The Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 (CYFA) makes provision for reports about children aged 10 years and under 18 years who exhibit sexually abusive behaviours and who might be in need of therapeutic treatment. A therapeutic treatment report (TTR) can be made by any person.
TTRs cannot be closed at intake as the CYFA requires Child Protection to investigate all therapeutic treatment reports to determine the nature and extent of the sexually abusive behaviours and the appropriateness of a therapeutic treatment order (TTO).
Where Child Protection receives a report from Victoria Police, the Criminal Division of the Children’s Court or a report regarding a child subject to current child protection involvement, Child Protection must refer the matter to the Therapeutic Treatment Board (TTB) for advice. If Child Protection is satisfied on reasonable grounds (and after advice has been received from the TTB) that sexually abusive behaviours have occurred and the child’s access to treatment would be best supported by a TTO, it can apply to the Family Division of the Children’s Court for a TTO. Where a child needs to be placed out-of-home to ensure their attendance and participation in an appropriate treatment program and/or the safety of other children who may be present in the home, an application can be made for a therapeutic treatment placement order (TTPO).
The provisions relating to children in need of therapeutic treatment are additional to the Secretary’s obligations towards children in need of protection.
A child may be the subject of both a protection order and a TTO, or TTO and TTPO, concurrently. In this situation, requirements in relation to managing the protection order also apply.
- Consult with the divisional principal practitioner or the Office of the Professional Practice if the child is currently on a protection order or residing in care.
- Update the essential information categories including selecting an evidence based factor with the Harm category S244.
- Consider if the young person’s sexually abusive behaviour is a form of family violence and select the family violence essential information category, ‘adolescent using violence’.
- Assessment must focus on the safety of known and potential victims as well as the young person’s own safety.
- Notify the allocated child protection practitioner of the victim child or young person, where there is an open child protection case to undertake an assessment to ascertain their safety, referral for crisis counselling and ongoing therapeutic support.
- Refer to the TTB.
A child may exhibit sexually abusive behaviours by using their power, authority or status to engage another party in sexual activity that is unwanted or where, due to the nature of the situation, the other party is not capable of giving informed consent (this may include sexual behaviour with a family pet or other animal, or sexual behaviour involving another child who is younger or who has a cognitive impairment).
Physical force or threats may sometimes be involved but this is not a required feature. Sexual activity may include exposure, peeping, fondling, masturbation, oral sex, penetration of a vagina or anus using a penis, finger or object, or exposure to pornography. This list is not exhaustive.
Sexually abusive behaviours are to be considered in the context of age, development, family and broader ecological systems such as the child or young person’s interaction with their peer group, school community and the communities in which they live.
Children and young people who engage in sexually abusive behaviours have common risks identified through evidence-based research. The risk factors include: disrupted attachment patterns, early persistent experiences of trauma, early exposure to sexually explicit material, exposure to family violence, impoverished and under resourced sole parents and neglect (Chaffin, Letourneau and Silvosky, 2002; Duane and Morrison, 2004; Elcovitch, Latzman Hansen and Flood 2009; Creedon, 2004; Perry, 2001; Rich, 2006; van der Kolk, 2003, as cited in CEASE: Standards of Practice, 2016).
It is conclusively presumed that children under the age of 10 years cannot commit an offence (s. 344 of the CYFA). For children over 10 but under 14, the prosecution must prove that they were aware of the serious wrongfulness of their action before they can be found guilty of a criminal offence.
Problem sexual behaviour
The term used to describe concerning sexual behaviour exhibited by children under the age of 10 years.
Sexually abusive behaviour
The term used to describe concerning sexual behaviour exhibited by children aged 10 years or older.
Sexual abuse behaviour treatment service.
Therapeutic Treatment Board.
Therapeutic treatment order.
Therapeutic treatment plan.
Therapeutic treatment placement order.
Therapeutic treatment report.
Section 185 CYFA stipulates that any person who believes on reasonable grounds that a child is in need of therapeutic treatment (as defined in s. 244 of the CYFA) may report that belief to the Secretary and the reasonable grounds for it.
Section 349(2) provides for the Criminal Division of the Children’s Court to refer a therapeutic treatment matter to the Secretary for investigation.
Any report about a child including a current Child Protection client who exhibits sexually abusive behaviours and is within the defined age limits at the time of the report is to be classified as a TTR. All TTRs must be investigated and cannot be closed at intake.
Note that a TTR cannot be accepted where a child is aged less than 10 years, or is 18 years or over, even if the sexually abusive behaviour reported to be exhibited by the child occurred before their 18th birthday. An order must be made before the young person turns 18 years old.
The source of the TTR determines how the report is managed.
Where a child is subject to current child protection involvement in any phase of intervention other than intake phase, a TTR is recorded in CRIS as a new familial report. If in closure, a TTR will trigger a new protective investigation. If not in closure or intake, the outcome of the investigation will be recorded in CRIS as part of the new allegation.
ACSASS must be consulted following the receipt of a TTR for an Aboriginal child unless this has already occurred as part of the intake assessment to determine if a child wellbeing or protective intervention report is also required.
Referrals from the Criminal Division of the Children’s Court – s. 349(2) of CYFA.
Refer to Therapeutic treatment resources decision trees 1 and 2.
Where the Criminal Division of the Children’s Court determines there is prima facie evidence that a child facing criminal charges is in need of therapeutic treatment for sexually abusive behaviours, the Court can adjourn the matter and make a referral to the Secretary to investigate.
Reports from Victoria Police – s. 185 of CYFA
Refer to Therapeutic treatment resources decision trees 1 and 3.
