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Assessing safety

Triage Assessment

FACS triages all Risk of Significant Harm (ROSH) reports made to the Child Protection Helpline to prioritise and make decisions about which families are seen.

Key steps

  • For each report, FACS considers the reported concerns, Helpline’s assessment and the availability of local resources and operational capacity of FACS to respond.
  • Those children[1], their parents and family/kin with the highest priority are allocated to a FACS caseworker for a Safety and Risk Assessment (SARA).
  • If a child is not allocated for a Safety and Risk Assessment, FACS may refer the to other services or provide help (sections 20-22 or 113).

Collaborating in Triage Assessment

In conducting Triage Assessment, FACS and a funded service provider have important complementary roles.

FACS has statutory responsibility for responding to child protection reports (section 30). FACS conducts Triage Assessment and where appropriate:

  • FACS informs a funded service provider with case management, of a new report
  • FACS consults with a funded service provider with current or prior case management, or any other service provider involved with the child and their family
  • FACS invites a funded service provider to participate in Triage Assessment (led by FACS), when case management transfer is foreseeable.

If a funded service provider has case management, they continue providing services to the child, their parents, family/kin and carer[2] (where applicable) while FACS Triage Assessment is ongoing:

  • A funded service provider may participate in and assist FACS in Triage Assessment, for example:
    • by attending a FACS weekly allocation meeting (WAM) or
    • by participating in an Interagency Case Discussion (ICD) with FACS.
  • Participating in FACS Triage Assessment is not mandatory and occurs:
    • by invitation from FACS or request by the funded service provider and
    • if FACS and a funded service provider agree it will be beneficial to a child and their family/kin or if the child or their family/kin express interest.
  • A funded service provider shares all information relevant to FACS Triage Assessment and responds to FACS requests for information exchange.

[1] Throughout this document ‘child and/or young person’ is shortened to ‘child’; ‘children and/or young people’ is shortened to ‘children’.

[2] Throughout this document ‘carer’ refers to an authorised carer of a child in statutory OOHC and carers and youth workers providing care to a child in residential settings, including Intensive Therapeutic Care.

Safety and Risk Assessment

What is SARA?

SARA involves a set of Structured Decision Making tools that are used alongside the professional judgement of FACS casework practitioners.

  • An initial safety assessment helps FACS casework practitioners to assess a child’s immediate safety in the home where they live, with safety decisions of ‘safe’, ‘safe with plan’ or ‘unsafe’.

    When a child is assessed as unsafe in their home, a FACS casework practitioner moves the child to live with another person (in a place other than their usual home). This may be:

    • by agreement as part of a ‘ Temporary Care Arrangement (section 151) or
    • by removal or assumption – when FACS removes a child from their home under section [3] 43 or 233, or assumes a child from another place under section 44 of the Care Act.

    The FACS casework practitioner places the child with an authorised carer in an out of home care (OOHC) placement.

    FACS may carry out a review of the initial safety assessment, if new (ROSH or non-ROSH) information is received that would change the initial safety decision.

    FACS will complete a closing safety assessment if a safety plan is put in place, or when closing FACS involvement with the child and their family.

  • A risk assessment helps FACS to assess risk that a child will experience abuse or neglect in future in the home where they live, with risk outcomes of ‘low’, ‘medium’, ‘high’ or ‘very high’. When a child is assessed as at high or very high risk, they are considered to be in need of care and protection.

Risk re-assessment helps FACS to re-assess the risk to a child following the parents and family/kin participation in case planning and work towards the child’s case plan goal. FACS ceases risk re-assessment when the re-assessed risk has an outcome of ‘low’ or ‘medium’ and where there are no unresolved dangers.

[3] Throughout this document, all references to a section or sections of statute refer to the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 unless otherwise stated.

Key steps

  • FACS visits a child, their parents and family/kin to carry out a SARA.
  • A safety assessment is recorded in ChildStory within two days[4] of the visit.
  • A risk assessment is completed within 30 days after the safety assessment.
  • A risk re-assessment occurs every 90 days (or sooner if there is new information that would affect assessment of risk) when the risk is assessed as high or very high.

[4] Unless otherwise stated in this document, all references to a ‘day’ is a reference to a calendar day (not a business day).

Collaborating in Safety And Risk Assessment

In carrying out SARA, FACS and a funded service provider have important complementary roles.

