Drug and alcohol assessments - advice
This advice provides information regarding parental drug and alcohol assessments and how they are utilised in child protection assessments and case plans.
Document ID number 2426, version 4, 17 February 2021.
This advice outlines:
- the definition of substances, substance use and abuse
- the prevalence of substance use in child protection clients and their families
- identifying the need for parental drug and alcohol assessment
- utilising the drug and alcohol assessment for the child to develop their case plan
- neonatal abstinence syndrome.
The impact of parental substance abuse on a child requires thorough assessment. A stable and nurturing environment is crucial in the development of a healthy and emotionally secure child. Parents using substances may have significant difficulties caring for their children and their commitment and ability to provide care and protection may be significantly compromised by the effects of their substance abuse on mental health, physical health, lifestyle and functioning. Children rely on their parents to meet their physical, emotional, social, developmental and economic needs. When a parent is dependent or users of substances their primary commitment is often to the substance, not to their children. A parent may find it difficult to prioritise the child's needs. The lifestyle associated with substance abuse may preclude rational and long-term decision making. Day-to-day decisions can be oriented towards maintaining an addiction. Consequently, a parent's capacity to respond appropriately to their child's needs can be limited, even though the parent may express the desire to care for their child.
Department data indicates that parental substance abuse as a factor in child protection cases is increasing. Research indicates that substance abuse as a parental characteristic increases the likelihood of abuse and neglect of a child and therefore there is an increased likelihood of the removal of that child. Substance abuse assessment is a feature of child protection practice, whether substance use is by a parent or a young person. Intervention strategies vary in form and timing, with the protection of the child requiring immediate attention and action, whereas parental acknowledgement, treatment and the maintenance of a substance free lifestyle will only be achieved over time. Therefore, child protection practitioners need to develop knowledge about substance abuse in order to make informed decisions and implement interventions, which can be supported with research findings and theory in court reports and utilised in case planning. See Parental substance use assessment tool.
For the purposes of this advice, a drug is a substance which is psychoactive, that is it produces a mind altering effect on an individual.
The term 'substance' is used to refer to all drugs, licit and illicit, including alcohol.
Examples of substances include, though are not limited to:
amphetamine (speed, crystal meth, ice), opioids (heroin, morphine, methadone, pethidine, opium), alcohol, cannabis, cocaine, hallucinogens (LSD, PCP), inhalants (glue, petrol, aerosol, paint), benzodiazepines (valium, librium, mogadon, serapax, temazipan, normison), other prescribed medications.
Determining the need for a drug and alcohol assessment
It is part of the child protection practitioner's role to assess the impact of substance abuse by the parent and potential or actual harm to the child. Therefore, the child protection practitioner is required to ask questions relating to past and current substance use, including the effects of substance use on the persons' physical and emotional wellbeing and level of functioning. The parent may not provide complete or accurate details of their substance use. It is vital that information is gathered from other family members as well as any professionals involved with the parent or family. See advice Drug screens.
The child protection practitioner will need to be aware of physical indicators of possible substance abuse. The following list is illustrative, and not exhaustive, of possible physical indicators of substance abuse:
disorientation, loss of inhibition, relaxation, dizziness, poor coordination, slower reaction time, blurred vision, slurred speech, aggressive disposition, depression, dilated pupils, pin-point pupils, increased or decreased appetite, paranoia or hallucinations, anxiety or panic attacks, confusion, restlessness/irritability, weight gain or loss, sweating, sleepiness, nausea and vomiting.
It should be noted that the above are only indicators of substance abuse as there may be other possible explanations for a parent’s presentation, which should be explored and considered.
When symptoms listed above are evident and there is a possibility that a parent may be using substances, a drug and alcohol assessment is required.
This is the most effective way to understand a parent's drug and alcohol use. A drug and alcohol assessment may be helpful when:
- there is a known history of drug and alcohol use by a parent
- there is information to indicate current drug and alcohol use by a parent
- a parent has disclosed current drug and alcohol abuse
- you require a comprehensive assessment and understanding of a parent’s use of substances and impact on their parenting capacity
- you require information about support services necessary for a parent to address their substance abuse
- there is a need to identify the most appropriate treatment for a parent’s substance abuse.
What a drug and alcohol assessment involves
A drug and alcohol assessment includes an interview process designed to gather information about a parent’s history of substance use, current substance use, triggers for use, impact on level of functioning, treatments undertaken and to ascertain the most suitable treatment for the parent. A drug and alcohol assessment is undertaken by a drug and alcohol clinician.
In situations where a parent’s drug and alcohol abuse may meet the criteria for substance dependency under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), this assessment must be undertaken by a psychologist with relevant experience in this area.
The child protection practitioner may need to consider the possibility that a parent may have an alcohol related brain injury (ARBI). In these situations, a parent’s cognitive ability may be compromised due to excessive alcohol consumption and this may impact on their ability to learn new information, cope with and adapt to change and on their memory. Consequently, this would have significant implications for a parent’s ability to care for and protect their child or engage in a plan to address specific concerns. The most effective way to diagnose ARBI is a neuropsychological assessment. This can only be conducted by a neuropsychologist who has completed specialised training in acquired brain injury. The neuropsychologist will diagnose brain injury and make recommendations about rehabilitation and management needs.
Requesting a purposeful drug and alcohol assessment
See Drug and alcohol assessment and treatment services.
The purpose for which the drug and alcohol assessment is required and the specific circumstances of the case will dictate what information is required. It is important for the child protection practitioner to clearly identify the assessment information required to the drug and alcohol clinician. The following are some likely areas to be covered:
- the age of the parent when the substance abuse began, including experimentation with substances
- the frequency, pattern and extent of substance abuse, including periods of abstinence and relapse
- reasons for initial substance abuse and the reasons for continued use
- types of substances used, including licit and illicit, and whether the parent engages in poly-substance use and substitute substance use (using another substance when the preferred substance is not available)
- the impact of different substances used concurrently on the parent's level of functioning
- triggers for substance use and ascertaining high risk situations in which a parent is more likely to use
- the effect of substance abuse on the parent’s level of functioning, including physical health, emotional wellbeing, cognitive capacity
- source of licit or illicit substances – including lifestyle factors, association with other substance uses or sellers, the children's exposure to the drug culture
- observations of the impact of the parent’s substance abuse on their parenting capacity and ability to care for and protect the child (it is not appropriate to expect a parenting capacity assessment. A drug and alcohol assessment will usually not include this aspect, unless the agency provides a specific service that addresses parenting and substance use issues with the parent)
- the stage the parent is at in the 'model of change' and therefore their prognosis and likelihood of the successful completion of treatment, and likely timing
- recommendation of most appropriate treatment plan for the parent, that is, residential detoxification, home detoxification, counselling.
Utilising the drug and alcohol assessment
A drug and alcohol assessment has the potential to provide the child protection practitioner with a comprehensive understanding of the parent’s drug and alcohol abuse, inform risk and needs assessment for the child. It provides a framework for planning interventions when working with families where one or both parents are abusing substances and decision-making to protect the child.
The child protection practitioner's primary focus should always be the protection of the child. Therefore if issues of immediacy and risk to the child are identified in the drug and alcohol assessment, this must be dealt with first. Once the safety of the child is assured then other issues such as substance abuse, treatment and parenting can be addressed.
Risk and needs assessment
The drug and alcohol assessment is a valuable source of information that can be utilised by the child protection practitioner in articulating a risk and needs assessment for the child, particularly for the purposes of a court report and case planning. The information used in conjunction with observations of the parent’s behaviour by the child protection practitioner, family members, child and other professionals can highlight the type and level of risk to the child. For example, if the effect of the parent’s substance abuse is that the parent falls asleep or becomes aggressive and this has been observed to occur by a family member, then the child (particularly an infant) is assessed to be at an increased risk of significant harm.
The drug and alcohol assessment will assist the child protection practitioner when determining the permanency objective and making decisions concerning the child for their present and future care and wellbeing, as set out in the case plan. The child protection practitioner will be able to clearly identify the tasks or actions that the parent must undertake to achieve the goal of adequately addressing the protective concerns. These will be noted in the actions table. Introduction of tasks should be tightly managed to avoid overwhelming the parent and give the greatest opportunity for timely success.
The prognosis of a parent's ability to address their substance abuse in a timely way and where they are at on the 'model for change' will enable the practitioner to assess the viability of reunification, if the child is placed out of the parent's care. Substance abuse is a complex life struggle for those individuals consumed by dependence and addiction. Addressing substance abuse is a challenge characterised by deception, manipulation and relapse. It is not uncommon for a parent to display frequent and unpredictable relapses into substance abusing behaviour, despite acknowledging the issues and articulating a commitment to change. The child protection practitioner must always make decisions in the best interests of the child taking into account their age and stage of development. Therefore if a parent has not been able to adequately address their substance abuse within an appropriate timeframe, a review of progress towards the permanency objective considering its achievability, may lead to determining that the child requires alternative permanent or long-term care.
In implementing the case plan, strategic management will be required.
The drug and alcohol assessment can be used to assess parenting capacity and the parent's ability to ensure the child's safety and meet their developmental needs. The child protection practitioner can utilise the information regarding the parent's use and the impact of this on their level of functioning to articulate current, potential and future parenting capacity. The child protection practitioner should be conscious of the age and stage of development of the child when assessing parenting capacity. For example, the parenting required of a parent with the care of an infant is very different in some respects from the parenting required to care for an older child.
Referral to support services
A drug and alcohol assessment identifies and enables response so that parents are offered support as soon as possible in their parenting role and treatment for their drug and alcohol issues. The child protection practitioner can refer a parent to appropriate drug and alcohol support services so that they can undergo relevant treatment to address their substance use. See Drug and alcohol assessment and treatment services.
Parents whose children are subject to family reunification orders, where there is a condition attached for the parent to engage in alcohol or drug treatment, are eligible to be seen immediately, through particular services providers. The objective of this initiative is to engage parents requiring assessment and treatment in a timely manner in order to maximise the likelihood of reunifying with their child within the timeframes of a family reunification order. See AOD treatment initiative for family reunification (pdf, 425.76 KB) for further information and provider contact details.
Neonatal abstinence syndrome
If the mother is known to have used substances during pregnancy, the child protection practitioner should discuss with the hospital whether the neonate (newborn) is exhibiting signs of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS). Statistics from the Women's Alcohol and Drug Services, Royal Women's Hospital, indicate that more than 66 per cent of infants born to substance dependent mothers exhibit some signs of NAS. Twenty-five percent of infants exposed to narcotics (primarily heroin and methadone) require medication for symptomatic narcotic withdrawal.
The Neonatal Abstinence Scoring System is used when scoring newborns to determine if treatment for NAS is required. The two types of treatment include:
- non-pharmocological (holding, rocking, demand feeding, reduced lighting and noise levels), and
- morphine therapy, with which the process of withdrawal management may take approximately four weeks.
Knowledge as to whether an infant was born with symptoms of NAS is critical when planning for the infant's discharge from hospital and for their short to medium term care requirements, as sub-acute withdrawal (irritability, sleep problems, hyperactivity, feeding problems) may last four to six months and there is an increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). This information is useful when assessing whether an infant can be placed in the care of the parent and whether the parent will be able to meet the infant's special physical and emotional needs.
The practitioner should consult a practice leader to determine the level of risk to the neonate, undertake case planning and identify relevant support services that may benefit the neonate and the mother.
Drug and alcohol assessments of young people
The child protection practitioner may have responsibility for a young person who is using substances. Therefore it may be necessary to refer the young person to a youth drug and alcohol service for an assessment, treatment and support. The purpose of a drug and alcohol assessment of a young person is to:
- identify the frequency and type of use
- ascertain the impact on their level of functioning
- identify treatment options for the young person
- provide education to the young person regarding the effect of substance abuse on their development.
While a young person cannot be forced to undergo drug and alcohol assessment or treatment, the child protection practitioner must consider the young person's best interests and should strongly encourage the young person to do so and develop a safety plan that ensures they do not place themselves at significant risk of harm. This may include accessing secondary consultations with a youth drug and alcohol service, referral to an outreach youth drug and alcohol service for assertive engagement, or placement at a secure welfare service where the young person meets the statutory criteria for such a placement.
The practitioner should consult with their supervisor to determine the level of risk to the young person, undertake case planning and identify relevant support services that may benefit the young person.
Considerations for good practice
At any point a child protection practitioner may require advice from a range of professionals to assist with developing an intervention to address the child's safety, developmental needs or to provide for their care and wellbeing.
When assessing substance abuse issues of a parent or young person, the child protection practitioner may contact a drug and alcohol service for information and advice. The child protection practitioner may seek to gather information on the range of treatment options available or seek the expertise of the drug and alcohol clinician about the particular alcohol and other drug use issues without making a referral to that service.
Poly-substance use and abuse of prescribed medication
When assessing drug and alcohol issues for a parent or young person, the child protection practitioner should be conscious of the possibility that the parent may be using more than one substance at any given time. Poly-substance use is when an individual uses more than once substance concurrently and not when they have used different substances at different stages of their life. For example, a parent may smoke cannabis and consume alcohol at the same time, may smoke cannabis after taking prescribed medication, a young person may consume alcohol and inhale solvents at the same time.
Sometimes a parent may use excuses or rationalise that they are not abusing substances because what they are consuming may be prescribed medication. The child protection practitioner must be aware that the parent may be consuming large amounts of the prescribed medication in order to have the desired effect, may have substituted prescribed medication for illicit substances, or may be attending different doctors ('doctor-shopping') to obtain various prescribed medications. All of the above may not be known to the regular general practitioner. These issues are highly concerning when assessing risk to a child and if identified by the child protection practitioner, then a drug and alcohol assessment is highly recommended to obtain a comprehensive assessment of the parent’s substance abuse, impact on level of functioning, the effects and consequences of poly-substance use and appropriate treatment.
There is a significant co-morbidity of mental illness and substance abuse. Adults with this dual diagnosis are more difficult to treat and their treatment outcomes are poorer than adults who either have only a mental illness or only a substance abuse problem.
The child protection practitioner may need to explore the possibility that the parent may be 'self-medicating', by using illicit substances or using prescribed medication. Severe substance abuse significantly reduces the efficacy of treatment for mental illness. The practitioner needs to be aware of the impact of the parent’s substance use on their mental illness. The major implication of the research literature is that dual diagnosis is an interactive phenomenon, placing people with a mental illness at increased risk of substance abuse and substance abusers at higher risk for mental illness. People who have a serious mental illness and abuse substances are likely to have a number of distinct and related clinical problems. Treatment approaches need to address individual issues while considering possible interactions between mental illness and substance abuse.
Therefore, it is important for the child protection practitioner to consider if the parent has a mental illness or shows evidence of a mental/emotional disorder. If so, then there should be consideration for a mental health assessment as well. In these situations, dual treatment and regular liaison with both specialist services is imperative.