Reports from Victoria Police about a child who has exhibited sexually abusive behaviours are to be recorded as a TTR. When police make this type of report, Child Protection can request information outlining the circumstances, together with any relevant material such as the brief of evidence (unauthorised or authorised) or summary of charges to assist in the investigation.
Reports from other persons – s. 185 of CYFA
Refer to Therapeutic treatment resources decision trees 1 and 4.
Where a TTR is received from a person, Child Protection is required to notify the police at the point of intake so they can decide whether to commence a criminal investigation. A joint investigation may be negotiated in these cases. In addition to recording a TTR, Child Protection may also record either a child wellbeing report or protective intervention report.
Police are required to advise Child Protection within three working days as to whether or not a criminal investigation will be conducted.
In circumstances where a child and family have previously been referred to a sexual abusive behaviour treatment service (SABTS) in a voluntary capacity and have failed to engage, the SABTS will make a child in need of a therapeutic treatment report to Child Protection. Child Protection must classify this report as a TTR and proceed with an assessment regarding the suitability of a TTO – this is because the family and child have not engaged with the SABTS and a TTO may be necessary to ensure the child’s access to, or attendance in a therapeutic treatment program.
Reports about a child subject to a current Children’s Court protection order
Where Child Protection receives a report about a child subject to a current protection order, Child Protection must investigate the report to determine whether a therapeutic treatment order is required. Victoria Police must be advised of the allegation to enable police to determine a criminal investigation. Child Protection must also ensure that the victim of the abuse (particularly if they both reside in out-of-home care) be provided with support and a referral to the Centre Against Sexual Assault.
Where children are residing in care and Child Protection has received a report regarding the child engaging in sexually abusive behaviours, the report must be taken as a child in need of therapeutic treatment. Again, the same principles apply regarding investigations to determine (a) did the sexually abusive behaviours occur, and (b) is a TTO necessary for the child to attend and participate in treatment. Prior to making an application for a TTO, Child Protection must seek the TTB’s advice regarding the suitability of a TTO for that child.
Is a wellbeing or protective intervention report required for any child?
When registering a TTR, the child protection practitioner will consider whether the reported behaviours or concerns also warrant a child wellbeing or protective intervention report about the subject child. Either of these reports can be made simultaneously with a TTR.
Consideration should also be given to registering a child wellbeing or protective intervention report in relation to any child victim of the sexually abusive behaviours where reasonable grounds exist.
All TTRs must be investigated.
It is important that following completion of the intake risk assessment, TTRs are moved promptly to investigation so there is no delay in the child accessing treatment and so that Child Protection and the TTB can meet their obligations under the CYFA. These include:
- s.210 (1) the Secretary must, as soon as practicable after receiving a report under section 185 that a child is in need of therapeutic treatment, investigate the subject-matter of the report in a way that will best promote the provision of assistance and, where appropriate, therapeutic treatment to the child
- s.245 (2) if the Secretary receives a report from a member of the police under section 185, the Secretary must refer the matter to the T TB for advice
- s. 245 (4) if the Secretary receives a referral from the Court under section 349(2), the Secretary must refer the matter to the TTB for advice; and
- s.245(6) on referral, the TTB must provide advice as to whether it is appropriate to seek a TTO.
When Child Protection has notified police about a report from the community and the police intend to conduct a criminal investigation Child Protection is still obligated to investigate the report. An assessment of the child’s sexually abusive behaviours is required to determine the most appropriate therapeutic treatment, while police investigate whether a criminal offence has occurred.
See procedure Investigation of sexually abusive behaviour for tasks that must be undertaken.
Child Protection’s investigation and assessment will focus on the child and parental response to the behaviour, the risk the child poses to other children (especially siblings or other children residing in the same placement as the child) and the nature of the behaviours, that is, the degree to which the behaviours are entrenched and the seriousness of the behaviours (age appropriate, concerning and very concerning sexual behaviours).
These investigations should be conducted by child protection practitioners who have completed ‘Working with children and families affected by sexual abuse’ parts 1 and 2 delivered by the department’s Professional Development and Wellbeing Unit.
When investigating a TTR, consideration should be given to consulting the divisional principal practitioner. This may be particularly useful where:
- allegations of client to client sexual abuse
- it is difficult to ascertain the nature of the sexually abusive behaviours
- there is family resistance
- a neuropsychological assessment or cognitive/behavioural assessment may assist
- considering placing the child in out-of-home
- the child resides in care and assessment about the most appropriate placement is required, taking into account the vulnerabilities of other children in the placement; and
- a SABTS is unable to work with the child or family due to the level of complexity or the child requires different support.
Investigating reports from the Criminal Division of the Children’s Court
If a child appears as an accused in a criminal proceeding and there is prima facie evidence that grounds exist for the making of an application for a TTO, the Criminal Division of the Children’s Court might refer the matter to Child Protection under section 349(2) of the CYFA.
The Child Protection investigation should be focused on identifying what is the best pathway for treatment to address the sexually abusive behaviours.
In deciding whether to make a referral to the Secretary, the Criminal Division of the Children’s Court must consider the following factors:
- the seriousness of the sexually abusive behaviours
- any previous history of sexually abusive behaviours, and if so, how those behaviours were addressed
- the particular characteristics and circumstances of the child; and
- any other matters the Court considers relevant.
These child protection investigations need to be prioritised because:
- the Court has already formed the view that prima facie evidence exists indicating that the child has exhibited sexually abusive behaviours,
- the legislation requires Child Protection to seek advice from the TTB
- the legislation requires Child Protection to provide a report of the investigation to the court within 21 days of the referral (s. 350(1)) of the CYFA.
