See procedure Missing persons report (MPR) for actions that must be undertaken.
A MPR is the mechanism through which a police investigation is initiated where there are concerns for a person who is missing. Victoria Police must investigate any report of a missing person.
The Victoria Police definition of a missing person is:
- any person reported to police whose whereabouts are unknown; and
- a person for whom there are safety fears or welfare concerns, including a person from an institution (not including a prison or jail) (Victoria Police Manual s. 12.8).
The Victoria Police Manual includes the following statement relating to missing persons investigations that:
- In the case of a child who is missing from a departmental placement, the existence of a Children's Court search warrant does not replace the requirement for police to take a MPR, where the reporting criteria are met, as defined above.
When the whereabouts of a child is unknown, child protection must ensure that a missing persons report (MPR) is made to police.
If the missing child is residing in care, it is the responsibility of the community service organisation to make a MPR.
Under a MPR the police have no powers to apprehend, detain or return the child to a placement without a warrant. The police are responsible for informing the person who made the MPR of the child's whereabouts. On locating a missing child, the police can speak to the child and encourage the child to return to their placement.
A MPR remains active on police records until such time as the missing person is located or police are notified of the child’s return.
Consideration should also be given to the need for a Children's Court search warrant and the need for police to search premises or to take a child into emergency care when located.
Efforts to locate the missing child may include one or more of the following:
- the likely locations where the child may be and how they might be checked
- alerting the child's networks (for example, care team members, peers and family) and requesting their assistance to look for and convey messages to the child
- alerting Streetwork Outreach Service (SOS) where it is considered that they may be able to be of assistance
- lodging a missing persons report with police
- where it is considered necessary, making an application for a Children's Court search warrant
- advising the After Hours Child Protection Emergency Service (AHCPES) of the 'possible contact' and placing this After-Hours possible contact on the client's electronic file. See Possible contact to AHCPES for tasks that must be undertaken.
- adhering to the departmental incident reporting requirements, particularly in cases that have the potential to involve the Minister or be subject of public or legal scrutiny.
In determining the proposed response, the following matters should be given consideration:
- the best interests of the child
- the possible risk of harm to the child
- any threat posed to the community by the child's actions
- the ability to search premises without a warrant
- the degree to which police assistance is necessary to ensure the child is located and safely placed
- the most suitable placement for the child
- the impact of the proposed action on the commitment of the child, parents, guardian or carers to work on case plan objectives and towards the permanency objective in the best interest of the child.
If a child protection practitioner suspects that a child who is missing has left the state of Victoria and their whereabouts are not known, consideration can be given to an interstate alert being completed in consultation with the interstate liaison team. If a decision is made to submit an interstate alert, the interstate liaison team will request all relevant interstate liaison officers to register the alert. An alert should provide identifying details for the child, an outline of the risk assessment, a summary of child protection's involvement, including evidence of attempts made to locate the child and details of recommended action. See procedure Interstate requests for tasks that must be undertaken.