Associated risk factors
The presence of family violence in the parents' relationship where one or both are abusing substances significantly increases the risk of harm to the child. For example, alcohol abuse is common in physical abuse cases and is usually associated with violence in the home.
The child protection practitioner must explore family violence, mental health and substance abuse issues when investigating child protection cases. Any combination of these risk factors should be carefully assessed, as there is an increased likelihood of significant harm and neglect to the child and serious impact on a child’s development and emotional wellbeing.
Practice Dictionary Definition
- Aboriginal Best Start
- Aboriginal Child Placement Principle
- Aboriginal Child Specialist Advice and Support Service (ACSASS)
- Aboriginal Children in Aboriginal Care (ACAC)
- Aboriginal community
- Aboriginal Family Preservation Program
- Aboriginal Family Restoration Programs
- Aboriginal family-led decision making
- Aboriginal person
- Accountable undertaking
- Act (Act of parliament)
- Adolescent community placement
- Adoption Act 1984
- Adoption and Permanent Care teams
- Adverse childhood experiences
- Age and stage of life
- Age of criminal responsibility
- Aggrieved family member
- Amicus curiae
- Bail - own undertaking
- Bail justice
- Bail placement
- Basic care provided
- Best interests framework
- Best interests plan
- Best interests planning
- Best interests principles
- Best Start
- Blended families
- Care allowance
- Care and placement plan
- Care leaver
- Care team
- Case contract
- Case management
- Case manager
- Case plan
- Case planning
- Charter for children in out-of-home care (the Charter)
- Child (criminal division)
- Child (family division)
- Child abuse
- Child care agreement (Voluntary agreement)
- Child centred and family focussed
- Child FIRST
- Child protection
- Child sexual exploitation
- Children, Youth and Families Act 2005
- Children’s Services Coordination Board
- Children's Court Clinic Drug Program
- Children's Court Clinic
- Committal proceeding
- Common law undertaking
- Community service organisation (CSO)
- Community service
- Community-based child and family services
- Community-based child protection
- Competency-based training
- Complaint and Warrant
- Compulsory procedure
- Connection to culture
- Contest mention
- Costs (order)
- Court order
- Criminal division
- Criminal history check
- Cultural competence
- Cultural development
- Cultural plan
- Cultural planning
- Cultural safety
- Cumulative harm
- Custody order
- Custody to Secretary order
- Deferral of sentencing
- Developmental delay
- Directions hearing
- Diversionary role
- Doli incapax
- Early years services
- East Division
- Ecological approach
- Ecological theory
- Education and learning
- Educational and medical expenses allowance
- Educational assistance initiative allowance
- Emotional abuse
- Emotional and behavioural development
- Ex tempore judgement
- Exclusive jurisdiction
- Family group conference
- Family-led decision-making
- Family services
- Family violence
- Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme
- File review
- Finding solutions
- Forced marriage
- Forensic medical examination
- Forensic procedure
- Forgotten Australian
- Former ward
- Foster care
- Foster carer
- Gatehouse Centre
- Gender equity
- Good behaviour bond
- Group conference
- Guardianship to Secretary order
- Health information
- Home-based care (HBC)
- Independent person
- Independent third person
- Indictable offence
- Information holder
- Information sharing entity
- Init Invest
- Intellectual (or cognitive) development
- Intellectual disability
- Interim accommodation order (IAO)
- Interim protection order
- Intervention order
- Irreconcilable differences
- Just culture
- Juvenile justice
- Kinship care
- Koorie maternity services
- Lateral violence
- Lead tenant
- Legal representation
- Long term guardianship to Secretary order
- Looking After Children
- Male Adolescent Program for Positive Sexuality (MAPPS)
- Mandatory reporting
- MCH Nurse
- MCH Service
- Mental health
- Men's behavioural change programs
- Model litigant
- Natural justice
- New placement allowance
- Non-accidental injury
- Non-accountable undertaking
- North Division
- On foot
- Open court
- The Orange Door
- Out-of-home care
- Parental capacity
- Parental responsibility
- Permanent care order
- Permanent care
- Permanent carer
- Perpetrator accountability
- Personal information
- Physical abuse
- Physical development
- Police check
- Policy and funding plan
- Practice leader (family-led decision-making)
- Practice leader
- Pre-hearing conference
- Pre-sentence report
- President of the children's court
- Primary care partnerships (PCP)
- Problem sexual behaviour
- Program and Service Adviser
- Progression performance and development system
- *Practice Clinics
- Protected from harm
- Protection application
- Protection order
- Protective intervener
- Protective plan
- Protective services
- Record of interview
- Refugee Minor Program
- Remote witness facility
- Report about child
- Residential care services
- Restorative justice principles
- Risk assessment
- Rules (Children's Court Rules)
- Secondary services
- Secure welfare
- Self-care skills
- Senior child protection practitioner (community based)
- Senior child protection practitioner
- Sensitive information
- Sentencing order
- Serious neglect
- Service agency
- Service of a court application/document
- Sexual abuse
- Sexual Crimes Squad
- Sexually abusive behaviour treatment services (SABTS)
- Shared care
- Shared family care (SFC)
- Shared stories shared lives
- Show cause
- Sibling group
- Significant harm
- Social isolation
- South Division
- Specialist family violence services
- Spiritual development
- State guardianship fund
- Statutory declaration
- Statutory intervention
- Statutory services
- Step by step Victoria
- Stolen Generations
- Struck out
- Substance use
- Summary offence
- Supervised custody order
- Supervision order
- Take Two
- Temporary assessment order (TAO)
- Tertiary services
- Therapeutic foster care (TFC)
- Therapeutic treatment order (TTO)
- Therapeutic treatment placement order (TTPO)
- Therapeutic treatment report (TTR)
- Torres Strait Islander
- Transition plan (or exit plan)
- Undisclosed placement
- Universal services
- Victim Impact Statement
- Victim survivor
- Victorian Children's Council
- Viva voce evidence
- Voluntary placement
- West Division
- White paper
- Working with Children Check (WWCC)
- Youth attendance order (YAO)
- Youth justice centre order
- Youth justice group conference
- Youth justice
- Youth residential centre order
- Youth supervision order
Adoption and Permanent Care
Acquired brain injury.
Aboriginal Best Start
Aboriginal Best Start projects have been established to make sure that local Aboriginal communities and organisations are given every possible opportunity to influence outcomes for their children and families. These projects are designed to empower communities and families and develop broad cross-sectoral partnerships across all early years services to improve outcomes for Aboriginal children and their families.
Aboriginal Child Placement Principle
A nationally agreed standard in determining placement of Aboriginal children in out-of-home care. The principle aims to enhance and preserve Aboriginal children’s cultural identity by ensuring that they maintain strong connections with family, community and culture. The principle governs the practice of child protection practitioners and community services when placing Aboriginal children and young people in out-of-home care. The principle is enshrined in the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005.
Aboriginal Child Specialist Advice and Support Service (ACSASS)
Service specifically funded by the department to provide advice and consultation services to child protection practitioners in relation to all Aboriginal children reported to child protection and all significant decisions including placement and case planning, during child protection involvement. In Victoria the service is known as the Aboriginal Child Specialist Advice and Support Service (ACSASS). The service is operated by the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA) in all locations with the exception of Mildura, where the service is operated by the Mildura Aboriginal Corporation. The ACSASS service operated by VACCA is sometimes referred to as 'Lakidjeka’ and in Mildura it is sometimes referred to as ‘MAC/ACSASS’.
Aboriginal Children in Aboriginal Care
Aboriginal Children in Aboriginal Care (ACAC) is a program that enables an approved Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation (ACCO) to take on responsibility for an Aboriginal child’s case management and case plan. This allows the ACCO to actively work with the child’s family, community and other professionals to develop and implement the child’s case plan and achieve their permanency objective in a way that is culturally safe and in the best interests of the child.
Section 18 of the CYFA enables the Secretary of the DHHS to authorise the principal officer of an Aboriginal agency to undertake specified functions and powers in relation to a Children’s Court protection order for an Aboriginal child or young person.
Responsibility for Aboriginal children on the following protection orders made in the family division of the Children’s Court can be transferred to authorised ACCOs:
- family preservation orders
- family reunification orders
- care by Secretary orders
- long-term care orders.
The ACAC program does not include Interim accommodation orders or orders made in the criminal division of the Children’s Court.
Traditional kinship relations continue to play a significant role in Aboriginal communities. While Australian family life often centres on the nuclear family made up of parents and children, Aboriginal family life includes grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins and the Aboriginal community or ‘Mob’. An Aboriginal person’s land, sea, sky, rivers, sites, seasons, plants and animals; place of heritage, belonging and spirituality; is called ‘Country’. Highly respected Aboriginal people held in esteem by their communities for their wisdom, cultural knowledge and community service are referred to as elders. They are often responsible for making decisions within the community.
Aboriginal Family Preservation Program
The Aboriginal Family Preservation Program (AFPP) works intensively over a period of up to 12 weeks with families referred by child protection, with the aim of family preservation or reunification. The program's practice approach is grounded in Aboriginal culture and provides intensive family support, practical assistance and parenting education to address protective concerns thereby reducing need for placement of children in out-of-home care and enhancing the opportunity for reunification. AFPP services are available in Mildura, Swan Hill, Shepparton, Dandenong (for the Southern division) and in the local area and surrounds of Bairnsdale and Morwell.
Aboriginal Family Restoration Programs
Aboriginal Family Restoration Programs aim to prevent future harm and disadvantage for the most at-risk Aboriginal children by strengthening their parents’ capacity to safely care for them. The programs are based upon a holistic response to Aboriginal family breakdown to ensure the safety of Aboriginal children where there is a risk of the child being placed in out-of-home care, or the possibility of reunification. The program generally offers similar services to AFPP but with the option of a residential service for the whole family where there is imminent risk of the children being placed. AFRS programs are located in NWMR, Echuca and Morwell.
Aboriginal family-led decision making
Aboriginal family-led decision making (AFLDM) is a culturally based approach to decision making and planning with Aboriginal families about the safety needs of their children and how these can be met. Referrals to the program from child protection are considered once abuse or neglect of an Aboriginal child is substantiated. The AFLDM conveners – one from DHHS child protection and one from the Aboriginal community – meet with the family and relevant community members to make decisions about how to respond to protective concerns and keep the child safe in future.
The model utilises traditional Aboriginal approaches to solving family problems and involves Aboriginal elders, the child and extended family. Consideration is to be given to an AFLDM for decision making in relation to best interests planning and placement planning.
Aboriginal person means a person of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent who identifies as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and is accepted by an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander community.
This is a defined term under the CYFA (s. 3) and is used in specific contexts in the Act, for example, in s. 18.
Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation.
A sentencing order in which a charge is dismissed upon a child giving an undertaking. Non-compliance with the undertaking may result in re-sentence.
Adolescent community placement.
Aboriginal Child Specialist Advice and Support Service
Act (Act of parliament)
A law passed by a legislature and given Royal assent.
To present (a fact) as a supporting reason, piece of evidence.
For a court to postpone, put off the hearing of a case to a later time.
Adolescent community placement
Adolescent community placement is a home based care model for young people 12 years to 18 years of age who are unable to live with their families for a range of reasons. Adolescent Community Placement enables young people to reside in a home like environment with the support and supervision of approved and accredited caregivers.
Adoption Act 1984
The legislation which sets out the legal requirements for adoption, including agency approval and gazettal of counsellors, procedures for giving consent to adoption, guardianship of the child relinquished for adoption, eligibility of applicants for adoption, legalisation of adoption through the granting of an adoption order, ongoing contact and information exchange, and access to information provisions.
Adoption and Permanent Care teams
Adoption and Permanent Care (A&PC) teams are specialist child placement services with expertise in permanent family placement. There are four DHHS divisional teams and six CSO teams. Catholic Care deliver the local infant adoption program statewide. A&PC teams recruit, educate, assess and approve applicants for both adoption and permanent care. Upon referral from child protection, A&PC teams match children with permanent carers and supervise those placements for about 12-18 months after the children’s court makes a permanent care order. They also provide relinquishment counselling to birth parents considering placing their child for adoption and match children with approved adoption applicants.
Adoption is a way to provide an alternative permanent family for a child who is unable to live with their birth family on a long term basis. The effect of an adoption is that it makes the adoptive parents the child’s legal parents as though the child had been born to them.
Hearings are referred to as ‘adversarial’ because each party tries to establish their case and disprove the other parties’ case, rather than seeking common ground, compromise and agreement.
Adverse childhood experiences
Adverse childhood experiences are childhood experiences that have an impact on a person’s physical health and psychological wellbeing in their adulthood. Adverse childhood experiences include:
- emotional abuse
- psychological abuse
- physical abuse
- sexual abuse
- exposure to substance misuse or abuse
- exposure to mental illness
- exposure to family violence
- exposure to criminal behaviour.
A written statement made by a person who has sworn or affirmed before a person authorised to administer the oath that the contents of the statement are true and correct.
Aboriginal family-led decision making.
Age and stage of life
A child's age and stage of life, together with culture and gender, provides the starting point for understanding each child's unique circumstances and experiences. It impacts on every other dimension of a child's life. It provides a lens for viewing safety, stability and development for vulnerable children. Age and stage of life refers to the different childhood experiences from birth to adulthood. An infant, a toddler, a pre-school child, a child in primary school and an adolescent all experience safety, stability and development very differently. Age relates to the chronological age of a child and is usually described in months or years for example a three year old. Stage of life is broader than age and may cover a period of several years and is socially as well as chronologically defined for example puberty is a stage of life.
Age of criminal responsibility
The age at or above which a person can be charged by police with committing a criminal offence. In Victoria the age of criminal responsibility is 10 years. A person under 10 cannot be charged by police with committing an offence.
In the absence of positive evidence as to the age of a child, age means apparent age.
Refers to community service organisation (CSO).
Aggrieved family member
An applicant for an intervention order who is related by blood or intimate relationship to the defendant.
After Hours Child Protection Emergency Service. Operates outside normal business hours and responds to urgent child protection matters.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
Friend of the court.
The past history of a person, often used in the sense of his or her prior criminal history.
A hearing in a higher court to determine whether or not a judgment of a lower court is correct in law.
The taking of a child or young person into custody either by a police officer or a child protection practitioner.
‘ATSI’ is an acronym that stands for Aboriginal and or Torres Strait Islander. Its use should be avoided wherever possible as it is considered disrespectful by many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Bail - own undertaking
An undertaking in writing signed by an accused undertaking to attend court for the hearing.