The child protection practitioner should contact the police informant as a priority for information about the criminal investigation, and to obtain a copy of the brief of evidence. The brief of evidence and other information from the police will assist in the investigation and assessment and should also be included in the referral report to the TTB.
During the investigation, consultation with Youth Justice should occur to ascertain their views regarding the appropriateness or otherwise of the Child Protection assessment and planned actions. This recognises that:
- the child may be a current or former client of Youth Justice
- Child Protection and Youth Justice should not provide contradictory advice to the Court.
Pursuant to s. 350(2) of the CYFA the report must confirm that the Secretary has enquired into the matter referred and advise that:
- a protection application has been made by the Secretary; or
- an application for a TTO has been made by the Secretary; or
- the Secretary is satisfied that no protection application or no application for a TTO, as the case may be, is required.
See Therapeutic treatment resources for decision trees, tip sheets and report templates.
Investigating reports from Victoria Police
Where a report originates from the police, and they have yet to investigate the matter, a joint investigation should be planned. See advice Joint visits with police.
If a criminal investigation has commenced or will be conducted separately, Child Protection will continue with their investigation to ensure; the child’s behaviours are assessed; no children remain at risk; timely treatment can be arranged and legislative obligations are met.
During the Child Protection investigation, Child Protection can ask for and receive relevant information from police such as witness statements or summary of charges.
Investigating reports from other persons
Where the report originated from a person, the police will have been informed at intake. A joint investigation may be indicated and Child Protection should liaise with police about this.
Child Protection has the option to refer the matter to the TTB for advice about whether it is appropriate to seek a TTO in respect of the child.
Where the report is regarding a current Child Protection client, child protection must refer the matter to the TTB for advice.
See procedure Decision-making after TTR investigation for tasks that must be undertaken.
Following Child Protection’s investigation and completion of the risk assessment (and before the referral to the TTB where required) a decision regarding the appropriate intervention with the child and family is required.
Possible outcomes of the investigation include:
- No therapeutic treatment is required either due to the reported sexually abusive behaviours not being confirmed or the child or young person and their family require other supports, but not therapeutic treatment, or
- A TTO is not appropriate as the family and child have indicated their willingness for the child to attend and participate in treatment voluntarily, or
- Although the family is ambivalent, with some support and time the family may be able to ensure their child receives any treatment required without the need for a TTO and so it would be appropriate for Child Protection to work with the family for up to 90 days from the report without applying for a TTO, or
- An application for a TTO would be appropriate, with the child remaining in their parents’ care, or
- An application for a TTO is appropriate, along with an application for a TTPO, because placing the child in care will be necessary for the treatment of the child or to assure the safety of victims, or
- A protection application is required to ensure the child’s safety, or
- The child’s behaviours and criminal charges are so serious and it is Child Protection’s assessment that the child’s behaviours cannot be managed with a TTO, so that mandated treatment service such as Male Adolescent Program for Positive Sexuality (MAPPS) overseen by Youth Justice may be more appropriate.
Investigation outcomes regarding children residing in care may be similar to those listed above. However, decisions regarding the ongoing placement of the child must consider if the placement can provide a therapeutic environment in order to maximise therapeutic treatment for the child.
Sections 251 and 354 (4) and 354A (3) of the CYFA apply to all children attending therapeutic treatment either voluntarily or due to the making of a TTO. A child who attends treatment for sexually abusive behaviours in a voluntary capacity is afforded the same protections as those children who are made subject to a TTO.
Section 251 states:
- “Any statement made by a child when participating in a therapeutic treatment program under a therapeutic treatment order or voluntarily in an appropriate therapeutic treatment program is not admissible in any criminal proceedings in relation to the child.”
Section 354(4) states:
- “If the Court is satisfied that the child has attended and participated in the therapeutic treatment program under the therapeutic treatment order, it must discharge the child without any further hearing of the criminal proceedings.”
Section 354A (3) states:
- “On the adjourned hearing date, if the Court is satisfied that the child has voluntarily attended and participated in an appropriate therapeutic treatment program, it must discharge the child without any further hearing of the criminal proceeding.”
Referral to the TTB
Refer to Therapeutic treatment resources decision tree 5.
The TTB includes senior representatives from the Office of Public Prosecutions, Victoria Police, health services and the department.
The function of the TTB is:
- to evaluate and advise the Minister on services available for children in need of therapeutic treatment and
- to advise the Secretary on the appropriateness of applying for a TTO and/or a TTPO in specific cases.
When a referral is required
All reports from the police, the Criminal Division of the Children’s Court, or where the report relates to a current child protection client, must be referred to the TTB for advice (whether Child Protection recommend a TTO or not). If the report has come from the community (and does not pertain to a current child protection client), Child Protection is not required to refer the matter to the TTB for advice but may do so if that is assessed as appropriate.
Where Child Protection has initiated a report to Victoria Police and Victoria Police has conducted (or is still conducting) a criminal investigation, Child Protection may wish to complete a referral to the Therapeutic Treatment Board for advice regarding the suitability of a TTO.
Preparing a referral
Ensure a risk assessment has been completed and endorsed prior to making a referral to the TTB.
A TTO referral proforma is available at Therapeutic treatment resources. The referral from Child Protection to the TTB is endorsed by the practitioner’s supervisor or team manager, or above. Referrals are submitted to the TTB three working days prior to the TTB meeting. Late referrals can be accepted with prior agreement from the TTB secretariat. All referrals are submitted to the TTB secretariat by email to ‘email@example.com’. See Therapeutic treatment board schedule for a list of the TTB calendar dates.
