Assessing risk of harm
Talking to the child and their family
To find out if a child or young person is safe and their needs are being met, a caseworker may talk to the family and ask certain questions. The caseworker may also need to talk to the child or young person. Caseworkers are trained to talk with children and young people in an age appropriate way and be sensitive to their feelings.
The caseworker may also need to talk to teachers, child care workers, doctors, family members, family friends, counsellors and other people who are close to the child or young person, or who are responsible for their welfare.
Sensitivity and respect
Caseworkers are trained to work sensitively and respectfully with parents, carers, the child or young person, and other family members. We respect personal privacy — only people who need to know about Family and Community Services (FACS) involvement will be informed.
The parent’s views and opinions and those of the child or young person are important to the caseworker. The caseworker will encourage the parent and the child or young person's involvement in decisions that affect both.
Cultural and other considerations
When decisions or actions are taken that significantly affect the child or young person, the caseworker must consider the child or young person’s culture, disability, language, religion or sexuality and if relevant, the parent’s too.
Aboriginal families can request an Aboriginal caseworker - this request is dependent on whether there is one available in the local area.
If English is your second language, you can also request a translator.
The parent can help the caseworker by letting them know about important beliefs they may have. The caseworker can also help arrange any extra support to ensure the parent can be fully involved in all decisions, such as a language interpreter or help with getting to meetings.
The level of action taken by FACS will be in keeping with the level of harm or risk of significant harm to the safety welfare or wellbeing of the child or young person. By law, the caseworker’s first priority must be the safety, welfare and wellbeing of the child or young person.
The risk of harm assessment
Most inquiries take about one month, however, sometimes a longer period of time is needed to make an assessment, for example to allow time to see if a family crisis settles down. The caseworker can tell the family how long the assessment will take.
If there is no evidence of harm or risk to the child or young person, the case will be closed. However, it may be that the child and their family needs help with other matters, and they may be referred to services which can provide help and support.
In many cases, children and young people stay with their family throughout FACS involvement. However, where a child or young person has been significantly harmed or injured or there is a high risk of significant harm or injury to the child or young person, FACS may have to move them to a safe place. The safe place might be with a relative, trusted friend or foster carer, depending on the situation.
How to show that your child is safe
Here are some ways parents and carers can show that they can keep children safe:
- You’ve probably been through a lot, and you may feel like no one understands. But getting angry and fighting with people will most likely make people more worried about whether your child is safe at home.
- If you say you’re going to do something, or go somewhere to do with your family, it’s really important you do what you’ve said. Showing that you are reliable and keep your word helps people working with your family to see that you want the best for your kids.
- Keep thinking about what is best for your children. Ask yourself ‘What can I say that will help my children?’ ‘What can I do that will help my children?’ That may help when it all feels too hard.
- Remember that there are people out there who want to see you get the help you need. If you don’t get what you need the first time you ask, find someone who will listen, and keep asking.