A person appointed by the Attorney-General to make decisions out of court hours about whether a person charged with an offence should be remanded in custody or released on bail. Bail justices also make decisions relating to the short-term residential placement of children deemed to be at risk by DHHS child protection practitioners. Bail justices are employed in a voluntary capacity.
A placement set by bail conditions.
The right to be released from custody granted to a person who has been arrested and charged with a criminal offence on the condition that he or she return to court at some specified time together with any other conditions considered appropriate.
Bail may be granted or refused by a court, a bail justice or police officer.
Basic care provided
The provision of basic care means that the child's parents or other carers are meeting a child's individual needs for safety, stability and development. A child's basic needs include their physical, social and emotional needs and the nature of their needs will also depend on their age and stage of life, culture and gender. Physical needs may include food, liquid, warmth, shelter, clean and appropriate clothing, adequate personal hygiene, and timely access to appropriate medical and dental care where needed. Social and emotional needs may include emotional warmth, stimulation, consistency, guidance and boundaries. Development includes the child’s age, stage of development, culture and gender.
Best interests framework
The best interests framework for vulnerable children and youth presents the best interests principles and associated principles and provisions of the CYFA in a coherent policy framework in order to assist professionals to apply these principles in their day-to-day practice. It incorporates four dimensions of a child’s experience; safety, stability and development in relation to their age and stage, culture and gender and three categories of the child’s relationships; parent/carer capability, family composition and dynamics, and community participation, social and economic environment.
Best interests plan
The best interests plan is the formal plan that guides assessment, planning and action by child protection practitioners, and contracted case managers of CSO’s, for a child subject to a protective intervention. The best interests plan incorporates, as appropriate, a statutory case plan (s167 CYFA), cultural plan (s176 CYFA), and stability plan (s170) and other plans as they relate to care and placement, family reunification, education, leaving care, and crisis management.
Best interests planning
Best interests planning is the collaborative decision-making and planning process undertaken for a child who is the subject of a protective intervention. It sets goals, responsibilities and review processes to implement the best interests and decision-making principles of the CYFA.
Best interests principles
The best interests principles that apply as the paramount consideration to the court, child protection and community service organisations operating under the CYFA, specified in Section 10.
Best Start is a whole of government early years project auspiced by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD) that aims to improve the health, development, learning and well-being of all Victorian children, from before birth through to school. Best Start supports communities, parents, Elders, families and service providers to improve early years services so they are more responsive to local needs.
Best interests plan.
Blended families are two-parent families where some or all of the children living in the family are not the natural children of both parents.
Beginning practice in child protection – orientation program for new child protection practitioners.
A failure by a person to comply with a court order.
Central After Hours Assessment and Bail Placement Service provide an outreach response to young people who are at risk of remand to a youth justice facility or requiring a bail placement. The service operates between 5.00pm and 2.00am weekdays and 9.30am — 2.00am on weekends and public holidays.
Central After Hours Child Protection Emergency Service
Central After Hours Placement Service supports the After Hours Child Protection Emergancy Services (AHCPES) and Streetworks Outreach Service (SOS) by identifying suitable placement options for children and young people needing out-of-home care.
Central After Hours Services. A suite of co-located services that provide statewide services after business hours.
CALD is an acronym that stands for culturally and linguistically diverse. CALD can be used as an inclusive term, similar to “multicultural”, to describe Australia's cultural and linguistic variety.
CALD is generally used to refer to those who originate (or have parents who originate) from a country where English is not the dominant language or where cultural norms and values differ from the predominant cultural norms and values present in Australia. Typically, this means CALD peoples are not native-English-speaking Anglo-Saxons/Celtics or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. CALD peoples comprise a significant proportion of Australia's population.
Effective engagement with CALD families requires that practitioners are culturally competent through demonstrating respect for and understanding of culture. Such practice is linked to improvements in health and wellbeing for CALD families. It is important to be aware that CALD peoples may have had adverse experiences that impact on their capacity to trust practitioners. These experiences might include historical dispossession, collective grief, loss or trauma.
Different cultures use different child-rearing practices. However, the kinds of behaviours that cause harm – such as neglect, and physical, emotional and sexual abuse – are universal, and must always be addressed, regardless of cultural background.
Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service. Specialist mental health services, providing assessment and treatment services for children and young people up to 18 years.
Assessed and approved home-based carers are eligible to receive a care allowance that assists with the day-to-day costs of care. The allowance is intended to contribute to expenses incurred by carers in the course of proving home-based care for children such as, food, household provisions, utilities, clothing, recreational activities and entertainment. The care allowance is not a payment for a carer’s time or expertise. Similarly, it is not compensation for a carer who is not engaged in paid employment.
Care and placement plan
The purpose of a care and placement plan is to ensure that all children and young people in out-of-home care have a clearly developed plan that addresses their needs and all parties concerned with the care of the child or young person are clear about what they are expected to do to achieve the plan. The placement plan will always be guided by the case plan, where this exists. A care and placement plan records the detailed day-to-day arrangements for the care of the child or young person. It identifies how their long and short term needs will be met.
(a) A young person over the age of 16 years who has been on a guardianship or custody order and is moving out of care to independent living.
(b) The term ‘care leaver’ is also commonly used to describe an older person who grew up in care. In the past many people grew up in children's homes or institutions. Some were former wards of state while others were placed in care voluntarily by their families.
The care teams exists to strengthen communication and collaboration between carers, DHHS staff, community service organisation staff, other associated professionals, clients and their families, prompting all parties involved to consider the things any good parent would naturally consider when caring for their own children. The care teams develops the care and placement plan and contributes to the best interests planning process. The composition of a care team will vary depending on the specific issues and needs of the child and family, however it will always include the child protection practitioner, agency placement worker, the child’s case manager, the child’s carer and parents (as appropriate).
A carer has primary day-to-day responsibility for a child in out-of-home care and aims to ensure the safety and wellbeing of that child. A carer must be able to form a positive relationship with the child that provides warmth, nurturing, support, stability and guidance. By definition, a carer is not the child's parent. A kinship carer will be assessed and approved by child protection, a foster carer or permanent carers will be accredited and approved by a community service organisation. A carer is an integral part of the care team.
Centre Against Sexual Assault.
A case contract is a formal written agreement between DHHS and a community service organisation regarding the case management of an individual child protection client by the CSO; or the provision of case management tasks on behalf of child protection.
Case management is the coordination and delivery of services provided as part of a best interests plan.
The person allocated the primary responsibility of overseeing implementation of the child or young person’s best interests plan. This can be either a DHHS or CSO employee.
Is the formal plan (s. 166 of the CYFA) that must contain all significant decisions for the child's present and future care and wellbeing of the child and the premanency objective for the child where protective concerns have been substantiated. The case plan for an Aborignal child placed in out-of-home care must address the cultural support needs of the child.
Case planning in child protection practice relates to the process of planning with children and their families following substantiation of child protection concerns. All case planning processes must comply with the best interests principles in s.10 of the CYFA and decision-making principles in s. 11 of the CYFA. These sections set out the considerations that Child Protection must have when determining whether a decision or action is in the child’s best interests - they require Child Protection to actively and effectively engage families and children (in age-appropriate ways) in the decision-making process.
The case planning process results in the development of a case plan
Client And Service Information System. Former child protection electronic database replaced by CRIS.
Crisis Assessment and Treatment Team. Mental Health Services psychiatric triage. A 24 hour information, assessment, treatment, referral and support service for any person who may be in psychiatric crisis.
A catchment area is the geographical area for which the service is provided – for example a local government area.
A formal caution issued to a young offender by a senior police officer in the presence of a parent following which no court proceedings are brought.
A document prepared by an informant and served on a defendant detailing an alleged offence by the defendant.
Charter for children in out-of-home care (the Charter)
The Charter provides a framework of principles to promote the wellbeing of children and young people in out-of-home care in child friendly language. The Charter should be displayed in all residential care settings and be made available for each child in out-of-home care. The Charter should be explained and discussed with children in an age appropriate manner.
Child (criminal division)
A person who at the time of commission of an alleged offence was aged between 10 and 17 inclusive but does not include any person who had turned 19 when a proceeding for the offence is commenced in the court.
Child (family division)
A person who is under the age of 17 or, if a protection order is in force in relation to him or her, is under the age of 18.
Is any action, or lack of action, that significantly harms the child’s physical, psychological or emotional health and development. The CYFA enables consideration of the pattern and history of harm and the impacts on a child’s safety, stability and development. There is an overwhelming body of evidence which indicates that chronic neglect, abuse and family violence are harmful and have a cumulative and detrimental effect on a child’s development. Child abuse can occur within a single incident or on multiple occasions and is categorised in the following manner:
(1) Physical abuse
(2) Sexual abuse
(3) Emotional/psychological abuse
Child care agreement (Voluntary agreement)
Child-care agreements may be entered into by a parent wishing to place a child or young person in a voluntary out-of-home care placement.
Voluntary placements are those with no court order providing for the child or young person to live in a placement provided by a community service and where the parents (or in some cases the child or young person) may end the placement when they want to.
Section 135 of the (CYFA) allows a parent of a child to enter a written agreement with a service provider to place a child in the care of a service provider for the purpose of:
Supporting the child and his or her parent and
Encouraging and assisting the child’s parent to resume the care of the child.
Child centred and family focussed
Also referred to as child focussed family centred.
Child centred, family focussed practice is a collaborative strengths based approach that recognises that the best interests of the child will, in most circumstances, be met in the context of helping and supporting the child’s family to function well. This approach brings together the specialist resources provided by a professional and the knowledge, skills, concerns, decisions and plans of the family. The child centred aspect aims to ensure that the safety and wellbeing of the child remains of central concern and the family focused aspect seeks to bring about an improvement of each family’s circumstances by working in partnership with the family and building on their strengths. The approach also seeks to adopt a broad definition of ‘family’ that is inclusive of significant others in the child’s relationships network and to involve families in making choices about the resources and services they need.
Child FIRST (Child and Family Information Referral and Support Teams) provide a community based referral point into family services. This is the entry point into integrated family services in a service area. Children and families are referred to Child FIRST where there are significant concerns about a child’s wellbeing. Child FIRST will assess the risk to and needs of the child and the family and prioritise accepted referrals on the basis of need, then allocate to family services.
The Department of Health & Human Services has a statutory responsibility under the CYFA to provide child protection services for children and young people in Victoria under the age of 17 years in need of protection or, when a protection order is in place, children under the age of 18 years.
Child protection provides services to children, young people and their families aimed at protecting children and young people from significant harm. When a child or young person is assessed as being ‘at risk’ within the family, Child Protection will – in the first instance and in accordance with the law – take reasonable steps to enable the child to remain in the care of their family by strengthening the family’s capacity to protect them.
When, even with support, a child is not safe within the family, child protection will intervene to remove the child and bring the matter before the children’s court. If the resumption of care by the parents is not possible, child protection will work towards an alternative permanent family care arrangement, or an independent living arrangement, depending on the age and circumstances of the child or young person.
Child sexual exploitation
Child sexual exploitation is when a child is forced or manipulated into sexual activity. Child sexual exploitation follows a pattern of stages, where the child gradually has their autonomy and social connections eroded, making them vulnerable to exploitation. Men are most commonly the perpetrators and exploit both girls and boys. Children aged between 13 and 16 are at the greatest risk of sexual exploitation. Children who are clients of Child Protection, are placed in out-of-home care, or who frequently go missing - from home or placement - are at increased risk.
Children, Youth and Families Act 2005
Referred to as CYFA.
Victorian legislation that governs the child and family services sector.
Children’s Services Coordination Board
The Children's Services Coordination Board brings together key decision-makers across departments to lead coordination of activities impacting on children and young people. It is established under the Child Wellbeing and Safety Act 2005. The Board comprises the Chief Commissioner for Police and the secretaries of the departments of Premier and Cabinet, Treasury and Finance, Education and Training, Health & Human Services, and Justice & Regulation.
Children's Court Clinic Drug Program
A drug diversion program auspiced and conducted by the Children's Court Clinic to provide clinical drug assessment and referral to drug treatment for a young person charged with a criminal offence.
Children's Court Clinic
An independent body within the Department of Justice whose primary function is to make clinical assessments of children and families and to submit reports to Victorian children's courts in both child protection and criminal cases.
Chronologies can be used by child protection practitioners for different purposes such as court reports and case reviews. Helpful chronologies include:
- development of the child
- educational history
- court appearances
- child protection history – periods of involvement; key decisions
- contact with service and support systems
- medical history
- placement history
- social history
- history of contact (access).
Coordinating Interstate Liaison Officer.
Critical Incident Response Management System.
Critical Incident and Stress Management. Service provided by the Department of Health & Human Services, staffed by specially trained debriefers to assist employees who have been exposed to incidents that have the potential to affect their emotional wellbeing and physical health.
Child Information Sharing Scheme
Police Criminal Investigations Unit.
Care Leaver Australia Network (CLAN) is a national support and advocacy group for people brought up in care and placed in a range of institutions including orphanages, homes, industrial or training schools administered variously by the state, religious bodies and other charitable or welfare groups. CLAN is primarily for people who were brought up in care prior to the 1990s, sometimes known as ‘Forgotten Australians’.
Child protection refers to the child as the client; while working with the family and significant others.
Congenital means existing at or before birth.
A congenital condition - also known as a birth defect, congenital defect, congenital abnormality, congenital anomaly or congenital malformation - is a condition present in a baby that occurs during intrauterine life. Congenital conditions may be detected during pregnancy, at birth or in early childhood, and may adversely affect the function or structure of a body part or alter metabolism or brain development.
Congenital conditions range in severity from minor to life-threatening and some cause lifelong disability or illness.
A large percentage of congenital anomalies cannot be linked to a specific cause, however there are some known causes and risk factors. These include:
- genetic factors (inherited anomalies or genetic mutations)
- advanced maternal age
- poor maternal diet and nutritional status (including inadequate access to sufficient nutritious food, maternal folate deficiency and excessive vitamin A intake)
- maternal infection during pregnancy
- maternal exposure to certain medications, pesticides, alcohol, tobacco and radiation during pregnancy
- maternal drug or alcohol use during pregnancy (foetal alcohol spectrum disorder).
Connection to culture
Connection to culture is the experience of being connected to aspects of your cultural identity, including cultural history and traditions of land, birthplace, ethnicity, practices, language, values and beliefs. Connection to culture is a fundamental human right.
Connection to culture, family and community enhances children’s resilience by providing social support, a sense of identity that is shared with others, and a shared vision of the future. Cultural stories, rituals and celebrations regarding trauma and recovery enable individuals to understand and put a context around their personal reactions to trauma and loss.
Practice that facilitates cultural connection - such as connecting with extended family and community, participating in cultural activities, and engagement with culture-specific services - can be empowering and healing, and work as a protective factor. However, the benefits of such practice can take years to manifest. If a child or their broader community does not value the child’s culture, developing such a connection can be stressful and distressing, and the protective factor can be inhibited.
