First visit

Follow this procedure when conducting the first visit.

Document ID number 1018, version 4, 25 May 2017.

Introduction

The purpose of the first visit is to have direct contact with the child and family to investigate the protective intervention report.

The first visit is conducted once the investigation plan has been approved.

Procedure

Case practitioner tasks

  • Undertake the first visit guided by the investigation plan.
  • On arrival, check the house or unit number and street name is correct.
  • If no one is home, decide whether it is appropriate to leave a note. Consider the nature of the concerns. It is not appropriate to leave a note where a forensic investigation (physical or sexual) is required.

A note on plain paper or a department calling card may be left with your contact details.

  • When the door is answered, ask for a parent by name, or request to speak with the parent of the subject child.
  • Until it is confirmed that a parent/carer of a subject child is being spoken to, only provide the names of practitioners, not the purpose of the visit or mention of child protection. When it is confirmed that you are speaking to the child’s parent/carer, identify yourself and show identification. Ask to go inside to discuss the report.
  • For safety reasons, ask who is in the house.
  • Explain the role and legal mandate of child protection practitioners as protective interveners to the parents/carers and the child (where appropriate for the child’s age and ability), before discussing the report. Inform them that any information they give may be used for the purposes of a protection application.
  • Comply with the confidentiality requirements of the CYFA:
    • The name of the reporter or anyone who provided information must not be disclosed without their written consent.

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).

Information about a person’s status as a registered sex offender is not to be provided to any person other than a protective intervener without the person’s consent, other than where disclosure is required in the interests of the safety and wellbeing of the child.

See Information sharing.

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 must 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, irrespective of whether the other parent or carer identified the child as Aboriginal.

  • If you identify a child is Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander during the first home visit, give the child and their family information about ACSASS and explain the requirement for child protection to consult with them 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 when ACSASS is available to attend. Contact ACSASS, provide details of the report and consult with them on all significant decisions.
  • Interview the parents, as per the investigation plan, about the reported concerns.
  • Where there is family violence, interview the affected parent and child separately from the perpetrator being mindful of the safety of affected persons at all times. See Working with adult perpetrators of family violence - advice for information on engaging and interviewing perpetrators.
  • Observe the environment and the behaviour and interaction of family members about the reported concerns.
  • Interview, observe and assess the child, guided by the investigation plan and consistent with the child’s age and capability. If the child is not home at the time of the visit, make another time to return and assess the child as soon as possible or where urgent, locate the child.
  • Where there are allegations or suspicions of physical abuse or serious neglect, request parental consent and conduct a thorough visual examination of the child – see Children and their families. Note:
    • You have no legal authority to conduct an examination or remove the child’s clothing against the child’s expressed wishes or those of their parents.
    • Visual examination of a child does not ordinarily require physical contact with the child but it does require viewing the child’s skin with sufficient clothing removed to satisfy you that there are no reasonably observable signs of injury or harm as a result of physical abuse or serious neglect.
    • Where a visual examination occurs without the parents’ prior knowledge (such as at a school or child care centre) inform the parent(s) at the earliest opportunity.
    • Interview the child separately or with the non-offending parent present (if this can be established).
    • Make a detailed record of any injuries, including a detailed description and diagram of their location on the child's body.
    • Discuss with your supervisor and/or police whether there is a need for a medical assessment – see procedure Medical and forensic examinations.
  • See High-risk infants and follow procedures for observation and assessment for a child categorised as a high-risk infant.
  • Verify and sight the existence of any current or past court orders from other authorities and obtain a file copy from parents or the relevant court or other authority (family court or police). See Verifying orders - advice.
  • If the child is under two years, assess the sleeping arrangements and discuss SIDS risk factors and risk reduction strategies with parents. Provide parents with information about safe sleeping information and assist in addressing any unsafe sleeping arrangements. (An easy to read brochure can be downloaded at http://www.sidsandkids.org/safe-sleeping/ website) See procedure SIDS and safe sleeping assessment for tasks that must be undertaken.
  • Parental permission must be provided to interview other children in the home who are not subject to a report. Where protective concerns are identified for other children in the home who are not subject to a report, make a report on these other children.
  • Initiate a report if you become aware that a sex offender is in contact with a child not currently subject to child protection involvement, and notify Victoria Police Sex Offender Registry on (03) 9247 5839.
  • Formulate the risk assessment in accordance with the Best interests case practice model.
  • Discuss your risk assessment with your colleague and your supervisor. Find a place to speak privately or step outside the home to conduct your discussions. Consult your supervisor about your observation of the child, your interviews and your risk assessment and recommendations, including decision on court action.
  • See procedure Emergency care applications where, after consultation with your supervisor and endorsement by a team manager, the decision is made to place a child in emergency care.
  • Develop a safety plan to ensure the child’s safety in the immediate assessment period if necessary.
  • Discuss with the child and the parents:
    • the outcome of the first visit
    • what will happen next and why
    • a safety plan (if necessary)
    • the intention to contact services and others regarding the investigation
    • the process of communication and decision making from here.
  • Provide the child (if they are 12 years or over) and the parents with written information:
  • In cases where contact with the child or access to the home is denied or delayed by a parent or caregiver, consider seeking a Children’s Court warrant or a temporary assessment order to secure access to the child and the home.
  • Record the date and time of the first visit in CRIS, including the safety and wellbeing statement, and the decisions and rationales for these.

The CRIS field ‘first visit’ requires you to enter the first visit date and time to enable counting of the program two and 14-day KPIs. This entry relates to actual or attempted face-to-face contact with the child and/or parents.

  • Where the first visit KPI (either two or 14 day) has not been met, record the reasons on CRIS.
  • Review and update the investigation plan in CRIS.
  • If an application to the children’s court is proposed, seek authorisation from the team manager.
  • Complete CRIS requirements and record of activity, decisions and rationales.

Supervisor tasks

  • Provide ongoing supervision and consultation.
  • Approve significant decisions affecting the conduct of the investigation.
  • Approve amendments to the investigation plan.

Team manager tasks

  • Endorse key decisions including:
    • applications to the Children’s Court.
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