Should I call to report a child at risk?
How to decide if you need to report a child who has been abused, neglected or is at significant risk of harm.
Deciding to make a report to the Child Protection Helpline
Any member of the community, including mandatory reporters, who suspect, on reasonable grounds, that a child or young person is at risk of significant harm should report their concerns to the Child Protection Helpline. Mandatory reporters and non-mandatory reporters, including the general public, should phone 13 21 11.
In an emergency, where there are urgent concerns for the child’s health or life, call the police using the emergency line triple zero (000).
Reports can be made about:
- children and young people at risk of significant harm
- unborn children at risk of significant harm
- homeless children (aged under 16) and young people (aged 16 and 17).
What is significant risk of harm?
The law says a child or young person is at risk of significant harm (ROSH) if there are current concerns for their safety, welfare or wellbeing because of one or more of the following:
- if their basic needs are not met — for example, they don’t have enough food or clothing, or don’t have a safe or secure place to live
- parents or caregivers aren’t arranging necessary medical care — for example, a child is very sick, but is not taken to a doctor
- a child or young person being physically abused or ill-treated — for example, where a child has bruises, fractures or other injuries from excessive discipline or other non-accidental actions
- a child or young person being sexually abused — for example, sexual activity between the child and an older child or adult
- risk of serious physical or psychological harm resulting from domestic violence — where a child could be injured by a punch intended for their mother, or a child can’t sleep at night because of the fear there will be violence in the home
- risk of the child or young person suffering serious psychological harm — for example, a child having to take care of his parent, or a child being continually ignored, threatened or humiliated.
I'm not sure if there's been abuse, but I'm worried. Should I call?
You don’t have to be certain, you only need to make sure your concerns are well founded and based on information you know or have from a reliable source.
Child or young person
A child or young person is at risk of significant harm if the circumstances that are causing concern for the safety, welfare or wellbeing of the child or young person are present to a significant extent. Significant means serious enough to warrant a response by a statutory authority irrespective of a family's consent.
What is significant is not minor or trivial and may reasonably be expected to produce a substantial and demonstrably adverse impact on the child or young person's safety, welfare or wellbeing.
Where possible, the young person should be involved in the decision to report unless there are good reasons for this not happening.
Tell Helpline if the young person doesn't want the report being made as we must consider the young person’s wishes when deciding to assess or investigate the report and how to do this.
In the case of an unborn child, what is significant is not minor or trivial and may reasonably be expected to produce a substantial and demonstrably adverse impact on the child after the child's birth. Significance can result from a single act or omission or an accumulation of these.
I've made a report about one child in the family. What happens to the siblings?
Whenever DCJ responds to a report it must also consider the immediate safety, welfare and wellbeing of any other children or young people living in the same home, and take appropriate action. This applies to all other children and young people in the home, not just brothers and sisters.
Can I make an anonymous report?
Yes, you can. But it does mean we won't be able to contact you again to discuss what you've told us and we can't give you any feedback on your report.
The identity of all reporters is confidential. Your identity, or any information which might reveal your identity (such as your address or workplace), can't be disclosed by anyone without your consent, except on rare occasions, where information about the report is crucial to court proceedings.
Reports made to the Helpline are confidential and the reporter’s identity is generally protected by law. However, current legislation allows NSW Police access to the identity of the reporter, if this is needed in connection with the investigation of a serious offence against a child or young person.
The request must come from a senior law enforcement officer and the reporter must be informed that their identity is to be released – unless informing them of the disclosure will prejudice the investigation.
Making the report to the Child Protection Helpline
To report suspected child abuse or neglect, call the Child Protection Helpline on 13 21 11 (open 24 hours/7 days).
Helpful information needed for a Child Protection Helpline report includes:
- full name, date of birth (or approximate age), address and phone number of the child or young person you are concerned about
- full name (including any known aliases), approximate age, address and phone number of the parents or carers
- a description of the child or young person and their current whereabouts
- why you suspect the child or young person is at risk of significant harm (what you have seen, heard or been told)
- whether a language or sign interpreter may be required, whether support is required for a person with a disability or an Aboriginal agency is involved
- your name and contact details.
Sometimes you may not have all of this information. Communities and Jusitce (DCJ) needs at least to be able to identify and locate the child or young person. Information that assists this, such as the child or young person's school or childcare centre, is also helpful.
You can make an anonymous report, but it does mean we won't be able to contact you again to discuss what you've told us and we can't give you any feedback on your report. The identity of all reporters, mandatory or not, is confidential. Your identity, or any information that might reveal your identity, such as your address or workplace, can't be disclosed by anyone without your consent — except on rare occasions, where information about the report is crucial to court proceedings.
Reporting a government or non-government agency (NGO) employee
Special procedures are in place to deal with allegations of reportable conduct or convictions against employees of all government and certain non-government agencies in NSW.
The Ombudsman Act 1974 requires these designated agencies to notify the Ombudsman of allegations against employees that constitute sexual offences, misconduct, assault, ill-treatment, neglect and behaviour that causes psychological harm to children.
There are two groups of people who are considered to be employees:
- any employee of the agency, whether or not employed in connection with any work or activities of the agency that relate to children, and
- any individual engaged by the agency to provide services to children.
This includes contractors, subcontractors, foster carers, volunteers and kinship carers where the Minister holds parental responsibility for a child in their care.
Some matters are notifiable to the Ombudsman as an allegation of reportable conduct, but are only reportable to the Child Protection Helpline if there are also current concerns that a child or young person is at risk of significant harm.
The responsibility for conducting investigations into allegations against employees lies with the employing agency. In some circumstances statutory agencies may undertake a parallel investigation for other purposes — such as assessing risk and care issues or conducting a criminal investigation.
Non-English speaking reporters
Reporters who cannot speak English can make a report to the Child Protection Helpline using a professional phone interpreter. Reporters requiring the assistance of a translator are advised to contact the Translation and Interpreting Service. The reporter will need to indicate the language they speak and that they wish to contact the Child Protection Helpline. There is no cost to the reporter for this service.