Connection to culture is critical for Aboriginal children, and denial of this right can have devastating long-term consequences. The Aboriginal Child Placement Principle aims to ensure that Aboriginal children and young people are maintained within their own biological family, extended family, local Aboriginal community, wider Aboriginal community and their Aboriginal culture.
A court hearing in which the strength of the prosecution case is tested to determine whether there is sufficient evidence for a defendant to be required to stand trial in a higher court for an indictable offence. The test is ‘whether the evidence is of sufficient weight to support a conviction’.
Common law undertaking
A promise made to the court that is not based on any Act or Regulation.
Community service organisation (CSO)
An organisation providing a community service.
A service established to provide services to meet the needs of children, young people and families requiring care, support, protection or accommodation and of families requiring support.
Community-based child and family services
A community service established under s. 44 and registered under s. 46 of the CYFA.
Community-based child protection
Community-based child protection practitioners work collaboratively both with the child protection program and across the child and family services sector to support earlier and more effective intervention to vulnerable children, young people and their families.
Competency is the ability to perform a whole range of activities in a specific occupational or vocational area, transfer skills and knowledge to new situations, and to manage a wide variety of tasks within a job.
Training to a set of related knowledge, skills, and attitudes (competencies) which are part of a job, role or responsibility, and which can be measured against accepted standards
Complaint and Warrant
An application for an intervention order.
The taking of an intimate or non-intimate sample from, or the conduct of a physical examination of, a person charged with or found guilty of a criminal offence.
Obligations included in a court order with which parent, child and/or other person must comply.
Contact of a child in out-of-home care with a person significant to the child, who does not have custody of the child, by way of a visit or other communication.
A court hearing in the criminal division at which the presiding judicial officer attempts to resolve the issues in dispute and, if resolution is not achieved, ensures that the issues are clearly identified, the witnesses the parties wish to call are available and that the estimated length of the contest is accurate.
A court hearing in the criminal division at which the presiding judicial officer attempts to resolve the issues in dispute and, if resolution is not achieved, ensures that the issues are clearly identified, the witnesses the parties wish to call are available and that the estimated length of the contest is accurate.
This has a number of different meanings. The most common one relates to a criminal offence and means the offence has been proven and a conviction is recorded against the offender. A sentence can be imposed by a judge or magistrate ‘with conviction’ or ‘without conviction’. A sentence ‘with conviction’ involves greater condemnation of the offender than one ‘without conviction’.
An order, by the court, that a party [or occasionally another person] pay some or all of the legal costs of another party.
The actions the parties or a party must do to carry out a decision made by a court. An order may be either interim or final.
Child Protection Litigation Office
Community Policing Squad (a former name for the SOCIT).
Community and Public Sector Union.
The criminal division of the children's court hears matters involving young people aged between 10-18 years who have been charged with a criminal offence. .
Criminal history check
A criminal history check is a check of all Australian police records for disclosable criminal matters about a person.
Client Relationship Information System. Used by DHHS as an electronic system to manage client information.
Client Relationship Information System for community service providers.
Child sexual assault.
Community service organisation.
Custody to Secretary order
Community Services Victoria (A former name for Department of Health & Human Services, and the name prior to Health and Community Services).
Cultural competence is a set of congruent behaviours, attitudes, and policies that come together in a system, agency, or among professionals to enable them to work effectively in cross-cultural situations.
For practitioners, this means the integration of attitudes, values, knowledge, understanding and skills that enable effective interventions with people from a culture different from their own. At an organisational or systems level, it means that practice, programs and policies are culturally congruent, reflecting respect for cultural diversity throughout all aspects of an organisation’s functioning.
Cultural competency sits on a continuum from cultural destructiveness (as exemplified by policies that led to the Stolen Generations) to cultural proficiency, where cultural diversity is highly valued, active research takes place and self-determination is promoted and supported.
With regards to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the benefits of cultural competence include greater engagement with these communities, an appreciation of the richness and diversity of Aboriginal cultures and peoples, and better immediate and future outcomes for Aboriginal children and families.
Cultural competence is a core capability for child protection practitioners.
Cultural development is the growth of a child’s connection with their community and cultural network, resulting in a developed cultural identity, including cultural history and traditions of land, birthplace, ethnicity, practices, language, values and beliefs. Connection to culture, family and community enhances children’s resilience by providing social support, a sense of identity that is shared with others, and a shared vision of the future.
A cultural plan is a formal plan (s. 176 of the CYFA) that sets out how an Aboriginal child, placed in out of home care, is to remain connected to their community and culture. The care team for a child, including the case practitioner (child protection or contracted agency), prepares, implements, and reviews the cultural plan. Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCO) are responsible for supporting care teams to develop cultural plans and to ensure their accuracy and appropriateness from a cultural perspective. The cultural plan is approved by the CEO of the relevant ACCO and by the case planner.
While cultural plans as defined in the CYFA relate specifically to Aboriginal children, a cultural plan can be developed for any child in order to support their connection to their cultural background.
Cultural planning relates to the process of developing a cultural plan in collaboration with children, families, and relevant members of their community and cultural network, to support and strengthen a child’s connection to their community and culture. As with case planning, when preparing a cultural plan, the best interests and decision-making principles in the CYFA apply (s. 10 and s. 11 of the CYFA). In preparing a cultural plan for an Aboriginal child, the additional decision-making principles for Aboriginal children and young people must be considered (ss. 12-14 of the CYFA). These recognise the principles of Aboriginal self-management and self-determination and set out requirements for both Child Protection and Aboriginal Controlled Community Organisations (ACCOs) to actively engage relevant members of the child’s Aboriginal community or communities, and other respected Aboriginal persons, in the decision-making process.
Cultural safety has been described as an environment that is safe for people, where there is no assault, challenge or denial of their identity, of who they are and what they need. It is about shared respect, shared meaning, shared knowledge and experience of learning, living and working together with dignity, and truly listening.
Cumulative harm refers to the effects of multiple adverse or harmful circumstances and events in a child’s life. The unremitting regular impact of these experiences on the child can be profound and diminish a child’s sense of safety and wellbeing. Cumulative harm may be caused by an accumulation of a single recurring adverse circumstance or event (such as unrelenting low-level care), or by multiple circumstances or events (such as persistent verbal abuse and denigration, inconsistent or harsh discipline, and/or experiencing family violence).
A custody order is an order made by the children's court that places a child in the care of someone other than their parent, and gives that person the right to have the daily care and control of the child; and the right and responsibility to make decisions concerning the daily care and control of the child.
Custody to third party order
A protection order that grants sole custody of a child to a person who is neither a parent or the Secretary of the Department of Health & Human Services but does not affect the guardianship of the child. Refer to s. 283 of the CYFA.
Children, Youth and Families Act 2005.
(1) A person charged with a criminal offence.
(2) The respondent to an application for an intervention order.
Deferral of sentencing
When sentencing a young person is put off until a later date (not more than four months away), usually to allow certain actions to be done and the young person's behaviour to be monitored.
A delegate is a person with authority to exercise a power assigned to the Secretary under legislation. The delegate's position title must be listed in the current instrument of delegation next to the section of the legislation granting the power. A delegate must exercise the power in accordance with relevant policies and guidelines.
In the context of the Best Interests Framework, development refers to child development, which is a sequence of physical, lingual, intellectual and emotional changes that occur in a child from birth to the beginning of adulthood. This process is shaped by interactions between biological (nature) and environmental (nurture) influences, which results in a high level of variability in children’s developmental outcomes.
In the critical early years, the pace of development is most rapid. During this time and beyond, children need stable, sensitive, safe, loving and developmentally stimulating relationships and environments in order to reach their full developmental potential.
Development can be impacted by a range of factors, including:
- genetic factors and events during the prenatal period
- premature birth, low birth weight and health at birth, including whether the child is born with chemical dependency and/or foetal alcohol spectrum disorder
- general health - minor illnesses will have short to medium term effects, while chronic health conditions can have long-term effects
- nutritional deficiencies
- developmental delays or disability
- adversity in the physical and socio-economic environment
- interpersonal relationships, including attachment, parenting capacity and support networks
- experiences of violence, abuse and neglect, particularly perpetrated by a caregiver.
Culture, family, home and community all play an important role in supporting children’s development by providing experiences and opportunities for interactions with adults and peers that shape the child’s physical, intellectual, social, emotional, cultural and spiritual development.
Developmental delay is a descriptive term used when a young child’s development is delayed in one or more areas compared to other children. These different areas of development may include:
- gross motor development: how children move
- fine motor development: how children manipulate objects and use their hands
- speech and language development: how children communicate, understand and use language
- cognitive/intellectual development: how children understand, think and learn
- social and emotional development: how children relate with others and develop increasing independence.
The term developmental delay is often used until the exact nature and cause of the delay is known. The significance of the delay is often only determined by observing the child’s development over time.
Disease, Injury and Near-Miss Accident Form. This form is completed following injuries, accidents and stressful incidents, such as threats that have occurred during working hours.
A court hearing in the family division at which the presiding judicial officer attempts to resolve the issues in dispute and, if resolution is not achieved, ensures that the issues are clearly identified, the witnesses the parties wish to call are available and that the estimated length of the contest is accurate.
Disability is an umbrella term for impairments, activity limitations and participation restrictions experienced by an individual. An impairment is a problem in body function or structure; an activity limitation is a difficulty in executing a task or action; while a participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in life situations for example the ability to be engaged and interact socially.
There are different subtypes of disability, including:
- physical disability - may affect a person’s physical capacity and/or mobility, either temporarily or permanently
- cognitive disability - an umbrella term that encompasses various intellectual and cognitive deficits, including intellectual disability (and deficits too mild to qualify as intellectual disability), various specific conditions (such as learning disability) and problems that develop later in life through acquired brain injuries or neurodegenerative diseases like dementia. Cognitive disability may occur at any age.
- intellectual disability - a type of cognitive disability that involves impairments of intellectual functioning that impact adaptive behaviour in three areas: conceptual, social and practical. Originates before the age of 18 years.
- learning disability - a type of cognitive disability that impacts on information processing and use. Can reduce an individual’s ability to be successful with reading, writing and maths, and can also interfere with higher level skills such as organisation, abstract reasoning, long- or short-term memory and attention.
- developmental disability/delay - a term used when a young child’s development is delayed in one or more areas compared to other children. This term is often used until the exact nature and cause of the delay is known.
Disability is a complex phenomenon, reflecting the interaction between features of a person’s ability and features of the society in which he or she lives. Disability brings with it certain vulnerabilities and risks, including isolation and intersectionality - these risks can be mitigated via interventions to remove environmental and social barriers.
Disclosure is the telling or revealing of information. Disclosing usually involves the sharing of information that is:
- new or unknown
- important or serious
- a secret.
Diversion refers to the provision of services in order to address problems and prevent the need for tertiary intervention.
The department’s service delivery operations are organised into four geographical divisions North, South, East and West.
A rebuttable presumption that a child aged between 10 and 13 inclusive does not know the difference between right and wrong and therefore is incapable of committing a criminal offence. The presumption may be rebutted by ‘strong and pregnant evidence’.
Employee Assistance Program. Is a independent personal counselling service and provides a limited number of counselling sessions to help staff clarify situations and difficulties and find appropriate management strategies.
Early years services
Early years services are those services provided to children and families in the years from birth to school attendance. Responsibility for early childhood services rests with the Department of Education and Training.
East Division comprises four service areas, Eastern Melbourne, Outer Eastern Melbourne, Goulburn and Oven’s Murray.
The ecological approach is a theoretical foundation of child protection practice and informs the Best Interests Case Practice Model. The ecological approach incorporates systems theories and Bronfenbrenner’s ecological theory of human development. Bronfenbrenner (1975) argued the importance of the child’s relationship with their family, community and environment and that change should occur through family, community and environmental interventions whilst supporting the child. Understanding and assessing the child in the context of their family, community and environmental systems is essential to a meaningful intervention that increases safety, development and permanency.
Ecological theory articulates the importance of the child’s relationship with the family and community, and creating change through environmental interventions whilst concurrently supporting the individual. The focus of practice is the person-in-environment. It acknowledges that social support is an essential component of practice and that social interventions can take many forms.
Education and learning
An element of the best interests dimension 'development'. It covers all areas of a child's cognitive development, and begins at birth where parents/carers encourage exploration, applauding approximations of success and providing comfort when a child is not successful. Education and learning includes opportunities for play and interaction with other children, access to books, acquiring a range of skills and interests and experiencing success and achievement. For older children, education and learning includes experiencing success and achievement through opportunities provided through school, vocational training, employment, voluntary activities and recreation.
Educational and medical expenses allowance
Carers of children and young people placed in home-based care placements by child protection are entitled to receive an education and medical expense allowance to assist in meeting education and health service needs of children and young people in their care. This allowance is in addition to and does not affect the regular fortnightly care allowance.
Educational assistance initiative allowance
The education assistance initiative (EAI) allowance was introduced to contribute to meeting the educational costs for children placed in foster care and kinship care by child protection. The EAI allowance is not available to permanent carers and special needs local adoption carers. The carers of children in voluntary home-based care without child protection involvement are also not eligible. There are two age bands for the EAI allowance; 5-11 years of age, and 12-18 years of age.
A method of learning on-line electronically.
Emotional abuse occurs when a child is repeatedly rejected, isolated, frightened by threats or is experiencing family violence. It also includes hostility, derogatory name-calling and put-downs, or persistent coldness from a person, to the extent where the behaviour of the child is disturbed, or their emotional development is at serious risk of being impaired.
Emotional and behavioural development
Emotional development is growth of a child’s feelings and emotional capabilities, including understanding that feelings and emotions are experienced by self and others, gaining the ability to identify them and understand why they occur, learning how to regulate them, and developing the ability to empathise with and support others.
Evidence is material presented to a court to prove or disprove a fact. Evidence includes verbal or written statements of witnesses, documents and other items or objects.
The Evidence Act 2008 (Vic) is the principal Act introducing uniform evidence law into Victoria and applies to all proceedings (both civil and criminal) in all Victorian courts, however it does not affect the operation of the provisions of any other Act. The Children, Youth and Families Act provides that the Family Division of the Children’s Court may inform itself on a matter in such a manner as it thinks fit, despite any rules of evidence to the contrary (section 215(1)(b)).
In circumstances where the Evidence Act applies, evidence will be admitted if it is relevant to the case. However, relevant evidence may be excluded because:
- it is hearsay, the person giving the evidence did not see or hear it directly
- it is opinion evidence (unless an exception to this rule applies, for example if the evidence is relevant and given by a person with specialised knowledge, and that knowledge is based on the person’s training, study or experience and the opinion is wholly or substantially based on that specialised knowledge)
- evidence of judgments and convictions
- various categories of privilege, client legal privilege, privilege in respect of self-incrimination.
