Children related to DHHS staff

Follow this procedure when a practitioner becomes aware that child protection is involved with a child who is related to someone who works at the Department of Health and Human Services.

Document ID number 1035, version 3, 2 July 2018.

Introduction

At times, reports are received about children who are related to, or have a close personal relationship, with a departmental staff member. Such relationships may be either by birth or marriage or close personal association such as a defacto relationship. This is not limited to the children and stepchildren of staff members, but includes siblings, nieces and nephews, grandchildren and other close personal relationships.

‘Involvement’ includes receiving reports, investigation, protective intervention and management of protection orders, and where a permanent care case plan exists for a child.

See Reports about children related to DHHS staff – advice for additional information.

Procedure

Case practitioner tasks, supervisor, team manager, practice leader, or deputy operations area manager task

  • Advise the area operations manager/assistant director, child protection as you become aware that a child involved with child protection is a relative of, or has a close personal relationship with, an executive officer or employee of the Department of Health and Human Services.

You may become aware of this relationship at the point of a new report or at any stage during child protection involvement.

Area operations manager/assistant director, child protection tasks - both in the area where the relationship is identified and the area where the related staff member works (may be the same or different)

  • Verify the relationship between the child protection client and the departmental staff member, via your counterpart in another area if necessary.
  • If the staff member works in your area, and unless it is inappropriate to do so, meet with the staff member who is related to, or closely associated with, the child protection client and advise the staff member not to seek information about the case through informal or inappropriate means, including through CRIS. 
  • Where the staff member is employed in another area or division contact the area operations manager/assistant director, child protection for that area, and arrange for them to have this discussion.
  • Advise your area director, and the director, child protection in your division.

Area operations manager/assistant director, child protection tasks - in the area holding the case when the relationship is identified

If the related staff member is not employed within child protection or in a role that supports the care and protection of child protection clients

  • Review the details of the case.
  • Consider whether an investigation of the report could be managed within the division.
  • If an investigation is to occur within the same division, confirm that the staff member is not known to the allocated child protection practitioner or their supervisor or the responsible team manager.
  • Confirm the related staff member does not have a personal relationship with any staff in the allocated practitioner’s line of management.

This will minimise the risk of a conflict of interest occurring or being perceived, reducing any possible risk to the reputation of staff or the department, and limits opportunities for privacy breaches.

If the related staff member works in the same division in child protection or in a role that supports the care and protection of child protection clients

Departmental staff roles that support the care and protection of child protection clients include staff who work in placement coordination, quality of care, secure services or other residential care, and local connections.

  • Review the details of the case.
  • Apply a file restriction to CRIS limiting access to the allocated practitioner and their line management and, if appropriate, to the After Hours Child Protection Emergency Service (AHCPES).
  • Undertake management of the case directly, or allocate management to a direct report (minimum CPP 5.2) pending referral to another area or division.
  • Refer the case to a different area operations manager/assistant director, child protection in a neighbouring division, or to a different area within the same division provided sufficient distinction between staff groups is achievable, for immediate transfer of case management responsibility.

If the staff member works in another division in child protection or in a role that supports the care and protection of child protection clients

  • Review the details of the case.
  • Allocate the case to an experienced child protection practitioner who does not know the staff member concerned.
  • Confirm the related staff member does not have a close professional or personal relationship with any staff in the allocated practitioner’s line of management.
  • Ensure periodic audits of access to CRIS are completed and that any suspicious access is reported to the area director, director or assistant director child protection.
  • Continue case management as normal.
  • If you wish to share information with the employing area or division, for example in relation to disciplinary processes or actions that directly impact on a staff member's role as a child protection practitioner, seek advice from Legal Services or the Complaints, Integrity and Privacy Unit.

Area operations manager/assistant director, child protection tasks - in the area accepting case responsibility

  • Familiarise yourself with the case and the file.
  • Allocate the case to a team manager or a senior child protection practitioner (CPP5) (the allocated practitioner) who does not know the staff member concerned.
  • Confirm that the related staff member does not have a close professional or personal relationship with any staff in the allocated practitioner’s line of management.
  • Arrange for the allocated practitioner to be supervised by a more senior officer in relation to the case.
  • Monitor the case planning process undertaken for the case.
  • Endorse all case planning decisions including movement of the case between phases, case closure, issuing of a protection application, placement changes, contact.
  • Ensure an audit of access to CRIS is completed at the end of each case phase (intake, initial investigation, protective intervention, closure).
  • Check if a protection order exists, and if so, carry out periodic checks that access to CRIS is still restricted and there has been no unauthorised access of the file, including any paper file.
  • Investigate any access to CRIS by staff who do not have a legitimate involvement with the case to determine if there has been personal information and/or use of personal information which is not directly related to professional duties.
  • Report any unauthorised access to CRIS to the area director, or director, child protection.
  • Following a substantiation decision, review the case plan and consider whether case responsibility could be transferred back to the area or division where the child resides. Consult the area operations manager or assistant director, child protection in the area of origin for the case. Consider:
    • best interest principles
    • risk of a conflict of interest occurring or being perceived to occur
    • risk to the reputation of staff concerned.

If a permanent care case plan is the permanency objective for a case

  • If a child protection staff member is asking to be considered as the permanent carer for a child in the division, or a child protection staff member’s child or stepchild is being considered for a permanent care placement, follow the same procedures as above.

In some cases it will be more appropriate for an external or non-divisional agency to conduct the permanent care assessment and provide the ongoing support. It is essential to ensure the caseworker from the external agency does not have a pre-existing relationship with the child protection staff member.

Area director, or director, child protection tasks

  • Review advice received from the area operations manager/assistant director, child protection regarding child protection involvement with a departmental employee.
  • Report any unauthorised CRIS access to the divisional deputy secretary for consideration of a disciplinary investigation.
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