Child Protection needs to be mindful of the victim’s privacy, and only include identifying information in the referral to the TTB where relevant (for example, the first name, age, sex and family relationship of the child would usually be relevant to the TTB's considerations, the family name and date of birth of the child would usually not be). If more than one victim, ensure clarity by using first names.
Where police are involved, the referral must include police documents: unauthorised or authorised brief of evidence (if the referral is from the courts and/or police), or a summary of evidence, police witness statements or summary of charges.
Where the referral is about a child currently subject to a protection order, information must be included about the child’s placement history, support provided to the victims and assessment about future placement options for the child.
Attach information from the outcome of the investigation, Child Protection’s assessment of the behaviours, the recommended intervention and therapeutic treatment services the child is or has engaged with, and whether a TTO/TTPO is, or is not, appropriate.
A comprehensive referral will minimise delays resulting from the TTB seeking further information.
Where further information is sought by the TTB, the request will come initially to the author of the report. Wherever possible the request should be responded to quickly to maximise the opportunity for the TTB to determine its advice during that meeting. Where this is not possible, the TTB will need to consider whether it can formulate its advice without the additional information or whether to defer the advice until an appropriate time.
Advice from the TTB
The TTB recommendation is limited to advising the Secretary on the appropriateness of seeking a TTO. The advice is based on information provided in the referral from Child Protection.
Response to advice from the TTB
If the TTB agrees with Child Protection’s recommendation, their advice will be accepted and acted upon.
If the TTB recommends a different course of action, Child Protection may accept and act upon their advice.
A decision to act contrary to advice from the TTB must be endorsed by the Director, Child Protection or the Area Operations Manager following consultation with the Divisional or Statewide Principal Practitioner. The TTB must be advised of this decision and the reasons for it in writing by email to the TTB Secretariat at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other parties seeking access to TTB advice
The CYFA provides for information sharing in the context of child protection practice where Child Protection believes on reasonable grounds that sharing the information is required to carry out delegated responsibilities under the CYFA (s. 192 ‘ Disclosure and use of information under this Act’). See Information sharing in child protection for details.
If Child Protection decides to disclose the TTB advice, information likely to identify a reporter or a person who gave information in confidence during the investigation must be redacted.
Further, under the Child Information Sharing Scheme, Child Protection is an information sharing entity (ISE) and has obligations to respond to requests for information from other ISEs (including SABATS) to promote the safety or wellbeing of a child or group of children. See Child Information Sharing Scheme and Child Protection for details.
The department funds SABTS across the state to deliver the following programs:
- a voluntary therapeutic treatment service for children and young people up to 15 years who have engaged in problem sexual behaviour or sexually abusive behaviour
- a statutory therapeutic treatment service for young people aged 10 – 14 pursuant to a TTO.
Some SABTS also provide therapeutic treatment up to and including children aged 17 years. A list of current SABTS can be found in Sexual abuse behaviour treatment service (SABTS) contacts.
Anyone who receives a disclosure of abuse by a child receiving therapeutic treatment for sexually abusive behaviours should, if they believe that the disclosure indicates a child is in need of protection, make a report to Child Protection. Reporters, both mandated and non-mandated, should be reminded that they are protected by s.189 of the CYFA when making a report in good faith.
SABTS agencies are expected to report all disclosures of abuse of another child to Child Protection to enable investigation in relation to that child and notification of the alleged offence to police. The young person who is alleged to have engaged in the behaviours may be charged with a criminal offence where police are able to obtain sufficient evidence without relying on statements made in the course of treatment as a result of a TTO or participating in treatment voluntarily (see below re: admissibility of statements made during treatment).
See procedure Initial court applications – by notice for tasks that must be undertaken in applying for a TTO or TTO and a TTPO.
A decision to apply for a TTO or both a TTO and TTPO is to be endorsed by a team manager or above.
Child’s attendance at court
Section 246(1) states that if the Secretary is satisfied on reasonable grounds that a child is in need of therapeutic treatment, the Secretary may by notice direct:
(a) the child to appear; and
(b) the child’s parents to produce the child –
before the Court for the hearing of a therapeutic treatment application.
Children subject to such a notice must attend the Court.
The making of a TTO
A TTO is made in the Family Division of the Children’s Court and can only be made in relation to a child or young person who is of or above the age of 10 years, and under the age of 18 years, at the time the TTO is made.
In deciding whether to make a TTO, pursuant to section 248(2), the Court must consider:
- the seriousness of the child’s sexually abusive behaviour
- any previous history of sexually abusive behaviour of the child, and if so, how it was addressed
- the particular characteristics and circumstances of the child; and
- any other matters the court considers relevant.
Child Protection’s application to the Court and its disposition reports must address these factors.
Conditions in a TTO – Reports to the Family Division of the Children’s Court
When making a TTO, the Family Division of the Children’s Court might impose conditions in the order requiring the Secretary to report to the Court at specific times on a child’s progress and attendance at a therapeutic treatment program (s.249(2)(ba) of the CYFA). This enables the Court to provide greater oversight of a child’s progress whilst on a TTO.
Report on outcome of application
See procedure Reporting back following referral from the Criminal Division of the Children’s Court for tasks that must be undertaken.
Child Protection must report to the Criminal Division of the Children’s Court if a protection application or an application for a TTO is made by the Secretary, as soon as possible after the Family Division of the Children’s Court has determined that either:
- a TTO is not appropriate as the Secretary is satisfied that the child and family will attend treatment in a voluntary capacity,
- that the application was dismissed, or struck out; or
- that a protection order or a TTO, as the case may be, was made and state the terms of the order.