Evidence that is not excluded by a rule of admissibility may still be excluded by one of the discretionary or mandatory exclusions, for example if the probative value of the evidence is substantially outweighed by the danger that the evidence might be unfairly prejudicial to a party.
The standard of proof to which a fact must be proved is:
- in civil proceedings, on the balance of probabilities (more likely than not); and
- in criminal proceedings, beyond reasonable doubt.
The standard of proof of any fact in an application under the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 (Vic) (CYFA) in the Family Division of the Children’s Court is the balance of probabilities (s. 215A of the CYFA).
However, for the purposes of s 162(1)(c) to (f) of the CYFA, in determining the likelihood of a future state of affairs or likelihood of future harm, the standard that the Court may have regard to is set out in s 162(3):
(a) the Court may find that a future state of affairs is likely even if the Court is not satisfied that the future state of affairs is more likely than not to happen;
(b) the Court may find that a future state of affairs is unlikely even if the Court is not satisfied that the future state of affairs is more unlikely than not to happen.
Ex tempore judgement
A judgment which is given immediately or shortly after a case is concluded. See judgement. An ex tempore judgment is usually oral rather than written.
A court has ‘exclusive jurisdiction’ if it is the only court which can deal with a particular type of case.
An order continuing the operation of a custody to Secretary order or a guardianship to Secretary order.
Funded Agency Channel.
Family group conference
See family-led decision-making.
The family services program (including Child FIRST) is delivered by registered community service organisations across Victoria. Family services target vulnerable children or young people, aged 0 to 17 years and their families, or parents expecting a child where there are significant concerns about a child or unborn child. Family services are coordinated within service areas. Each area has a central intake, called Child FIRST.
Family violence or domestic violence is defined by the Victorian Family Violence Protection Act (2008) as behaviour that controls or dominates a family member and causes them to fear for their own or another person’s safety or wellbeing. Family violence includes behaviour that: is physically, sexually or psychologically abusive; economically abusive; threatening; coercive; in any other way controls or dominates the family member and causes that family member to feel fear for the safety or wellbeing of that family member or another person; or causes a child to hear or witness, or otherwise be exposed to the effects of the above behaviour.
Family violence is characterised by a pattern of coercion and control. It takes many forms, but it is predominantly gendered violence, inflicted by men upon women and children.
Perpetrators of family violence are responsible for and make decisions about their use of violence - it is rarely indiscriminate.
Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme
The Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme (the Scheme) is legislation that permits sharing of information in relation to family violence risk assessment and risk management.
The Scheme does not interfere with or replace information sharing provisions as legislated in the CYFA. The Scheme grants additional powers to participating organisations to share and request information to help with assessing and managing risk of family violence.
The Scheme prioritises a child's right to be safe from family violence over any individual's rights to privacy, so that all risk-relevant information is able to be shared. It also enables information sharing without requiring that a threat escalate to the point that it is “serious”.
Family-led decision-making (FLDM) is a process for making plans for a child or young person that involves meeting held with members of the family and extended family. FLDM (also referred to as family group conferencing) can happen when child protection has assessed that there is abuse or neglect, or where a child or young person is on a protection order from the children’s court, or where a child is being relinquished. The purpose is to bring family members together so they can be supported to make decisions about the child or young person.
Term no longer used in Victoria: see indictable offence.
Front End Reception Information System.
Family group conference
File review is the reading of all relevant material in a client file to assess, understand and inform recommendations about:
- Depth, quality and astuteness of the assessment, planning, decision making and case recording
- Effectiveness and quality of direct practice with children and their families
- Identify gaps in knowledge or practice to improve the quality of assessment, planning, decisions making and practice
- Identify systemic themes and issue to improve training, development and systems approaches.
Finding solutions is a statewide mediation program to engage rapidly with young people and their families to provide mediation and support that helps them address the issues leading to potential family breakdown and to divert them from further involvement in the child protection and placement system.
A sentencing order requiring a child or young person to pay a sum of money; includes any penalties, forfeitures, sums of money and costs ordered to be paid by the person.
Family Law Court
Forensic Medical Officer. A medical doctor qualified to undertake a forensic medical examination.
Freedom of Information.
Forced marriage occurs when “someone is married without freely and fully consenting, because they have been coerced, threatened or deceived” (National Roundtable on Human Trafficking).
Any marriage involving a child under 16 is illegal. A marriage involving a child aged 16 or over and under 18 is a forced marriage unless:
- the child consents, and
- there is parental consent, and
- a court order has been granted.
Forced marriage is illegal, and a violation of human rights. It disproportionately affects women and is considered a form of gender-based family violence. Forced marriage is not condoned by any mainstream faith, and it is overrepresented in culturally and linguistically diverse communities. It is believed to be under-reported in Australia.
Forensic medical examination
A medical examination conducted by a qualified FMO for the purposes of collecting evidence that can be used in court.
The taking of a sample from any part of the body of a person charged with or found guilty of a criminal offence (whether an intimate or a non-intimate sample or any other type of sample) or the conduct of any procedure on or physical examination of the body but does not include the taking of a fingerprint.
A term that is sometimes used to describe a person placed in a range of institutions including orphanages, homes, industrial or training schools administered variously by the state, religious bodies and other charitable or welfare groups. The term Forgotten Australian comes from the title of the Senate Committee Report entitled Forgotten Australians - A report on Australians who grew up in out-of-home care as children tabled in the Senate by the Community Affairs Reference Committee in August 2004.
A former ward of state is someone who as a child or young person was removed from the care of their family or guardian(s) and legally placed in the care of the state in accordance with the provisions of legislation of the time. Also referred to as state ward.
Formulation is the bringing together of ideas, information and evidence to create and develop goals, actions and plans.
Foster care is the provision of temporary care of a child up to 18 years of age, within a home based setting, by accredited and trained foster carers. CSOs are responsible for recruiting, training and supporting caregivers.
A foster carer is a volunteer carer who has been accredited and trained by a CSO to provide a home and care for children and young people unable to live at home.
Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme
A centre at the Royal Children’s Hospital staffed by a multi-disciplinary team that provide a range of assessment and treatment services for children when there are concerns of abuse.
Gender equity is the process of being fair to men and women. To ensure fairness, measures must often be put in place to compensate for the historical and social disadvantages that prevent women and men from operating on a level playing field. Equity is a means. Equality is the result.
Together with age and stage of life and culture, gender provides the starting point or lens for understanding each child's unique circumstances and experiences. It refers to the attributes assigned to males and females by societal norms. Gender affects a child's experiences and life chances because the expectations and assumptions that occur as a result of gender are entrenched within the community and wider social systems (education, judicial, employment, welfare, economic etc). The interface between children and these systems means that boys and girls experience the world differently and may be differentially affected by apparently similar events and circumstances.
LGBTQIA+ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning, Intersex and Asexual, and refers to the diverse nature of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. The plus (+) is intended to be inclusive of all identities, including those that are not identified explicitly above.
Good behaviour bond
A sentencing order in which a proceeding is adjourned upon a child or young person signing a promise to be of good behaviour and to comply with any special conditions imposed by the court. Non-compliance with a bond may result in re-sentence. If the child or young person observes the conditions of the bond, the court must dismiss the charge.
A court ordered formal meeting conducted by a convenor and attended by a young offender, police, legal representative, parent/guardian or other significant other and persons affected by the young person's offending. The group conference negotiates an outcome plan designed to assist the young person to take responsibility and make reparation for their offending. The underlying philosophy is ‘restorative justice’.
A legal guardian is responsible for the long-term welfare of the child, and has all ther powers, rights and duties of a guardian, other than the right to have the daily care and control of the child; and the right and responsibility to make decisions concerning the daily care and control of the child. (See definition in section 4 CYFA)
Guardianship to Secretary order
A protection order that grants guardianship and custody of a child to the Secretary of the Department of Health & Human Services to the exclusion of all other persons. Refer s. 289 of the CYFA.
Health and Community Services; previous name for Department of Health & Human Services.
See Home-based care
Harm to a child involves three elements:
- The actions, omissions, or behaviours (which may be a single occurrence or a series or pattern of continuing occurrences) that are classified into one or more of the harm types (abandonment, physical injury, sexual abuse, emotional or psychological abuse, neglect).
- The adverse impact on the child's immediate, cumulative and likely stability and development (for example the negative affect on the child's health, emotional and behavioural development, education and learning).
- The extent to which a child is in danger of future harm - which relates to the risks (likelihood of the adverse event or circumstances continuing or re-occurring) the sustainable protective factors (parent capability, family and extended family support, community and cultural support) and the overall likely impact of the risks and protective factors on the child's stability and development.
Information or opinion about an individual’s physical, mental or psychological health, disability, or health services.
Home-based care (HBC)
Home-based care provides placements with approved caregivers in their own home, for children and young people 0 years to 18 years of age who have experienced significant difficulties and are unable to live with their families for a range of reasons. Home-based care includes foster care, kinship care and permanent care.
High risk adolescent.
High risk infant
Interim accommodation order
Internal Bureau of Records, Victoria Police. Now called Central Records Branch, Victoria Police.
Irreconcilable difference application. Exists when there is a serious breakdown in the relationship between a child and a parent/s (or a person who has custody). These cases come before the court when one of the parties (child or parent) wants responsibility for the daily care and control of the child to be transferred to another person.
Insterstate Liaison Officer.
Is a person used by police for interviews with young people (under the age of 18 years), when a parent/guardian is not available.
Independent third person
Is a trained person used by police for interviews with young people (under the age of 18 years) and with young people who have a disability and cannot be a relative.
Offences are divided into two main categories: indictable and summary. Indictable offences are generally more serious and are offences which can be tried on indictment, i.e. by a judge and jury in the Supreme Court or the County Court. However, many indictable offences can be heard in the magistrates’ court by a magistrate alone or in the children’s court by the President (a County Court judge), or a magistrate. Indictable offences used to be called felonies.
There are two Indigenous peoples in Australia: Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders. Government and persons who want a word to include both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples use ‘Indigenous Australians’ or ‘Indigenous peoples’. This language is also used in the United Nations, who refer to Indigenous peoples globally. Today, the term ‘Indigenous Australian’ is used to encompass both Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islander people. However, many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people do not like to be referred to as ‘Indigenous’ as the term is considered too generic. There is great diversity within these two broadly described groups exemplified by the over 250 different language groups spread across the nation. The words Indigenous, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander should always be capitalised, as would be the name of any other group of people. It is best not to resort to the acronyms of ATSI or TSI as this can be conceded as disrespectful.
Police officer who laid charges against a person in a particular case.
Certain professionals who may have contact with vulnerable children or their parents are defined under the CYFA (s. 3 of the CYFA and r. 6 of the Children, Youth and Families Regulations). A full list of information holders can be found in Information sharing and child protection practice under information sharing under the CYFA/classes relevant to information sharing.
Information sharing entity
A person or body prescribed, or a class of person or body prescribed to be an Information Sharing Entity under the Child Information Sharing Scheme or Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme.
Information sharing entity
Intellectual (or cognitive) development
Intellectual (or cognitive) development is the growth of brain functions in a child, such as thinking, learning, perceiving, judging, problem solving and reasoning.
An intellectual disability is a cognitive disability that involves impairments of intellectual functioning that impact adaptive behaviour and management of everyday tasks in three domains:
- The conceptual domain includes skills in language, reading, writing, math, reasoning, knowledge, and memory.
- The social domain refers to empathy, social judgement, interpersonal communication skills, the ability to make and retain friendships, and similar capacities.
- The practical domain centers on self-management in areas such as personal care, organisation of school/work/recreation tasks and other everyday practical skills.
Intellectual disability originates before the age of 18, with a lasting effect on development.
Interim accommodation order (IAO)
A temporary order which controls where a child lives pending the final determination by the court of an application in the family division.
Interim protection order
A temporary order of up to three months’ duration which the children’s court may make upon finding a child to be in need of protection.
Intersectionality is the complex, cumulative way in which the effects of multiple forms of identity-based structural inequality and discrimination (such as racism, sexism, ableism and classism) combine, overlap or intersect, in the experiences of individuals or communities. These aspects of identity can include gender, ethnicity and cultural background, language and communication requirements, socio-economic status, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, age, geographic location or visa status.
Taking an intersectional approach means looking beyond a person’s individual identities and focusing on how those identities are responded to, often in a way that results in further marginalisation. These points of intersection can increase vulnerability to the risk and effects of family violence, and can amplify barriers to disclosure, support and service access.
Intersectional practice is an approach to structured professional judgement that requires practitioners to recognise families’ experiences of structural inequality and discrimination as a core part of risk assessment.
An intervention order is a court order designed to protect a person (the “protected person”) by placing limits on the behaviour of another person (the “respondent”).
An intervention order can be made to protect a person from:
- physical assault
- sexual assault
- property damage or interference with property
- serious threats, or
- stalking, including following, hanging around a home or workplace, or phoning/emailing/texting the protected person.
There are two types of intervention orders:
- A family violence intervention order can be made against a family member, current or past spouse, domestic partner, intimate partner, carer or any other person who is regarded as being like a family member to the protected person.
- A personal safety intervention order can be made against a person who is not a family member.
Interim protection order.
An investigation is a statutory obligation (ss 205 – 213 of the CYFA) and practice phase that establishes if a child is in need of protection as defined by s. 162 CYFA. An investigation determines:
- the extent and nature of reported concerns, or any other concerns
- whether the child has suffered or is likely to suffer significant harm
- whether the parents have protected or are likely to protect the child from harm
- whether statutory intervention is needed to meet the best interests of the child
- whether other interventions are needed to assist the family.
A Protection Order may be made in relation to a child if the Children’s Court finds that irreconcilable differences exist between the child and the person having custody of the child to such an extent that the care and control of the child are likely to be seriously disrupted.
A just culture is a culture of openness and fairness for practitioners that creates:
- confidence to speak up, ask questions and be engaged
- trust that individuals won’t be blamed for organisational responsibilities
- accountability that individuals practice to the depth of their knowledge and competency.
The decision in a particular case and the reasons that the judicial officer came to that decision.
This is used in two alternate senses:
(1) the legal power which a particular court possesses, for example, power to hear and determine child protection applications
(2) the area over which the court’s legal power extends, for example, the state of Victoria.
Previously used term for youth justice.
Kinship care is the care provided by relatives or a member of a child’s social network when a child cannot live with their parents.
Aboriginal kinship care is care provided by relatives or friends to an Aboriginal child who cannot live with their parents, where Aboriginal family and community and Aboriginal culture are valued as central to the child’s safety, stability and development.
