Reporting concerns about a child to Child Safety Services

Introduction

If you have a reason to suspect a child in Queensland has suffered harm, is experiencing harm, or is at risk of experiencing harm, you can:

  • Contact the Child Safety Services Enquiries Unit on 1800 811 810 to report the matter to your nearest Regional Intake Service during business hours. After business hours you can call the Child Safety After Hours Service Centre on 1800 177 135 or (07) 3235 9999. You can also complete an online report form on their website.
  • Contact the Queensland Police Service (QPS) immediately by dialling 000 if you believe a child is in immediate danger or in a life-threatening situation.
  • You may also consider contacting the Child Protection and Investigation Units of the Queensland Police Service if you believe that a crime has been committed or will be committed against a child. The number for Policelink is 131444.

Who can report their concerns to Child Safety Services?

Anyone can report concerns about a child to Child Safety Services. The Child Protection Act 1999 provides that they are protected from liability if the report is made ‘honestly and reasonably’.

If you are concerned about whether information that you are disclosing to a professional who you are working with, including a lawyer, is going to be confidential, it is best to ask the professional about their approach to confidentiality and notifying Child Safety Services.

Who must report their concerns about a child to Child Safety?

The Child Protection Act 1999 requires certain professionals, referred to as ‘mandatory reporters’, to make a report to Child Safety, if they form a reasonable suspicion that a child has suffered, is suffering or is at an unacceptable risk of suffering significant harm caused by physical or sexual abuse, and may not have a parent able and willing to protect them.

Mandatory reporters should also report to Child Safety Services a reasonable suspicion that a child is in need of protection caused by any other form of abuse or neglect.

The categories of professionals who are ‘mandatory reporters’ are different in every state of Australia.

In Queensland, the following professionals are ‘mandatory reporters’:

  • teachers in schools
  • doctors
  • registered nurses
  • police officers with child protection responsibilities
  • Child Safety Services workers
  • employees of licensed care services such as residential care facility workers
  • officers of the Public Guardian.

Even if someone is not included in one of these categories, they may still report their concerns for the following reasons:

  • The organisation that they work for may have a policy that requires them to do so or an agreement with a Government department that they will do so.
  • They may consider that they have an ethical duty to report.

Will information that I give to professionals be confidential? Will it be given to Child Safety Services or other parties?

Child Safety Services can receive confidential information from professionals like doctors and counsellors if:

  • the professionals report concerns to Child Safety Services because they have legal or ethical reasons to do so
  • they are ‘subpoenaed’ which means that the court has ordered that they provide the records to the court because they are relevant to the court proceedings
  • they may have your agreement to provide the information to Child Safety Services.

When you speak to your lawyer, what you say is covered by ‘Legal Professional Privilege’, which means they cannot be forced to disclose the information unless need to do so to prevent a serious criminal offence or imminent serious physical harm to someone. It is important to discuss with your lawyer whether the information that you give them will be disclosed to anyone else and in what circumstances you would permit that to occur.

When you speak to a counsellor or another professional, you can discuss with them whether what you say is confidential and in what circumstances they will disclose. If they disclose when they should not do so it may be a breach of their ethical duties and you may be able to complain to the relevant professional organisation.

If you have objections to the other parties receiving certain information in court, such as mental health histories or criminal record details, you can raise this too the Magistrate, who can sometimes make restrictions about to whom the information is provided.

When information is reported to Child Safety Services

When someone gives information to Child Safety Services about harm or risk of harm to a child or an unborn child, a Child Safety Services intake officer will:

  1. Gather and record the information
    a. talk to the notifier in person to get the context
    b. check previous child protection history, criminal history and domestic violence history
    c. consult the recognised entity if the child is Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander
    d. gather relevant information from other people and agencies.
  2. Tell the Queensland Police Service if there is a suspected crime against a child.
  3. Use the ‘Structured Decision Making’ tool and consult with the team leader to make a decision. The Structured Decision Making tool is a series of questions and guides that helps the Team Leader form a decision. This tool makes decisions more consistent and equal.
  4. A timeframe is assigned for the response, which will be 24 hours, 5 days or 10 days. If there are any urgent circumstances, if the family is likely to move to avoid investigation or if parent in the family has previously been responsible for the death of a child, the response will be 24 hours.
  5. Decide the response. The outcome will be:

    a. Record a notification
    If the investigating officer has a reasonable suspicion that the child is in need of protection, that is, that the child has been significantly harmed, is being significantly harmed or is at risk of significant harm and may not have a parent able and willing to protect them from harm.If a Notification is recorded, the matter will be referred to a Child Safety Service Centre and they will continue the investigation.

    b. Child Concern Report
    If the above criteria has not been satisfied, but there is still a need for Child Safety Services to take some action, the officer will record a Child Concern Report.

    If a Child Concern Report is recorded, the officer may:

    – Provide information and advice to the family.
    – Refer the family to another organisation such as a ‘Family and Child Connect’, and ‘Intensive Family Support Service’ or another organisation who can provide support to the family.
    – Refer the matter to the Queensland Police Service or another state’s child protection agency.

    c. No further action.
    The officer will still record information about the intake and may refer the matter to another organisation to investigate, such as the Queensland Police Services or the child protection agency in another state, if appropriate.

 

 

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When Child Safety Services or the Queensland Police Service are investigating

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The principles that guide decisions about children