See Therapeutic treatment resources for decision trees, tip sheets and report templates.
See procedure Managing therapeutic treatment orders for tasks that must be undertaken.
Roles and responsibilities
Child Protection is responsible for the management of TTOs and TTPOs. Regular face-to-face contact with the child, family and SABTS provider is required to monitor compliance with and effectiveness of the order. A TTPO is subject to s.168 of the CYFA being case planning responsibilities. The SABTS provider should be provided a copy of the order.
Where a child is receiving therapeutic treatment in the context of a TTO, reporting responsibilities, as described above, continue.
Therapeutic treatment orders
Collaboration is the key to maximising the opportunity to address the child’s therapeutic needs during assessment and treatment. SABTS are funded to work with the child, their family and the child’s social support network and to provide regular feedback to Child Protection about treatment progress.
Regular meetings between the child, their family, the SABTS provider, and the out-of-home care service provider where relevant, will promote a cohesive service response. The SABTS should provide quarterly progress reports to Child Protection about the child’s treatment. Expectations about meetings and reports should be negotiated at the outset, so the child, their family and service providers are aware of their responsibilities under the TTO. SABTS are expected to alert child protection to any issues. Child Protection provides reports to the Criminal Division of the Children’s Court where necessary.
Therapeutic treatment placement orders (TTPO)
When assessment of the TTR leads to the child needing to be placed away from the family home in order to receive treatment, Child Protection can apply for a TTPO. A placement order can be applied for at the time of applying for the TTO or at any subsequent point during the TTO, provided the child us under the age of 18 at the time an order is made. A TTPO implies that reunification will occur. If it is likely that reunification will not occur, Child Protection must consider a protection application and an order that will secure the future safety and development of the child and promote permanency in the child’s care arrangements. A TTPO application can only be made by notice. If the situation warrants immediate removal of a child from their parents’ care, a protection application by placing the child in emergency care will be required.
The Family Division of the Children’s Court may make a TTPO if the Court makes or has made a TTO in respect of the child and is satisfied that the placement is necessary for the treatment of the child. A TTPO grants parental responsibility for the child to the Secretary but requires the child’s parents to make long-term decisions about the child. It may include any conditions the Court considers to be in the best interests of the child including a condition regarding contact by the parent or other person with the child and in the case of an Aboriginal child, a condition incorporating a cultural plan. A TTPO remains in force for the period (not exceeding the period of the TTO to which it relates) specified in the order.
The case planning requirements in s.168 of the CYFA apply to a TTPO as they do to a protection order. See Case planning for further information.
Because a TTO and therefore a TTPO may be extended by the Court only once for an additional 12 months to a maximum total period of 24 months, a TTPO is not an appropriate legal basis for development of a long-term or permanent care case plan.
If a child is subject to a care by Secretary order or long term care order, the Secretary has exclusive parental responsibility for the child and as such a TTPO is not required.
Child Protection is required to prepare a TTP for all children subject to a TTO. A TTP must contain all decisions and arrangements made by the Secretary concerning the child that:
- the Secretary considers to be significant; and
- relates to the child’s participation in, and attendance at, a therapeutic treatment program.
A TTP is designed to assist the child, their family, the treatment provider and child protection practitioners to: document treatment goals and progress and roles and responsibilities for each individual including other service providers.
A TTP will detail a range of matters relevant to the therapeutic treatment of the child including the:
- therapeutic treatment provider
- arrangements to support a child’s attendance at treatment; and
- treatment goals
The TTP is prepared in consultation with the child, the child’s parents, any person caring for the child, any relevant family members and the therapeutic treatment provider.
Child Protection must prepare the TTP within six weeks following the making of a TTO (s. 169B of the CYFA).
TTPs must be reviewed on a regular basis and the frequency of the reviews must be stipulated in the TTP (s.169C of the CYFA).
For those children subject to a TTPO, a case plan must also be prepared. The TTP does not affect the preparation of a case plan. Each plan has a separate and unique purpose.
Providing copies of the therapeutic treatment plan
A copy of the TTP must be provided to: the child, the child’s parents; any person caring for the child; any relevant family members; and the therapeutic treatment provider (prescribed parties). Child Protection must ensure that a copy of the TTP is given to the prescribed parties within 14 days of its preparation (s 169B of the CYFA). Following each review of the TTP, Child Protection must ensure that the results of the review and any amendments to the TTP, are provided to the prescribed parties within 14 days of the review (s. 169C of the CYFA).
Child Protection might form the belief that providing a copy of the TTP, or the results of a review of a TTP would be inappropriate for reasons including: when a parent of a child is a perpetrator of family violence; when it might impact on the safety of the child; when it would be contrary to any information sharing scheme; or where a child subject to a TTO is over the age of 18 years. In such circumstances, Child Protection can choose not to provide a copy of the TTP to a prescribed person (ss 169B(3), 169C(4)) of the CYFA). Child Protection should record their reasons for not providing a copy of the TTP as a CRIS case note.
Extension of a TTO or TTPO
TTOs and TTPOs can be made for a period of up to 12 months and can be extended once, for a further period of up to 12 months (s. 255 and 256 of the CYFA) upon application to the Family Division of the Children's Court.
The Court can only extend the orders if it is satisfied that the child is still in need of therapeutic treatment and therapeutic treatment is available for the child.
There is no requirement for Child Protection to seek advice from the TTB regarding extending a TTO or a TTPO.