Koorie (also spelt Koori) is a generic term used by contemporary Aboriginal people and communities of Victoria and Southern New South Wales to identify and differentiate themselves from Aboriginal groups from other parts of Australia. In Queensland, Aboriginal people and communities refer to themselves as Murris, in South Australia as Nunga and in Southern Western Australia as Nyoongar.
Koorie maternity services
Koori maternity services (KMS) provide flexible, holistic and culturally safe pregnancy and postnatal care for Aboriginal women, women having Aboriginal babies and their families. Koori maternity services are provided by Aboriginal community-controlled organisations (ACCOs) and public health services. With 14 sites across Victoria, KMS are an integral component of Victoria’s maternity service system.
Key performance indicator
Looking After Children.
Lateral violence (also known as horizontal violence, intra-racial conflict or internalised colonialism) is organised, harmful behaviour perpetrated within a community, culture or group. It occurs when a number of people work together to attack or undermine other individuals, families or groups of the same community.
- Lateral violence is a product of a complex mix of historical, cultural and social dynamics, exacerbated by the interpersonal and social impacts of disadvantage and discrimination, where few other opportunities for self-determination or status exist.
- Lateral violence is a common experience for people in Aboriginal communities.
Provision of semi-independent support and accommodation for young people aged 15 to 18 years who are unable to live with their family due to issues of abuse or neglect and who are in transition to independent living. A volunteer lead tenant lives in a residential unit with a small group of young people and provides them with support and guidance in developing their independent living skills.
Representation of a person by a legally qualified representative (solicitor or barrister) in court proceedings.
Local government area.
Lesbian, Gay Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer.
Long term guardianship to Secretary order
A long term guardianship to Secretary order may be made in respect of a child of or over the age of 12 years; and grants custody and guardianship of the child to the Secretary to the exclusion of all other persons; and subject to Division 8 (CYFA) remains in force until the child attains the age of 18 years or marries whichever happens first; and despite anything to the contrary in Division 7 of the CYFA, may be made instead of extending a guardianship to Secretary order.
Looking After Children
Looking After Children (LAC) is a best practice framework for supporting outcomes-focused collaborative care for children and young people who are placed away from their families as a result of a child protection intervention. LAC was originally developed in the United Kingdom and has subsequently been implemented in many other jurisdictions internationally and interstate
Maternal and Child Health Line. A statewide service that provides 24 hour telephone advice by qualified maternal and child health nurses to families with children from birth to school age regarding child health, maternal and family health and parenting issue.
A judicial officer who hears cases in the magistrates' court (the lowest level of court in Victoria) and in the children's court. Magistrates are addressed as 'Your Honour'.
Male Adolescent Program for Positive Sexuality (MAPPS)
The Male Adolescent Program for Positive Sexuality (MAPPS) is for young people on youth justice orders, aged 10–21 years, who have been found guilty of committing a sexual offence.
Refers to the legislated powers and responsibilities conferred under the Children Youth and Families Act 2005 on the Secretary of DHHS (and delegates).
Section 184 of the CYFA 2005 states that certain professionals must report their concerns for a child to child protection when they form the belief on reasonable grounds that the child is in need of protection.
Municipal Association of Victoria.
Melbourne Children’s Court
The maternal and child health nurse is a registered nurse with the Nurses Board of Victoria, who has a current annual registration in Division 1 of the register and holds additional qualifications in midwifery and maternal and child health.
The Maternal and Child Health Service is a universal primary care service for Victorian families with children aged birth to school age. The service is provided in partnership with the Municipal Association of Victoria, local government and DHHS. The goal of the service is to promote a comprehensive and focused approach for the promotion, prevention, early detection and intervention of physical, emotional or social factors affecting young children and their families in contemporary communities.
Maternal and child health
Mental health is an individual's state of mind, thought, mood, perception and/or memory. Mental health is determined by a range of socioeconomic, biological, environmental and historical factors.
- At one end of the spectrum, mental health is a state of well-being in which a person realises their potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can participate socially, and is able to make a contribution to their community. At the other end of the spectrum is mental illness, mental ill health and mental health conditions - represented by symptoms that affect a people’s thoughts, feelings and behaviour.
- The risk of mental health issues and the emergence of mental illness in infants, children and young people involved with Child Protection and placed in out-of-home care is notably higher than in the general community.
- Mental illness features as a primary parental characteristic for the associated risk factors of family violence and substance abuse. However, parental mental illness by itself does not indicate significant risk to a child. The safety of a child may be increased when the parent is supported through effective treatment or the well parent is the primary carer.
Men's behaviour change programs
Men’s behaviour change programs (MBCPs) work with men who perpetrate family violence, and the (ex)partners and children of those men.
For men, MBCPs typically provide assessment, group work and in some cases supplementary individual counselling and case management. These programs are designed to help men end their use of violence toward family members, through encouraging them to become accountable and take responsibility for their violent actions. They provide a forum for exploring and challenging beliefs, and for discussing fatherhood, as a motivational tool to facilitate behavioural change.
For women who are partners or ex-partners of the men attending a program, MBCPs provide support, information, referral, safety planning and, in some cases, counselling and case management. Some programs also have services that can directly support children.
Services also include perpetrator case management, MBCPs to support men with cognitive difficulties, programs for women who use violence and other programs that are tailored to meet diverse needs. Programs are available for family violence perpetrators in same-sex relationships, as well as all-of-family models, typically offered by Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations.
A court hearing at which witnesses are generally not called and each party is given an opportunity to say in summary what should happen to the case. If the parties are not in complete agreement, the case is adjourned for mediation or contest.
Term no longer used in Victoria: see summary offence.
Child Protection is required to act as a model litigant in all proceedings. In essence, being a model litigant requires that the State and its agencies, as parties to litigation, act with complete propriety, fairly and in accordance with the highest professional standards.
The obligation has a number of specific elements, set out on the ‘Victorian model litigant guidelines’. For example, as a model litigant, Child Protection is required to:
(a) act fairly in handling claims and litigation brought by or against the State or an agency;
(b) act consistently in the handling of claims and litigation;
(c) deal with claims promptly and not cause unnecessary delay.
Melbourne Youth Justice Centre. Is a custodial facility for up to 60 young people aged 15 to 18 years, who are either on remand or serving a custodial sentence, generally from the children's court.
The principles of natural justice concern procedural fairness and aim to ensure that a fair decision is reached by an objective decision maker and that a person is entitled to put their case before a decision is made against them.
Neglect includes failure to provide the child with an adequate standard of nutrition, medical care, clothing, shelter or supervision to the extent where the health or development of the child is significantly impaired or placed at risk. A child is neglected if they are abandoned or left uncared for over unreasonable periods of time that is inconsistent with their age, stage and development.
New placement allowance
The new placement allowance is an allowance paid to foster, kinship, permanent and special needs local adoption carers over the first six months of the placement where the carer is in receipt of the level one, or general, care allowance. The new placement allowance is intended to assist in meeting the immediate or ‘start-up’ costs of caring.
No further action.
Non-government organisation. More commonly referred to as CSO (community service organisation).
Non-accidental injury is physical harm caused to a child as a result of carelessness, poor decision-making, inadequate supervision, neglect or deliberate action by a person.
Proof of intention to cause harm is not required for a child’s injury to be judged non-accidental.
Non-accidental injury can result from inappropriate or excessive discipline. It can also occur in the context of physical abuse. Actions that can result in non-accidental injury include physical restraint, spanking, beating, shaking, kicking, burning or assault with objects or weapons.
Non-accidental injury is a significant cause of mortality and morbidity, especially in infants and young children.
A sentencing order in which a charge is dismissed upon a child (and if required a parent) giving an undertaking. Non-compliance with such undertaking has no consequences.
North Division comprises four service areas, North Eastern Melbourne, Hume Moreland, Loddon and Mallee.
An application served on a parent or child inviting or requiring them to come to court at a later date without the child having been taken into custody.
Previous term for a report. See report about child.
Occupational health and safety.
Proceedings which are currently active and still before a court, at either an interim or final stage, and have not been finalised.
Proceeding are to be conducted in a court open to the public unless an application to the court for the court to be hear the whole or part of any proceeding in a closed court is granted
The Orange Door
The Orange Door - also known as Support and Safety Hubs - is a service hub providing a single, area-based entry point into local specialist family violence services and Integrated Family Services for women, children and young people who are experiencing family violence or families who need support with the wellbeing and development of their children. The Orange Door also provides referral and support services for men.
Community based child protection practitioners are co-located at The Orange Door sites. The hubs provide multidisciplinary risk and needs identification, coordinated engagement with specialist family violence and family services, brief interventions, service navigation and service delivery.
Families may seek family support services and anyone who has a significant concern for the wellbeing of a child or unborn child may make a referral to The Orange Door.
Family violence referrals are received via police (L17 forms) for victims and perpetrators; from non–family violence services; and self-referrals, including from family and friends.
The Orange Door sites are accessible (via drop-in, phone or online), visible and non-stigmatising.
Out-of-home care refers to services offered by a registered community service organisation (CSO), pursuant to Sections 44 to 72 of Children, Youth and Families Act 2005. Out-of-home Care services provide placement and support services to children and young people, who have been assessed to be at risk by child protection, or where their parents are unable to care for them for a period of time.
Defined in very broad terms in the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 as including-
(a) the father or mother of the child
(b) the spouse of the father or mother of the child
(c) the domestic partner of the father or mother of the child
(d) a person who has custody of the child or
(e) a person registered as, acknowledged as or declared by a court to be the father of the child.
Parenting capacity is a parent’s ability to understand and meet their child’s need for safety, development and wellbeing.
Parenting capacity specifically encompasses:
- a parent’s ability to form a healthy, nurturing relationship with their child, as indicated by:
- recognition of the child’s needs and the ability to put them before parental needs and wants
- awareness of the potential effects of relationship stresses on children
- ability to take responsibility for personal behaviour, including any resulting harm
- capacity to avoid dangerous, impulsive acts
- acceptance by the maltreating parent of their primary responsibility for providing a safe environment for their child
- awareness by the parent(s) of the possible effects of their own experience of being parented
- the parents’ ability to provide physical and emotional care appropriate to the child’s age, stage and development (Donald & Jureidini, 2004).
Parenting capacity can be influenced by constraints related to the needs of the child (such as temperament, illness or disability) and the context in which parenting occurs (such as level of support and environmental adversity). These contextual factors may alter the priority of needs for the parent and child. Where there is family violence, an affected parent’s behaviour that appears to prioritise their needs over the needs of their children may be based on their knowledge of what will keep themselves and their children safe.
Parental responsibility in relation to a child is described in the CYFA as all the duties, powers, responsibilities and authority that parents have, by law or custom, in relation to children.
Parental responsibility usually rests with the parents or guardians of a child. Where it has been found that a child is in need of protection and cannot safely remain in their parents’ care, a Children’s Court order can confer parental responsibility on the Secretary.
Section 172 of the CYFA sets out the powers of the Secretary when the Secretary has parental responsibility for a child. Section 18 of the CYFA enables the Secretary to authorise the principal officer of an Aboriginal agency to exercise these powers in respect of an Aboriginal child or young person (see Aboriginal Children in Aboriginal Care).
A statewide telephone counselling, information and referral service for parents and carers with children from birth to eighteen years.
Release of a child or young person from detention in a youth justice training centre or youth residential centre prior to the completion of his or her sentence and subject to supervision by youth justice.
Program and Service Adviser. Previous term for a DHHS officer who manages relationionship and partnership agreements with funded agencies. That role is now performed by local engagement officers.
Parenting Assessment and Skill Development Services
Permanent care order
Permanency refers to an enduring living and care arrangement for a child that promotes their safety, development and sense of belonging, whether in parental care or an alternative care arrangement.. The desirability of continuity and permanency in a child’s care is one of the best interests principles set out in the CYFA (s. 10(f)).
Permanency planning is part of the case planning process - it begins as soon as substantiated protective concerns are identified and should be continually reviewed as required by case planning advice.
Additional factors must be considered in cases where a child is Aboriginal, incorporating members of the child’s community and the involvement of an Aboriginal agency.
Section 167 of the CYFA sets out permanency objectives to be considered in order of preference, with the permanency objective for a child being determined by what is in that child’s best interests. For the majority of children involved with Child Protection, the most appropriate permanency objective is to remain in parental care. Legislation requires that permanency objectives and court orders be aligned.
Permanent care order
An order that grants a person (other than a parent or the Secretary) custody and guardianship of a child. Similar to an adoption, but does not change the legal parentage of the child.
Permanent care is when children are placed with approved permanent care parents by adoption and permanent care (A&PC) teams, or when an existing foster care or kinship care placement is converted to permanent care by the granting of a permanent care order or an order from the Family Court. Permanent care provides security and stability for children and young people who have entered the child protection system and for whom a decision has been made that they are unable to live safely within their birth family on a long-term basis.
A permanent carer is a volunteer carer who has been approved under the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 as suitable to have the custody and guardianship of a child. A permanent carer has made a commitment that the child's placement is intended to continue indefinitely.
A perpetrator is someone who has committed a crime or a violent or harmful act. In the context of family violence, a perpetrator is the person responsible for inflicting harmful, threatening or fear-inducing behaviour on family members.
Research indicates that men are most commonly the perpetrators of family violence, and women and children are most commonly the victim survivors.
The Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme (FVISS) states that a person is a perpetrator if an Information Sharing Entity (ISE) reasonably believes that there is a risk that the person may commit family violence, determined through undertaking a family violence risk assessment.
Perpetrator has the same meaning as “person of concern” under the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Part 5A). A perpetrator is the “respondent” in a family violence order or family violence safety notice. The term “batterer” is also used.An “alleged perpetrator” is someone who is suspected of committing family violence, or posing a risk of family violence, but there is limited information to form a reasonable belief that they may commit family violence.
Perpetrator accountability, in the context of family violence, is a two-fold process. The first is that perpetrators acknowledge and take responsibility for their choices to use family violence and work to change their behaviour to ensure their family’s safety and wellbeing. The second it that practitioners, services and system-level processes, encompass a range of interventions that hold perpetrators to account. These include:
- integrated practice approaches that promote information sharing to assess and manage risk such as the MARAM framework, RAMPs, The Orange Door, etc
- statutory interventions that limit the perpetrator’s use of violence, such as a safety notice, intervention order, protection order, or - in criminal matters - incarceration
- practitioner interventions that assist perpetrators to gain insight and awareness of the impact and criminal nature of their violent actions, through interviewing that draws upon the stages of change model and utilises motivational interviewing techniques, whilst avoiding colluding with the perpetrator and supporting victim safety
- service interventions that encourage and enable perpetrators to take responsibility for their violent behaviours, such as case management, treatment for compounding factors and referrals to family violence programs
- service interventions that provide guidance and support to change violent behaviour, for example through referral to, and acceptance into, programs such as a men’s behaviour change program.
