See procedure Children related to DHHS staff for tasks that must be undertaken.
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.
Specific issues arise when a report is made about a child who is related to or has a close personal relationship with a departmental employee, particularly when they are employed in child protection or work in a role that supports the care and protection of child protection clients. These include:
- The reputational risk attached to a report is greater when it concerns a staff member, since it may call into question their professional suitability, as well as their parenting.
- The risk of unauthorised disclosure is greater when a person with authorised access to case files knows or knows of the person concerned.
- The integrity of any assessment, decision or investigation may be called into question if the person concerned is a close colleague or known to the practitioner.
- The risk of bias or perceived bias by child protection is greater when the family subject to child protection intervention has a connection to the program via employment. It is the program’s responsibility to ensure this risk is minimised.
- It is crucial that program and departmental standards of record keeping are maintained in relation to decision making and case management. All records should be kept confidential and disclosed only to staff with authority for dealing with the matter. This includes audits of CRIS access which should be kept by the area operations manager/assistant director, child protection.
- The code of conduct for the Victorian public sector requires employees to 'disclose potential conflicts of interest to management when dealing in the course of official duties with relatives, close friends or business acquaintances'.
- It is important to note that any documentation or records prepared in relation to such matters is subject to the Freedom of Information Act 1982 and therefore could be subject to public comment and scrutiny.
- Those involved in managing the case may seek advice or assistance from staff with relevant authority and expertise but confidentiality must be maintained. Children and Families Policy Branch is able to provide advice and support regarding decision making and process.
- The matter may fall within the scope of the Reportable Conduct Scheme. See Reportable conduct Scheme or visit the Reportable conduct scheme page on the department’s intranet for further information.