Where a young person subject to a TTO is over the age of 18 years, a TTO can be extended for a further 12 months. A TTO can remain in force, or be extended, for the duration of the order to ensure the young person in need of therapeutic treatment, does not have their treatment unduly shortened due to their turning 18.
Where Child Protection wishes to extend the TTO, consultation with the divisional principal practitioner should occur to consider:
- What are the young person’s circumstances that have led Child Protection to seek an extension (ie: lack of compliance, further abusive behaviours, treatment availability)?
- Were the identified treatment goals addressed during the 12 months of the TTO? If not, will the extension to the TTO assist the young person to meet the treatment goals?
- What will be different in the next 12 months of treatment that could not be managed during the first 12 months of treatment?
- Is the TTO necessary to ensure the young person’s attendance for treatment or can the young person attend treatment voluntarily with the support of their family or informal support network?
- Can Child Protection reasonably oversee the young person’s compliance with the TTO given the young person’s increased independence?
- Is the SABTs provider able to continue therapeutic work with the young person?
In some circumstances, Child Protection and the therapeutic treatment provider may wish for the order to be extended as the child or young person has re-engaged in the behaviours. There are a small number of children and young people who re-engage in harmful sexual behaviour. Prior to seeking the extension (and after reporting the allegations to Victoria Police), child protection, in consultation with the divisional principal practitioner must consider:
- Is there anything regarding the family environment that is impacting on the child or young person addressing the behaviours?
- What does the current therapist see as being different now to before that will provide confidence the child or young person will not continue to be abusive whilst engaged in treatment?
- Is child protection confident the therapist providing the treatment has the level of understanding and experience to work the child or young person who has continued to engage in the behaviours?
- Are the behaviours more entrenched than the child or young person is willing to disclose?
Child Protection may wish to consider whether a TTPO is appropriate or whether the TTO should be revoked in these circumstances.
A TTPO expires upon the child turning 18 years of age, or when a child marries, whatever happens first (s 254(2) of the CYFA). The TTO to which the TTPO relates, can continue beyond a child’s 18th birthday.
Variation of a TTO or TTPO
Child Protection, the child or the parent of the child can apply to the Family Division of the Children’s Court to vary conditions of a TTO or TTPO (s. 257). The application may seek to vary, add or substitute any condition. In the case of a TTO, the Court must not make a change in the requirement to participate in a therapeutic program or extend the period of the order.
In relation to a TTPO, the variation cannot change parental responsibility of the child or extend the period of the order.
Before making a decision to vary a TTO or TTP, review the essential information categories to ensure they are up to date and consider completing a review risk assessment.
Revocation of a TTO or TTPO
TTOs and TTPOs cannot be breached but can be revoked (s.258 of CYFA).
Where the criminal proceedings against a child have been adjourned pending the completion by the child of a therapeutic treatment program under a TTO, the Secretary must seek the advice of the TTB before applying to the Court to revoke the TTO (s. 258(2) of the CYFA). However, any decision to seek a revocation is at Child Protection’s discretion.
Concurrent protection orders
A child may be the subject of both a protection order and a TTO, or TTO and TTPO, concurrently. In this situation, requirements in relation to managing the protection order also apply.
Admissibility of statements made in treatment by a child either voluntarily or whilst subject to a TTO
Any statement made by a child when participating in therapeutic treatment either voluntarily or whilst subject to a TTO is not admissible in any criminal proceedings in relation to charges against the child associated with the sexually abusive behaviour (s.251 of the CYFA). Evidence obtained from other sources may still form a basis for criminal charges.
The s.251 provision of CYFA does not remove or lessen the responsibility of the SABTS provider or mandated professional to make a report to the Secretary where they believe a child is in need of protection, pursuant to sections 183 and 184 of the CYFA. The SABTS agency must report all disclosures of abuse of another child by the child to Child Protection to enable investigation and notification of police. The young person may still be charged with a criminal offence as police have been able to obtain independent evidence to pursue the charges. If this were to occur, and where the child is placed on a TTO, Child Protection must consider revoking the TTO.
The s.251 provision of CYFA is only relevant to the Criminal Division of the Children's Court. Any statement made by a child in treatment regarding further harm to children, is admissible in the Family Division of the Children's Court.
Report to Criminal Division on the child’s progress under a TTO
The Criminal Division of the Children’s Court may request that the Secretary reports to the Criminal Division at the time or times specified by the Court, on a child’s progress and attendance at the therapeutic treatment program. The Court may pose such a requirement:
- when adjourning criminal proceedings under section 352; or
- any time during the period of the TTO when the Court is exercising the jurisdiction of the Criminal Division in relation to the child.
The Court may direct the Secretary to provide a copy of the report to:
- the child; and
- the prosecutor.
Report to Criminal Division of outcome of TTO
The Secretary must provide a report to the Criminal Division of the Children’s Court on the completion or revocation of a TTO (s. 353(1) of the CYFA).
The report must set out details of the child's attendance at and participation in the therapeutic treatment program under the order (s. 353(2) of the CYFA).
The Court may direct the Secretary to provide a copy of the report to the child and the prosecutor (s. 353 of the CYFA).
See Therapeutic treatment resources letter and report templates.
The report must ensure there is enough information to satisfy the Court to dismiss the charges.
When the Court is considering dismissing the child’s criminal charges, the Court must have regard to:
- the child’s attendance record
- the nature and extent of the child’s participation
- whether or not the child’s participation was to the satisfaction of the therapeutic treatment provider
- the opinion of the therapeutic treatment provider as to the effectiveness of the treatment.