Effective practice to address violence requires that service sector collaboration with affected parents and children must occur concurrently with perpetrator accountability to ensure that the needs and experiences of victims are understood and responded to, and that their safety is prioritised through ongoing risk assessment and management.
Information or an opinion that is recorded about a person and which identifies or may identify that person.
Pre-hearing conferences are now known as Conciliation Conferences (CC).
Physical abuse consists of any non-accidental form of injury or significant physical harm inflicted on a child by any person. Physical abuse does not mean reasonable discipline though it may result from excessive or inappropriate discipline. Physical abuse can include beating, shaking, burning and assault with weapons. Physical injury or significant physical harm to a child may also result from neglect by a parent or caregiver or within the context of family violence. The failure of a parent or caregiver to adequately ensure the safety of a child may expose the child to extremely dangerous or life-threatening situations, which result in physical injury or significant physical harm to the child. Physical abuse also includes Fabricated Illness Syndrome (previously Munchausen's Syndrome by Proxy).
Physical development is growth of the body throughout childhood and into adolescence - it includes developing control of the body, specifically through gaining gross motor (whole body movement) and fine motor (finger and hand movement) skills.
Protective intervention phase.
The provision of an out-of-home care placement for children and young people unable to live with their parents either in the short or long term.
See criminal history check.
Policy and funding plan
The department prepares a policy and funding plan every three years to inform funded CSO’s of service funding strategies and priorities. An annual update is prepared in the second and third years of the service agreement cycle. The three-year plan provides an overview of the government’s policy framework and the department’s objectives, an outline of strategic initiatives and an overview of the budget. The three-year plan also includes descriptive information regarding service activities, performance measures, data collection requirements, service standards and guidelines.
A framework of principles that guides decision making and activity.
Progression performance and development.
Practice leader (family-led decision-making)
Practice leader (family-led decision-making) is a position within the child protection operating model responsible for the provision of the family-led decision-making (FLDM) program.
Practice leader is a position within the child protection operating model responsible for providing expert case practice advice and leadership; supporting and developing child protection practitioners in the integration of theory and practice while demonstrating expertise through case management. Practice leaders supervise senior child protection practitioners (Community-based), undertakes case practice quality audits and provide regular practice forums and community education.
A form of court ordered dispute resolution no longer in use.
A report prepared by youth justice or the children's court clinic to assist the court in the sentencing of a child or young person found guilty of an offence.
President of the children's court
The chief judicial officer of the children's court of Victoria who is a judge of the County Court appointed as President by the Governor in Council.
Primary care partnerships (PCP)
Primary care partnerships are voluntary alliances comprising health care agencies, medical services, and local and other levels of government, and organisations such as sport clubs, child care agencies and schools.
A sentencing order by which for a specified period a child or young person is supervised by a probation officer and may be required to comply with special conditions imposed by the court.
Problem sexual behaviour
The term used to describe concerning sexual behaviour exhibited by children under the age of 10 years.
Program and Service Adviser
Previous term for a DHHS officer who manages relationionship and partnership agreements with funded agencies. That role is now performed by local engagement officers.
Progression performance and development system
The progression performance and development (PPD) system enables managers and employees to discuss, agree, plan and document the employee's work, expected behaviours and learning and development for the coming year.
Structured clinics, held by the child protection and Professional Development Unit to provide opportunities for practitioners to demonstrate specific skills and application of knowledge.
Protected from harm
Being protected from harm means that a child is protected by parents or carers from immediate, cumulative or likely harm to their stability and development. Harm in this context directly refers to the legislative definition in s. 162, CYFA.
An application made to the court for a finding that a child is in need of protection from actual or likely abuse.
A protection order is an order made by the family division of the children's court for the protection and care of a child.
A protective intervener is someone authorised by the legislation to receive and investigate reports that a child is in need of protection. Child protection and the police are protective interveners.
A case plan developed following substantiation of abuse or neglect.
Previously used term for child protection.
A written agreement between the department and other government or non-government organsitations that defines respective mandates, roles and responsibilities for the protection of children and young people.
Queen Elizabeth Centre. A parenting service that offers specialised support, care and education to families who have children up the age of three years that are seeking support on the challenges of parenthood.
Royal Children’s Hospital.
Record of interview
A formal interview of a defendant by an informant in relation to one or more charges laid by the informant.
A referral is a communication from one professional to another, to recommend that a person receive a particular service. A child, youth and family service that is managing an intake and referral service may deliver services to a family itself or may refer a family to another health or community service.
A refuge, in the context of family violence, is undisclosed crisis accommodation for women and children who cannot remain at home as a result of the immediate threat of family violence, and who do not have safe alternatives.
Refuges provide accommodation in a range of secure, supported settings, from staffed communal care to transitional properties. They are one of a range of accommodation types for women and children in crisis. Some refuges offer specialised services to certain groups, including Aboriginal women and women from CALD backgrounds.
Refuge staff offer advocacy, service referral, safety planning and practical support. Specialist children’s support workers also operate in many refuges, providing counselling and safety and support plan coordination for children. Refuge accommodation is usually arranged via a family violence crisis service. Other designated agencies may make direct referrals, typically in rural areas.
Refuge accommodation is also available for people experiencing homelessness or a housing crisis.
Refugee Minor Program
The Refugee Minor Program (RMP) supports the settlement process for refugee minors without parents in Australia and seeks to prevent breakdown in care arrangements through early intervention and assistance.
An historical geographically based organisational unit of the department used prior to the introduction of divisions.
The Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 provides a foundation for quality services, through the development of a formal approach to quality assurance by registering community service organisations (CSOs). CSOs are subject to re-registration every three years. To be re-registered a CSO must undertake an external review that assesses compliance with service standards.
Subordinate legislation made under the authority of an Act of Parliament by Governor in Council, for example the Children, Youth and Families Regulations 2007.
To be held in custody, for example police cells, youth training centre, prison, awaiting a further court appearance.
Remote witness facility
An audio-visual link between a court room and some other place which enables a witness to give evidence without being in the court room. This is often used to enable evidence to be given by a victim without being in the same room as the alleged perpetrator.
Report about child
A report made to child protection of significant concern for the wellbeing of a child.or suspected child abuse. Certain professionals (including police, teachers, child care workers) are mandated, that is, obliged by law to report suspected child abuse. Previously knows as a notification.
Residential care services
Provide temporary, short or long-term accommodation and care to children and young people (seven years or older) who are unable to be placed in home-based care. Care is provided by paid staff on a roster system.
Resilience is the positive adaptation of an individual within the context of significant adversity. Resilient children and adults have effective coping tools in their handling of stressful events. Coping tools provide the ability to deal with stressful events without becoming overwhelmed. Resilience can be illustrated through two related concepts: risk factors and protective factors.
Respite is a component of home-based care that involves a time-limited placement where a child or young person is placed away from the primary caregiver or current living circumstances.
Otherwise known as initial investigation.
An order requiring a child or young person found guilty of a criminal offence to pay a sum of money to the victim of the offence to try to restore the victim to his or her pre-offence position.
Restorative justice principles
Three principles form the foundation of restorative justice: 1) justice requires that we work to restore those who have been injured; 2) those most directly involved and affected by crime should have the opportunity to participate fully in the response if they wish; 3) government’s role is to preserve a just public order, and the community’s role is to build and maintain a just peace.
Return of a child to the care of a parent.
Risk is the relationship between the significance of harm, the likelihood of harm occurring or recurring, and the level of protection of immediate and future child safety.
Risk of harm to a child is assessed and managed by using an evidence-based risk assessment framework.
A risk assessment, in the context of Child Protection practice, is an evidence-based, guided approach to assessing and managing risk of harm to a child. It facilitates a purposeful process of seeking and analysing information in relation to the risks and protective factors of a child, their family and their environment, in order to understand the likelihood and significance of harm and to formulate strategies to increase children’s safety, development and wellbeing.
See Refugee Minor Program
Rules (Children's Court Rules)
Rules made by the President together with two or more magistrates to govern various matters relating to the practice and procedure of the court.
Safety is the foundational dimension for considering a child’s best interests. Adequate safety is a pre-requisite for every child's development and stability. A child experiences safety by having the basic care they need for their immediate and future stability and healthy development and by being protected from any harm.
Supervised custody order.
Secondary services target vulnerable groups or communities who need more intensive support as a result of their particular needs or circumstances. The aims of secondary services are to build family strengths and to reduce risks to the child and young person. Examples include intensive family support services, respite care, community-based mental health services, and drug and alcohol services.
The Secretary (that is, Chief Executive Officer) for the Department of Health & Human Services.
A secure welfare service is ‘a community service that has lock-up facilities’ that is established under the CYFA. A young person may be placed (via an interim accommodation order) in a secure welfare service by the children’s court, generally at a point prior to an ongoing protection order being made. Child protection may also place a young person in secure welfare who is in the custody, or under the guardianship, of the Secretary. A child or young person must be at substantial and immediate risk of harm to himself or herself in order to be placed in secure welfare.
An element of the best interests dimension 'development'. It concerns the acquisition by a child of both practical and emotional competencies required for increasing independence. These include learning early practical skills of toileting, dressing and feeding and having opportunities to gain the confidence and skills to undertake activities away from the family. Older children begin acquiring independent living skills. Development of self-care skills involves encouragement to acquire social problem solving skills. Special attention should be given to the impact of disability and other vulnerabilities on the development of self care skills.
The right to self-determination has particular application to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as Australia’s first peoples.
Self-determination is an ‘ongoing process of choice’ to ensure that Indigenous communities can meet their social, cultural and economic needs. It is not about creating a separate Indigenous ‘state’.
The right to self-determination is based on the acknowledgment that Indigenous peoples are Australia’s first people, as was recognised by law in the historic Mabo judgement.
The loss of this right to live according to a set of common values and beliefs, and to have that right respected by others, is at the heart of the current disadvantage experienced by Indigenous Australians.
Without self-determination it is not possible for Indigenous Australians to fully overcome the legacy of colonisation and dispossession.
Self-determination is vital to improving Aboriginal people’s health and wellbeing. Research conducted on self-determination by first peoples in other countries shows that first peoples suffer greatly when the right to make their own decisions is taken away. The devastating impact of failed policies can only begin to be turned around when Aboriginal people are supported to make their own decisions on matters such as governance, natural resource management, economic development, health care and social service provision.
The CYFA includes additional decision-making principles for Aboriginal children in recognition of the principles of Aboriginal self-management and self-determination (s.12).
Senior child protection practitioner (community based)
Senior child protection practitioner (community based) is a position in the child protection operating model that is co-located in a registered family services agency and a child protection office. The position provides consultancy, advice and community education to agencies on statutory processes and responsibilities, and chairs case conferences and attends home visits with community services organisations where required.
Senior child protection practitioner
Senior child protection practitioner is a position in the child protection operating model responsible for supporting and developing child protection practitioners in the integration of theory and practice whilst demonstrating their expertise through case practice and the supervision of practitioners. The position works collaboratively with the team manager to strengthen case practice, provide effective service delivery and support other practitioners.
Tightly regulated personal information and includes racial, ethnic, political, religious, trade union, sexual or criminal information about an identifiable person.
Any order made by the criminal division of the children's court following a finding of guilt.
Serious neglect in this context potentially constitutes a criminal offence on the part of a parent and includes situations where a parent fails to meet the child's basic needs for food, shelter, hygiene or adequate supervision to the extent that the child's health, development or physical safety is jeopardised.
For example: The child's home environment is filthy or hazardous in the extreme and poses a threat the child's immediate safety or development and is characterised by the presence of animal or human faeces or urine, decomposing food, syringes or other dangerous drug paraphernalia; or where the child is provided with consistently insufficient or inadequate food or nourishment for the child's healthy development; or where a child has a serious medical condition for which the parent has consistently failed to obtain treatment or dispense prescribed medication; or where a parent consistently leaves a child unattended, exposed to or in the care of strangers who may harm the child.
Government department or service provider who may provide services to vulnerable families as defined under s. 3 of the CYFA and r. 7 of the CYF Regulations. A full list of service agencies can be found in Information sharing and child protection practice under information sharing under the CYFA/classes relevant to information sharing.
Service of a court application/document
Provision of an application or other document by one party to another party in the case.
Sexual abuse occurs when any person uses their authority over the child to involve the child in sexual activity. Child sexual abuse involves a wide range of sexual activity including fondling genitals, masturbation, vaginal or anal penetration by a finger, penis or any other object, voyeurism and exhibitionism. It can also include grooming, pornography and sexual exploitation.
Sexual Crimes Squad
Differs from SOCIT in that it deals with such matters as serial offenders and child pornography.
Sexually abusive behaviour treatment services (SABTS)
Sexually abusive behaviour treatment services (SABTS) are funded by the department to deliver:
- 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 therapeutic treatment order.
Where the care of a child is shared between significant persons in the child’s life who may live in different households.
Shared family care (SFC)
A home-based care program that provides respite, short term and long term home-based care placements for children and young people with an intellectual disability or a developmental delay. SFC is delivered by community services organisations as part of their home-based care service.
Shared stories shared lives
The Victorian pre-service training course for potential foster carers used by all community service organisations that deliver home-based care.
To demonstrate why a person's remand in custody is not justified.
A sibling group relates to two or more children from the same family.
Harm is considered significant when it is of “considerable amount, effect or importance”. The significance must be demonstrated in a way that is specific to the case.
Justice O'Brien in the Supreme Court (Buckley vs CSV 1992) identified “significant” as:
- "more than trivial or insignificant, but need not be as high as serious
- ‘important’ or ‘of consequence’ to the child’s development’
- need not have lasting or permanent effect, nor necessarily be treatable.
Social Welfare Worker. Previous employment classification for child protection practitioner.
Social isolation is when children or adults have a small number of contacts with other people or services. Social isolation can result from many factors, including:
- living in a remote or rural area
- language or cultural barriers
- having a child or parent with disability
- being a child with a disability
- poor mental health/mental illness
- personal choice
- a perpetrator of family violence intentionally isolating the family in order to maintain control
- living in residential care or other care placement that disrupts friendships and relationships with friends and family
- frequent placement changes.
Social isolation can be a major indicator and predictor of vulnerability - it has significant implications for wellbeing and for risk of harm and abuse. Possible impacts of social isolation include:
- increased loneliness and subsequent impacts on physical health, mental health and wellbeing
- reduced access to and utilisation of services and supports (family, peers, community, social network, etc.)
- increased chance of a young person going missing
- reduced chance of disclosing family violence or abuse
- increased vulnerability to and risk of harm or abuse.
Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Teams are staffed by experienced and qualified Victoria Police detectives specially trained to respond to and investigate sexual assault and child abuse.
Streetwork Outreach Service—a specialist statewide service that works with young people at risk in the central business district and St Kilda.
