Reporting harm and keeping children safe
The Child Protection Helpline is the DCJ contact centre for community members and mandatory reporters to report children and young people who are at risk of significant harm in NSW. The following link assists with reporters identifying signs of abuse & risk of significant harm as well as what steps can be taken to report to the Child Protection Helpline: See Reporting a child at risk
When someone calls the Child Protection Helpline, a child protection caseworker will assess what action needs to be taken to keep a child safe at home. The caseworker is specially trained to ask questions to get all the information they can about the safety, welfare and wellbeing of the child or young person.
Whenever DCJ responds to a report from a caller, it must also consider the immediate safety, welfare and wellbeing of any other children or young people living in the same home (not just brothers and sisters) and take appropriate action.
The caseworker can also consider any information that DCJ may have about the child or young person and their family, such as previous reports or recent contact with the family. What happens next depends on the information received by DCJ.
The matter might be closed as no risk of significant harm is indicated or we may ask a local Community Services Centre to make further assessment.
Not all reports will lead to further assessment or investigation. This may be because there is not enough information, or reason to believe that the child or young person is at risk of significant harm. If you think a child or young person is at risk of harm from abuse or neglect, contact the Helpline on 13 21 11.
Helpline for non-English speakers
People who cannot speak English can contact the Helpline using an interpreter by calling the Translation and Interpreter Service on 131 450.
Callers will need to tell them the language they speak and that they wish to call the NSW Child Protection Helpline. This is a free service.
Community Services Centre
The Helpline will send the report to a local Community Service Centre (CSC) if it assesses that a child or young person may be at risk of harm. The report is allocated to a child protection casework to assess or investigate about a child or young person who may have been significantly harmed or injured, or is at risk of significant harm, the caseworker will make decisions about how to assess or investigate the report.
Sometimes the child or young person and their family is visited immediately because the information indicates the child or young person is in immediate danger. We may need to talk to other people to find out about the family’s circumstances. For example, we might contact the child or young person's teacher, child care worker or relatives.
The law allows DCJ to exchange information that relates to the safety, welfare or wellbeing of a child or young person with a range of agencies, including NSW Police, NSW Health or the Department of Education.
If the child or young person is at risk of significant harm, we try to work with the family, other agencies and professionals to make sure they are safe.
If DCJ thinks a child or young person is in immediate danger, the caseworker will move them to a safe place. The safe place might be with a relative, trusted friend or foster carer, depending on the situation. The caseworker will involve the child or young person and their family as much as possible in decisions that affect them.
What to expect when DCJ works with you
In NSW, children and young people are protected under the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998. DCJ is the main government department in charge of helping families keep children and young people safe from abuse and neglect.
The role of DCJ is to build relationships with families and communities that help children be safe and cared for. DCJ caseworkers commit to:
- treating families with dignity and respect
- working with you and your community to share knowledge and skills to keep children safe
- helping children to have the best possible lives
- listening to your ideas and respond when you ask for help
- being honest with you
Any DCJ caseworker you meet should take their responsibility seriously and treat you, your family, culture and home with dignity and respect. If your child is removed because they are at risk of being hurt, DCJ will work hard with you to bring your child safely home. The law tells DCJ to look at this as the first option, but for some families it is not possible for their child to return home.
Your rights as a parent
As a parent you also have rights.
The law allows parents to bring up their children according to their own values and beliefs. Decisions such as religion, education, discipline, medical treatment and where the child lives will not be interfered with, unless these practices are a risk to a child according to Australian law. This could be when a child is being abused or is not going to school or getting medical help.
Although in many cultures it is usual for children to care for brothers and sisters, in Australia the law says that it's the parent’s responsibility – and legal obligation – to ensure their children are safe and looked after.
A parent or carer can be found guilty of failing to care for the child if they are aware that the child is being sexually or physically abused and does not tell the police, DCJ or take other reasonable steps to remove or protect the child. It is also a crime if any adult knows that a child has been abused physically and/or sexually and does not tell the NSW Police.