This provision also applies to children who have engaged in treatment in a voluntary capacity (s.354A of CYFA).
Hearing about an adjourned case
Section 354 (and s.354A) of the CYFA sets out what can occur when the Court hears the adjourned criminal proceedings. If the Court is satisfied that the child has attended and participated in the therapeutic treatment program either voluntarily or under a TTO, the Court must discharge the child without any further hearing of the criminal proceedings (s. 354(4) and 354A(3) of CYFA).
See procedure Closing therapeutic treatment orders and therapeutic treatment placement orders for tasks that must be undertaken.
Practice regarding case closure processes is essentially the same as protective case closures with the exception outlined above regarding informing the Criminal Division of the Children’s Court of the outcome of the order where the child has had criminal charges adjourned for the duration of the TTO.
Before determining if closure is appropriate, Child Protection must meet with the child, family and treatment provider to determine the progress achieved and respond to issues associated with the withdrawal of services. SABTS often extend an open invitation to the child and family to re-contact the agency in the future should any further questions or concerns arise.
Where the decision is made to close the case after investigation on the basis the family are willing and able to engage in and sustain treatment without a TTO Child Protection must advise the SABTS provider of their obligation to provide a report to the Criminal Division of the Children’s Court, where the child’s criminal charges have been adjourned for the period of the therapeutic treatment program.
For those children subject to a TTO, Child Protection must request a final report from the SABTS provider outlining the nature of treatment. The report should include key risk factors that could increase or heighten the anxiety for a child which may result in raising the risk of the young person re-engaging in sexually abusive behaviours or other delinquent behaviours. This information is to be included in the closure summary. Any SABTS risk assessment is limited to the time of their involvement.
It is important that the case closure summary is clear in stating if the young person’s criminal charges have been discharged by the Criminal Division of the Children’s Court due the successful completion of treatment. Where the report was received from the Victoria Police and no criminal charges were laid, this information should be clearly documented.
For matters that have been referred to Child Protection via Victoria Police or the Criminal Division of the Children’s Court, Child Protection should advise Victoria Police of the outcome of the TTO and ask Victoria Police to note the child’s satisfactory completion of the TTO and discharge of the criminal charges (if the matter was referred under s.349(2)) on their LEAP database once the TTO has formally ended.
Complete a review risk assessment to confirm the decision to close the case.
Investigation of sexually abusive behaviours
The purpose of investigation of is to:
- determine the likelihood that sexually abusive behaviour has occurred (except for cases referred from the Criminal Division of the Children’s Court as the Court has considered there is prima facie evidence and grounds exist to apply for a TTO established under s.349(2)(b) of the CYFA);
- determine the response and attitude of the child and their family or carers to the behaviour and their preparedness to engage in treatment to address the behaviour in a voluntary capacity or via a TTO;
- assess the appropriateness of the child remaining in their home while participating in a therapeutic program;
- pay attention to the variation of the child or young person’s cognitive and psychological development and ensure this informs the overall assessment
- gain sufficient information to provide a report to the TTB where the TTR has been made by the police or the Criminal Division of the Children’s Court or in other circumstances where the Secretary decides to seek advice from the TTB.
The following questions should be considered when making an assessment of the behaviours, the family’s responses and therapeutic treatment.
- Is the behaviour sexualised?
- Is the behaviour within the normal developmental range for the child?
- Is the behaviour directed towards self, others or both?
- Is the behaviour causing problems for the child engaging in them?
- Is the behaviour causing problems for another party?
- How frequent has the behaviour occurred?
- How intrusive and serious is the behaviour?
- Has the behaviour been overt or covert?
- Does the behaviour break a rule the child is aware of?
- Would the other party be capable of giving informed consent? If so did the other party consent and did they have an understanding that the child may have gained sexual gratification from the behaviour?
- Is any coercion reported to have been used?
- Are there other sexualised or problem sexual behaviours present?
- How has the child responded to the reported behaviours or allegations?
- How have the parents responded to the reported behaviour?
- What is the family context and environment?
- Does the child present an ongoing risk to siblings, other children, including children residing in out-of-home care?
- Do the family have capacity to engage and remain in treatment over the long term? Or is a TTO necessary to ensure the child’s access to a participation in treatment?
- For the older child, with increased interdependence, is Child Protection confident the TTO is the best pathway ie – where do the behaviours sit on the continuum?
Special considerations for young people aged 15 years to 17 years
The following points should be considered when making an assessment of the behaviours, the family’s responses and therapeutic treatment for young people aged 15 to 17 years:
- What are the views of the young person?
- How will the young person’s increased independence (noting that young people vary in cognitive and psychological development) impact on compliance with a TTO?
- Is the young person able to be held accountable for their behaviour (noting that responsibility is a developmental task that can be impacted by the modelling from significant adults in the young person’s life) and how will the TTO assist with this?
- What is the family’s ability to support the young person to engage with therapeutic treatment?
- What are the risk factors within the young person and their environment that may impact on compliance with a TTO?
- Is the SABTS able to provide the young person with specialist intervention, particularly where there are a range of high risk factors present.
Definition of consent
Consent refers to:
- the understanding that each participant has of the purpose of the behaviour
- knowledge of the social standards related to the behaviour
- awareness of the potential consequences
- mutual respect for agreements or disagreements related to the behaviour
- voluntary participation in the behaviour; and
- being mentally competent.
An example of no consent may be in a situation where a younger child does not understand that the older child or adolescent is gaining sexual gratification from the behaviour (Ryan & Lane 1997 as cited in Pratt and Miller, 2010: 9).
