Joint Child Protection Response (JCPR) Program
For NGO caseworkers working with JCPR to support children and young people in out-of-home care
Working with the JCPR Program to support children and young people in OOHC
OOHC NGOs and JCPR Program Staff have the shared goal of ensuring the safety and wellbeing of the child or young person, this includes children and young people who may be an offender or person of interest (POI). It is important for JCPR staff to communicate information about their process to the OOHC NGO particularly as it can have ramifications for risk management, case management and planning. If you are having difficulties managing risk or accessing services please contact your local JCPR Program Unit.
What happens at the Child Protection Helpline?
Once a report is made to the Child Protection Helpline, a decision will be made about whether the information reaches the threshold of risk of significant harm (ROSH). The Helpline will advise the reporter in writing about whether the information reaches the ROSH threshold and, when appropriate, will include advice that the matter has been referred to the Joint Referral Unit (JRU) for a more detailed assessment.
Helpline staff will ask the reporter for consent for FACS to share their identifying information with NSW Police and NSW Health.
If you have not received advice about the outcome of your report you can make further enquiries by contacting your local CSC and providing them with the Helpline reference number.
What happens at the Joint Referral Unit (JRU)?
The JRU reviews, analyses, and gathers information to inform the decision about whether the referral will be accepted into the JCPR Program. The JRU will then transfer accepted matters to the relevant JCPR Program Unit. The decision about which The JCPR Unit is allocated a matter is based on where the alleged victim is residing, not where the alleged incident occurred.
Matters that are not accepted into the JCPR Program will be referred to a Community Service Centre (CSC) or Police Area Command (PAC) or Police District (PD).
The JRU timeframes for decisions ensure field staff are able to comply with required response times. If a matter has been assessed as ROSH requiring a less than:
- 24 hours response, a decision to accept or reject must be made by JRU within 2 hours and transferred to the relevant JCPR/CSC/PD/PAC
- 72 hours response, a decision to accept or reject must be made by JRU within 24 hours and transferred to relevant JCPR/CSC/PD/PAC
- 10 days response, a decision to accept or reject must be made by JRU within 72 hours and transferred to relevant JCPR/CSC/PD/PAC.
What happens when the JCPR Program accepts and commences an investigation?
Once JCPR receives a referral from JRU the three agency arms of JCPR meet to review the referral and may seek additional information (including from the OOHC NGO and other stakeholders) before they progress to a field response. Ongoing communication between the JCPR Unit and the OOHC NGO should occur throughout the JCPR process.
JCPR Unit needs to tailor its response to ensure the individual needs of the child or young person are met (including children and young people who may be the alleged offender or POI). It is important to remember that not all matters will result in a criminal prosecution. Each process is different and may involve the following:
- Medical examination: this is coordinated by the JCPR Senior Health Clinician and has a number of purposes including ensuring that the child is well and addressing any physical issues or injuries, collecting any forensic evidence and providing assurance to the child and carer about any ongoing health issues.
- Interview of the child or young person/alleged victim: conducted by highly trained JCPR Program police staff and is:
- usually conducted in an interview suite or another appropriate safe setting by police interviewers who are experienced and trained to interview in a way that minimises trauma for the child. The child will be asked to tell their story in detail.
- video recorded, as required by legislation (if the child is under the age of 16 years). The video may become the child’s ‘evidence in chief’ if the matter proceeds to a court hearing so that the child does not have to re-tell his or her story in its entirety and only has to respond to cross examination.
- usually conducted without a support person. If a child wishes to have a support person present, JCPR Program staff can make appropriate arrangements.
- FACS and Health JCPR Program staff may be monitoring the interview live and may ask further Child Protection questions during a formal break in the interview.
- Interview of the child or young person who may be the alleged perpetrator / person of interest (POI): These children are case managed by the local CSC. If the child or young person is:
- under ten years of age, the matter is not pursued criminally and generally will not be accepted into the JCRP Program. Interview the offending child, however it is important that it is reported so that protective action is taken and therapeutic intervention arranged to address the behaviour. This is critical for children in OOHC and seeks to protect the offending child and other children they may be placed with.
- aged between 10 and 18 years, the JCPR Program considers each matter individually to determine whether pursuing criminal action against the child will result in the best outcome for those involved. This decision is guided by the principle that the safety, welfare and well-being of the child or young person are paramount. JCPR Program staff will liaise with the local CSC who has case management responsibilities for the offending child and will consider:
- what action needs to be taken to secure the safety of children and young people, this may include a placement change or increased supervision for children in OOHC
- alternate options to criminal prosecution to address the issue, such as accessing support and counselling to address sexualised or other violent behaviour. We know that early take up of counselling has long term wellbeing benefits for the perpetrating child, as well protecting other children
- severity and nature of the alleged abuse and the age of the child.
- Interviews of potential witnesses and forensic analysis (court ordered and other): including carers and caseworkers
- Health and counselling support: The JCPR Senior Health Clinician:
- participates in the interview planning stage, provides information and support at the time of the interview to the child and the carer including enabling the carer to provide support directly to the child.
- coordinates plans for the health and support needs, including arranging referrals for counselling for the carer and child. Often counselling for the child will focus on what is happening now for the child and young person, not necessarily the abuse. Counselling support and information for the carer is crucial to ensure the quality of the overall support of the child or young person and the ongoing stability of the placement.
- Placement review and change (if necessary)
- Court proceedings: including criminal proceedings and Children’s Court care proceedings.