FACS has statutory responsibility for responding to child protection reports (section 30 of the Care Act). FACS carries out SARA and where appropriate:

  • FACS informs a funded service provider with case management of a new report.
  • FACS consults with a funded service provider with current or prior case management, or any other relevant involvement with the child and their family.
  • FACS liaises with a funded service provider with case management, when seeking direct contact with a child, their parents and family/kin in order to carry out SARA. FACS informs the funded service provider when making contact is planned, or if that is not possible, immediately after it has occurred.
  • Within 10 business days after the conclusion of the safety and risk assessment, FACS provides relevant information to the funded service provider about the outcome of the assessment. See information exchange.

If a funded service provider has case management, the provider continues providing services to the child, their parents, family/kin and carer (where applicable) while SARA is ongoing, unless FACS and the funded service provider agree that these services are to cease:

  • A funded service provider may participate in and assist FACS to carry out SARA, for example:
    • by accompanying FACS caseworkers to a home visit or
    • by assisting FACS in talking with parents about the ROSH report
    • by supporting family/kin to increase safety and reduce risk.
  • Participating in SARA is not mandatory and occurs:
    • by invitation from FACS or request by the funded service provider and
    • when FACS and a funded service provider agree it will be beneficial to a child or their family/kin and
    • the child or their family/kin agree to the service provider’s participation.
  • Funded service providers do not participate in the exercise of statutory powers of assumption or removal under section 43 of the Care Act.
  • A funded service provider shares all information relevant to SARA and responds to FACS requests for information exchange.

Temporary Care Arrangements

What is a Temporary Care Arrangement?

A Temporary Care Arrangement (TCA) is a ‘placement intervention’ that may arise from FACS carrying out SARA FACS in which:

  • dangers are identified that cannot be addressed by a safety plan
  • the child is assessed as unsafe and in need of care and protection
  • the parent consents voluntarily or is assessed as ‘incapable of consenting’ and
  • there is a permanency plan involving restoration of the child to their parents
  • the child is placed in the care responsibility of the Secretary of FACS and allows FACS to make care decisions (section 151).

FACS places the child with an authorised carer (section 151(2)) in an OOHC placement. The carer make decisions regarding the day to day care of the child, including decisions in respect of consent to medical/dental treatment, managing behaviour, permission to participate in activities and decisions about education and training (section 157).

Restoration from a TCA is different from restoration from statutory OOHC because there are no court proceedings, no court order and parental responsibility (PR) remains with the parent.

The period of any TCA is up to three months in a 12 month period (section 152). Subject to assessment, these arrangements may be extended for a further period of up to three months (in same 12 month period) where parents are capable of consenting. The maximum period for a TCA or multiple arrangements is 6 months in any 12 month period (section 152(4)(a)).

TCAs require a case plan review (section 155), when the period of the TCA exceeds three months.

Key steps

  • FACS visits a child, their parents and family/kin to carry out a SARA.
  • During SARA, the child is assessed as unsafe and in need of care and protection, and the child requires a placement intervention.
  • FACS and the parents sign a Temporary Care Arrangement (TCA) Agreement form agreeing to Secretary having care responsibility for the child and the placement of the child with an authorised carer.
  • FACS prepares a case plan within 90 days of a child entering a TCA. FACS sets the goal as restoration. See PCMP Resources – List: Case planning timeframes.
  • The TCA ends when:
    • the parent requests FACS return their child to their care or
    • the child is restored by FACS or
    • FACS files a Children’s Court care application seeking other care arrangements.

Collaborating in arranging Temporary Care Arrangements

In TCAs, FACS and funded service providers have important complementary roles:

  • FACS determines what type of OOHC placement is to be provided in collaboration with the parents and family/kin, in keeping with Permanent Placement Principles (section 10A).
  • A TCA placement is most often with a FACS authorised carer. However:
    • If it is determined a placement is to be provided by a carer authorised by a funded service provider, FACS Child and Family District Unit (CFDU) makes a placement broadcast.
    • It may be agreed that the funded service provider will assess a relative/kin or other suitable person and authorise them as a carer.
  • If the child is placed with a carer authorised by a funded service provider, FACS retains case management while the service provider provides a placement only.
  • A funded service provider provides a TCA placement, noting that:
    • TCA placements are in addition to funded service provider contracted volume and
    • the funding approach is based on pro-rata application of Permanency Support Program (PSP) package costs and invoiced on a fee-for-service basis.

See PCMP Resources – Funding: Temporary Care Arrangement (TCAs).

