until the birth of the child. At that time, the intake team manager will close the unborn child report and make a new report regarding the newborn child to the appropriate division.

Supervisor tasks

  • Provide ongoing supervision and consultation.

Team manager / practice leader tasks

  • Provide ongoing supervision and consultation.
  • Endorse key decisions including:
    • classification and outcome of reports
    • priority and urgency of protective intervention reports
  • Transfer cases to other teams.
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