Therapeutic treatment plans (TTPs)
TTPs must contain all decisions and arrangements made by the Secretary concerning a child or young person subject to a TTO, that the Secretary considers to be significant and relates to the child or young person’s participation and attendance at a therapeutic treatment program.
TTPs should focus on the expected treatment outcomes. Treatment is not only with the young person who engaged in the harmful sexual behaviours, but with young person, their family, caregivers, schools and extended networks will play a role in the young person’s ongoing management of the harmful sexual behaviours.
The specialist practice resource guide, Adolescents with sexually abusive behaviours and their families (2012: 37) should be referred to understand aims of treatment and safety planning.
Out-of-home care placements
Where an out-of-home care placement is being considered, the following questions should be explored to determine appropriate care:
- Do the potential out-of-home carers know about the young person’s sexually abusive behaviour problems? Carers cannot provide appropriate care and supervision if they don’t know what potential risks the young person might present to other children. They should be fully informed and understand any triggers and patters around previous sexually abusive behaviours.
- Is the proposed placement appropriate? Will it place other children at risk? Will it place the young person at risk?
- Is there adequate supervision for the young person – if the young person is placed in residential care, will staff actively supervise the young person 24 hours a day?
- What is the mix of other young people in the placement (particularly residential units)? Are there other children or adolescents who are placed due to their sexually abusive behaviours? Are other children or young people within the unit victims of sexual abuse? How are these issues managed by unit management and staff? (Do they have a realistic management plan to keep everyone safe)? This requires clear strategies around supervision and structure.
(For a comprehensive consideration regarding out-of-home care placements refer to the specialist practice resource guide for Adolescents with sexually abusive behaviours).
For young people residing in out of home care, the leaving care plan must address the young person’s ongoing therapeutic support beyond reaching 18 years.
Special considerations for children protection clients
Child Protection is able to take a child in need of therapeutic treatment report on an existing client. The report must be investigated as if Child Protection had taken a new report on a child. Child Protection must seek advice from the TTB regarding the suitability of a TTO for that child.
Where children are residing in out-of-home care and Child Protection has received a report regarding the child engaging in sexually abusive behaviours, the report must be taken as a child in need of therapeutic treatment. Again, the same principles apply regarding investigations to determine (a) did the sexually abusive behaviours occur, and (b) is a TTO necessary for the child to attend and participate in treatment. Prior to making an application for a TTO, Child Protection must seek the TTB’s advice regarding the suitability of a TTO for that child.
Writing the therapeutic treatment referral report
Whist writing the report, pay attention to the use of language when describing the child’s sexually abusive behaviour and avoid labelling the child as a sexual offender as young people who sexually abuse are different from adults who sexually offend.
During the assessment and report writing, it is useful to refer to the specialist practice resource Adolescents with sexually abusive behaviours.
Some other key points to remember when report writing:
- stick to the facts and use the evidence to support your recommendation
- avoid describing each and every child protection event
- avoid using child protection jargon
- do not copy and paste from any previous intake case notes – information can only be included where there has been previous substantiated reports
- provide a clear narrative, analysis and risk assessment of the child exhibiting the sexual behaviours, the child and family’s response to these in order to form a robust recommendation; and
- refer to information and evidence in the essential information categories and refer to the most recent risk assessment or review risk assessment.
Where and when appropriate, Child Protection should consider speaking with the children who have been victimised by the child with the sexually abusive behaviours. This is not a disclosure interview, rather an opportunity for the victim to discuss how they have been impacted by the behaviours. Child Protection can consider this information in the context of an assessment and analysis of the child’s sexually abusive behaviours.
Where the victim of the behaviours has resided in out of home care with the child exhibiting the behaviours, Child Protection must interview the victim so as to ensure crisis counselling and referral to therapeutic supports are facilitated.
Police LEAP data base
The LEAP data base is not a record of findings of guilt or innocence, nor is it a formal record of a person’s criminal history; this is what a police check is for. Rather, it is an active database for police and is only as relevant as what is entered by various police officers. How police act upon that information is outside the control of the department.
Where a child is coming to the end of their TTO and the matter had been referred to Child Protection via Victoria Police or the Criminal Division of the Children’s Court, child protection need to advise Victoria Police of the outcome of the TTO including the risk level of the child. Information must include contact details of the relevant child protection division for any future possible contact about that child.
A TTO that has resulted in a criminal matter being adjourned and ultimately discharged is not a ‘finding of guilt’. However, neither is it a ‘finding of innocence’. Instead, the charges have been discharged without the full process of being determined before a court.
Working with children checks (WWCC)
The Department of Justice and Community Safety can have regard to a wide range of matters when deciding whether to grant or deny a WWCC. Child Protection may receive a request from the Department of Justice and Community Safety for information about a child who has been subject to a TTO. It is therefore important that when the child protection file is closed, a clear rationale and risk assessment can be found in the case closure summary.
- Allegations of sexually abusive behaviour (TTR)
- Investigation of sexually abusive behaviour
- Decision-making after TTR investigation
- Initial court applications - by notice
- Reporting back following a referral from the Criminal Division of the Children’s Court
- Managing therapeutic treatment orders
- Closing therapeutic treatment orders and therapeutic treatment placement orders
- Joint visits with police
- Case planning
- Adolescents with sexually abusive behaviours
- Therapeutic treatment resources
- Therapeutic treatment board schedule
- Sexual abuse behaviour treatment service (SABTS) contacts
- Information sharing in child protection practice
- Child Information Sharing Scheme and Child Protection