  • If the period of the TCA is over three months, the funded service provider providing the placement convenes a case plan review meeting. This includes all administrative tasks such as updating the case plan or preparing a new case plan and circulating the meeting minutes and case plan within 5 business days (unless a different timeframe is agreed).
  • FACS ensures attendance at the case review meeting by a casework practitioner with decision making delegation[5].

[5] Unless otherwise stated, references to a FACS ‘casework practitioner with decision making delegation’ is at Manager Casework level (category 5) and above. FACS caseworkers do not have decision making delegation.

Alternative Assessment (children in OOHC)

What is Alternative Assessment?

An Alternate Assessment is sometimes referred to as a ‘SARA exception’ or ‘SAS2’. It is different to carrying out SARA.

FACS may conduct an Alternate Assessment if a new report is received about a child in (statutory) out of home care (OOHC) case management of a funded service provider, which raises:

  • ROSH or non-ROSH concerns in relation to the child or any other child in the household (but not in relation to the conduct of an authorised carer) and/or
  • reportable allegations about the conduct of an authorised carer or another employee of the service provider.

Key steps

  • FACS visits a child, their parents and family/kin to carry out Alternative Assessment.
  • The Alternative Assessment is recorded in ChildStory within:
    • 28 days, if harm or risk is not substantiated
    • 90 days, if harm or risk is substantiated.
  • A Judgement and Outcomes report is completed by FACS that:
    • determines whether harm or ROSH is substantiated
    • identifies (if known) any person determined to have caused harm to the child and
    • records whether the child is assessed as being in need of care and protection.

Collaborating in Alternative Assessment

In conducting Alternative Assessment, FACS and a funded service provider have important complementary roles.

FACS has statutory responsibility for responding to child protection reports (section 30). In doing so:

  • FACS conducts Alternative Assessment.
  • FACS informs a funded service provider with case management, of a new report.
  • FACS consults with a funded service provider with current or prior case management, or any other relevant involvement with the child and their family.
  • FACS liaises with a funded service provider with case management, when seeking direct contact with a child, their parents and family/kin in order to conduct Alternative Assessment. FACS informs the funded service provider when making contact is planned, or if that is not possible, immediately after it has occurred.
  • Within 10 business days after the conclusion of the Alternative Assessment, FACS provides relevant information to a funded service provider about the outcome of the assessment. See information exchange.

A funded service provider with case management continues providing services to the child, their parents, family/kin and carer while FACS Alternate Assessment is ongoing, unless FACS and the funded service provider agree that these services are to cease:

  • A funded service provider may participate in and assist FACS in Alternative Assessment, for example:
    • by participating in a Pre-Assessment Consultation (PAC) or
    • acting as a support person for the child or carer during an interview by FACS.
  • Participating in Alternative Assessment is not mandatory and occurs:
    • by invitation from FACS or request by the funded service provider and
    • if FACS and a funded service provider agree it will be beneficial to a child and their family/kin or if the child or their carer express interest.
  • A funded service provider shares all information relevant to FACS Alternative Assessment and responds to FACS requests for information exchange.

Collaborating in assessing Reportable Conduct

When the new ROSH report contains allegations of reportable or criminal conduct by an authorised carer or other employee of the funded service provider, FACS and a funded service provider have additional complementary roles.

  • Whilst FACS is responsible for conducting an Alternative Assessment, a funded service provider is responsible for assessing reportable or alleged criminal conduct of their employees, including the conduct of authorised carers.
  • FACS and the funded service provider each inform the other when an assessment is to commence.
  • FACS and the funded service provider conduct joint pre-assessment and post assessment consultation (where appropriate). See PCMP Resources – Checklist: PAC and AC Requirements.
  • FACS and the funded service provider coordinate joint interviews of the child and other children, and the carer (where appropriate).
  • FACS and the funded service provider exchange information with the other throughout the assessment that relates to:
    • the safety of, risk of harm, or actual harm to the child and other children
    • the child and other children’s ongoing care and
    • the assessment and outcome of the assessment.
  • Within 10 business days after the conclusion of each assessment, FACS and the funded service provider provide each other with:
    • a copy of their respective assessments or
    • only relevant information about the assessment (not a copy) if a decision is made (Chapter 16A) to withhold the full assessment, for example, if legal advice is received that providing the full assessment would compromise the safety, welfare and well-being of a child. See Information Exchange.
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Last updated: 30 Aug 2018
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