South Division comprises four service areas, Southern Melbourne, Bayside Peninsula, Inner Gippsland and Outer Gippsland.
Specialist family violence services
Specialist family violence services function directly to meet the needs of victim survivors of family violence. Women can self-refer or be referred by other services including police, Child Protection, health services or The Orange Door (Support and Safety Hubs).
Specialist family violence workers support and assist women and children to understand their experience of family violence, assess the level of risk of harm to women and children, undertake safety planning and offer information and options for support including access to crisis accommodation (refuges). Specialist family violence workers are equipped with broad knowledge of the family violence system, enabling them to connect women and children to crisis services and other necessary supports to achieve safety.
Specialist family violence workers are embedded in The Orange Door, community health services, mental health services, hospitals, schools and legal services, as well as being co-located in Child Protection.
Spiritual development is growth of a child’s belief system, including such components as faith, religion, ritual, custom, ceremony and tradition.
A person to whom a person is married.
The right of a person who has a ‘direct interest’ in a child protection case to participate as a party in the hearing of the case.
State guardianship fund
All money received by the Secretary as guardian of a child must be paid to the State Guardianship Fund. The Secretary is required to maintain an account on behalf of each child showing the amount held in credit. Money which is not immediately required for use by a child may be invested in accordance with the Trustee Act 1958, and interest earned must be credited to the account each year.
Money in the account may only be used for the benefit of the child for whom it is held, and with the approval of the Secretary. Once the child reaches 18 years and ceases to be under the guardianship of the Secretary, the money must be paid to the child. If the child ceases to be under the guardianship of the Secretary before the age of 18 years, the Secretary may pay the money to the child or, if the Secretary considers it to be in the interests of the child to do so, retain the money in the account until the child is 18 years old.
A statement in writing, other than an affidavit, which contains an acknowledgment by the person making it that it is true and correct and which is signed by the person making it in the presence of a person authorised to witness the signing of a statutory declaration.
A case in which child protection issues a protection application in respect of a child. Used in contradistinction to voluntary intervention.
These services are for children who have been at risk of significant harm where intervention is needed to ensure the ongoing safety of the child.
Step by step Victoria
The Victorian competency-based package for assessing of potential home-based carers.
Sexually transmitted infection.
The term “Stolen Generations” refers to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians who were forcibly removed, as children, from their families and communities and placed into institutional care or with non-Indigenous foster families. Many of these removals occurred as the result of official laws and policies aimed at assimilating the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population into the wider community. The authorities involved were from government, welfare or church organisations. The 1997 Bringing Them Home report (resulting from the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission’s Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families), found that between 1 in 10 and 3 in 10 children were forcibly removed in the years between 1910 and 1970 (removal practices began as early as the mid-1800s).
It’s important to understand that the term ‘Stolen Generations’ refers to those children who were removed on the basis of their race (proof of neglect was often not required). The predominant aim of the forced removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families was to absorb or assimilate children with mixed ancestry into the non-Indigenous community. Evidence shows that the overwhelming impact of the forced removal policy was damaging and that most children were removed for the reason of assimilation. While some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were removed from their families on genuine welfare grounds, this was not the experience of the majority.
Of those who went to foster homes, almost a quarter of witnesses to the Bringing them Home Inquiry reported being physically abused and 1 in 5 reported sexual abuse. Of those sent to institutions, 1 in 6 children reported physical abuse and 1 in 10 reported sexual abuse. Many others reported deprivation, neglect and suffering from the loss of their family and culture.
A charge or an application, which is withdrawn, is said to be ‘struck out’ of the court list.
Substance use is the use of any drug, whether legal (for example, alcohol or prescription medication) or illegal (for example, marijuana, amphetamines, heroin).
Substance misuse is the use of a substance for a purpose not consistent with legal or medical guidelines. Substance abuse is the harmful or hazardous use of any drug - this typically includes a strong desire to take the drug, difficulties in controlling its use, persisting in its use despite harmful consequences, a higher priority given to drug use than to other activities and obligations, increased tolerance, and sometimes a physical withdrawal state.
Substance misuse or abuse is a common factor seen in child protection. It may be a coping strategy used by young people or adults living in complex, challenging or unsafe circumstances. It is often seen in the context of mental health issues, violence, abuse and trauma.
Parental substance abuse can have a direct impact on children’s health, including unborn children, and correlates with increased risk of harm to and neglect of children.
A holistic approach to working with parents who abuse substances includes an understanding of the nature of, and reasons for the substance abuse, assessment of the possible impact on parenting and child development, and a focus on parental strengths and resources. Parenting and child safety and wellbeing are the main issues, rather than substance use itself.
The decision determining as to whether a child has experienced (or is currently at risk of) significant harm to their safety, stability or development within the definition of s. 162 of the CYFA.
Offences are divided into two main categories according to seriousness, summary or indictable. Summary offences are generally, but not always of a more minor nature and are heard in the magistrate’s court by a magistrate alone or in the children's court.
Supervised custody order
A protection order which grants sole custody of a child to a person who is neither a parent nor the Secretary of the Department of Health & Human Services but does not affect the guardianship of the child. The order also gives the Secretary responsibility for the supervision of the order.
A protection order which gives the Secretary of the Department of Health & Human Services responsibility for the supervision of a child but does not affect the custody or guardianship of the child.
Support, direction and performance monitoring, including teaching, feedback, information provision and accountability functions.
Secure welfare services.
The Intensive Treatment Service (Take Two) aims to improve the functioning, safety and well-being of children and young people subject to child protection intervention through the provision of specialist intensive therapeutic counselling and multiple treatment methods aimed at addressing trauma and attachment disorders involving children, their families, and carers and communities where necessary.
Temporary assessment order (TAO)
Where families refuse to cooperate, and impede a child protection investigation about a child or young person, child protection can apply to the children's court for a temporary assessment order (TAO), if child protection has a reasonable suspicion that the child or young person is, or is likely to be, in need of protection.
Tertiary services target children who have experienced significant harm or who are likely to suffer harm. The main aim of these services is to redress this harm and prevent its recurrence. Examples include child protection, therapeutic services aimed at children and young people who have experienced serious abuse, and out-of-home care services.
Therapeutic foster care.
Therapeutic means remedying or counteracting harm, disorder or disease or having a beneficial impact on a person.
Taking a therapeutic approach to practice covers a range of perspectives, frameworks and interventions that seek to address the presenting health, wellbeing and development challenges or concerns - including those resulting from physical, psychological and emotional harm or trauma - of individuals, families and communities. Therapeutic practice should incorporate an understanding of biopsychosocial context, and assist in building physical health and relational, behavioural and emotional capacity.
In Victorian community services, therapeutic practice is viewed as being holistic and inherently connected to the concept of healing.
Therapeutic foster care (TFC)
Therapeutic foster care is a program of home-based care for a child that places emphasis on stability and provides additional supports for the child and carers. Key features of the program are the centrally important role of the care team, the support to the child and the carer and the dedicated involvement of both placement and therapeutic specialist providers.
Therapeutic treatment order (TTO)
A therapeutic treatment order issued by the children’s court requires a child aged at least 10 years and under 14 years of age to attend community based treatment for sexually abusive behaviour.
Therapeutic treatment placement order (TTPO)
A therapeutic treatment placement order issued by the children’s court requires a child aged at least 10 years and under 14 years of age to reside in out-of-home care to ensure their attendance and participation in community based treatment for sexually abusive behaviour.
Therapeutic treatment report (TTR)
A report made to child protection about a child aged 10 years or over and under 15 years by a person who believes that the child has exhibited sexually abusive behaviours.
Telephone Interpreter Service. A national interpreting service available to people who do not speak English and for English speakers needing to communicate with them. It is available to anyone in Australia for the cost of a local call and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Torres Strait Islander
The term Aboriginal is often used to refer to both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It is important to remember the people of the Torres Strait are of Melanesian origin with their own distinct identity, history and cultural traditions. Traditionally they lived in the Torres Strait, which separates the north of Queensland from New Guinea, though today many have migrated and now live on the mainland. Note, people who have Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents are both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, not one or the other.
Transition plan (or exit plan)
A plan for transition or exit from the child protection system that forms part of a child or young person's best interests plan and is developed at least six months prior to the planned date of discharge.
Trauma is both the experience of, and a response to, an overwhelmingly negative event that an individual perceives as physically or emotionally harmful or life-threatening. Trauma can have lasting adverse effects on an individual’s mental, physical, social, emotional or spiritual wellbeing.
An event is experienced as traumatic as a result of various influences, including a person’s neurobiology, their prior experiences of trauma and violence, and adequacy of supports. Experiences of systemic violence and structural inequities can compound the trauma (see intersectionality).
Trauma is defined by a number of sub-types:
- Acute trauma
- Results from a single event
- Complex trauma
- Results from exposure to multiple, chronic or prolonged traumatic events, typically of an interpersonal nature, such as physical or sexual abuse, or community violence
- Developmental trauma
- Complex trauma as experienced by a child, resulting from repeated or chronic exposure to traumatic events - such as physical, emotional or educational neglect; abandonment; betrayal; physical, sexual or emotional abuse; exposure to family violence; and/or coercion - typically perpetrated by the child’s caregivers.
- Can impact the child’s neurological and nervous system functioning, potentially impairing the child’s cognitive, emotional, behavioural and social development, which can have lasting impacts into adulthood.
Trauma-informed practice is trauma-aware, safe, strengths-based and integrated, meaning that practice is sensitive to and based on an understanding of how current and/or historical trauma affects people's lives, their symptoms and presentations, and their service needs.
Therapeutic Treatment Board.
A promise made to the court. May either be oral or in writing.
A temporary residence for the child whose address is not disclosed to the parents.
Universal services are available to all children in the community and aim to promote child well-being, including health, education and social development objectives. Examples are general practitioners, maternal and child health services, child care centres, and schools.
Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service.
An alteration (usually of conditions) of a court order.
Video/Audio Taped Evidence conducted by a qualified police officer.
Victim Impact Statement
Oral or written statement made by a victim of crime that may be taken into account by a magistrate or judge when determining a sentence.
A victim survivor is a person - adult or child – who has experienced family violence or if there is reasonable belief that the person is at risk of being subject to family violence. Reasonable belief is determined through assessment conducted by an Information Sharing Entity (ISE), as part of the Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme.
Other terms used to reflect victim survivor are: affected parent, “affected family member” (Victoria Police family violence reports and intervention orders), and “primary person” or “protected person” (Family Violence Protection Act 2008).
Victorian Children's Council
The Victorian Children's Council is an expert body advising the Victorian Government on policy and service development in relation to children and families.
Violence is the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that results in - or has a high likelihood of resulting in - injury, death, psychological harm, developmental harm or deprivation.
Violence can be inflicted physically, sexually, through psychological attack or through deprivation.
The World Health Organisation considers three sub-types of violence, according to the victim-perpetrator relationship:
- “Self-directed violence” refers to violence in which the perpetrator and the victim are the same individual. It encompasses self-harm/abuse and suicide.
- “Interpersonal violence” refers to violence between individuals. It encompasses family violence, child maltreatment and abuse, and community violence. Community violence includes acquaintance violence; stranger violence; youth violence; violence related to property crimes; and violence in workplaces and other institutions.
- “Collective violence” refers to violence committed by larger groups of individuals. It encompasses social, political and economic violence.
Viva voce evidence
Spoken evidence (as opposed to evidence by statement or affidavit).
Victorian Legal Aid.
Voluntary placements are those with no court order requiring the child or young person to live in a placement provided by an established or approved community service organisation. The Children, Youth and Families Act allows the voluntary placement (with no court order) of a child or young person in a placement provided by a community service. To achieve a voluntary placement a short or long term child care agreement between the parent/guardian and the CSO must be completed. A child care agreement is a written agreement with a service provider, signed by the parent(s),and young person where appropriate, that gives permission for a child or young person to live in a placement provided by that CSO as stipulated in sections 133 to 161 of the CYFA.
Victorian Risk Assessment Framework is the child protection risk assessment framework developed by the Victorian child protection program and published in 1999.
The VRF was incorporated into the Best Interests Case Practice Model (BICPM) in 2010 and is no longer in use.
Vulnerable in relation to a person, is the requirement for special care or consideration due to particular characteristics such as:
- Culture and ethnicity
These characteristics can mean the person is less able to ensure their own care and protection, requiring dependence on others. They can also mean the person is more likely to experience intersectionality of disadvantage and risk of harm.
A ward of state is someone who as a child or young person was removed from the care of their family or guardian(s) and legally placed in the care of the state. Also referred to as former ward or state ward. The term is no longer used to refer to child protection clients.
An authorisation, generally issued by a judicial officer and directed to a person in authority. Often this is an authority to take a person into custody and bring the person before the court.
West Division comprises five service areas, Western Melbourne, Brimbank Melton, Barwon, Central Highlands and Western District.
A white paper is published by the government when it wants to set out its policies and plans on a particular issue. A white paper invites public comment on legislative proposals.
Working with Children Check (WWCC)
The Working with Children (WWC) Check is an initiative of the Victorian Government and is administered by the Department of Justice & Regulation. The WWC Check helps to protect children from sexual or physical harm by checking a person's criminal history for serious sexual, serious violent or serious drug offences and the person’s work history with specific professional disciplinary bodies for certain findings.
Working with Children Check
Youth attendance order (YAO)
A youth attendance order (YAO) is a sentence given by the children’s court to a young person aged greater than 15 years and whose offence occurred prior to their 18th birthday. A YAO is a community-based disposition that is a direct alternative to receiving a custodial sentence. A young person on a YAO is required to report to a youth justice unit for up to ten hours per week, and involves a community service work component.
Youth justice centre order
A sentencing order by which a young person aged between 15 and 17 years is sentenced by a court to be detained in a youth justice centre for a specified period. Young people aged 18 to 20 years may be sentenced to a youth training centre order by an adult court (Magistrates County or Supreme) following a suitability assessment if the court deems that they have reasonable prospects for rehabilitation or are immature or likely to be subjected to undesirable influences in an adult prison (that is, vulnerable).
Youth justice group conference
See group conference
The Department of Health & Human Services is responsible for the statutory supervision of young people in the criminal justice system. The department provides programs and resources to assist these young people to develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes to manage their lives effectively without further offending. Through supervision, offending related programs and linkages to appropriate support services, the department promotes opportunities for rehabilitation and contributes to the reduction of crime in the community
Youth residential centre order
A sentencing order by which a child or young person aged between 10 and 14 years is sentenced to be detained in a youth residential centre for a specified period.
Youth supervision order
A sentencing order by which a child or young person is supervised by a youth justice officer and may be required to comply with special conditions imposed by the court. The level of supervision is generally higher than that involved with a probation order for a specified period.