See procedure Interstate requests for tasks that must be undertaken.
The Interstate Child Protection protocol Australia and New Zealand, provides comprehensive advice and should be referred to in all interstate matters. It relies on a spirit of cooperation and reflects the tenets of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), 1989. It operates from the agreement that Australia and New Zealand will work together to promote the best interests and well-being of children regardless of where the child originates,. All requests are to be responded to in a timely manner and any decision made or action taken that may affect a child must have safety and well-being as the paramount consideration and the child’s best interests in mind.
Child protection has responsibilities regarding the process to be followed when:
- child protection reports are to be transferred within Australia or between Australia and New Zealand
- requests for interstate carer assessments are made or received
- requests for interstate casework tasks are made or received
The purpose of the Children Youth and Families Act 2005 (CYFA) and protocol is to improve the provision of services to children who:
- are the subject of a child protection order or proceeding which is proposed to be transferred interstate, or
- are the subject of child protection intervention where there is a proposal for the child to move interstate, without involving the transfer of an order.
All Australian states and territories and New Zealand have similar legislation.
The protocol specifically aims to support information sharing and provide guidance to improve the coordination of the operations of the relevant departments to facilitate:
- the protection of children in need of care, and
- the promotion of the best interests of children
The legal procedures and requirements concerning the transfer of child protection orders and proceedings is contained in the (CYFA), Schedule 1 - Transfer of Child Protection Orders and Proceedings.
All requests coming into Victoria come via the department’s interstate liaison team.
All requests leaving Victoria go to the interstate liaison officer in the receiving state via the interstate liaison team.
For all interstate requests relating to an Aboriginal child, the relevant Aboriginal agency must be consulted prior to any decision being made.
If a child protection department believes that a child subject to a report or investigation has gone interstate and it would be appropriate for the interstate department to conduct an assessment of the child in that state, then the sending department should provide the receiving interstate department with an outline of:
- the concern and any other information which would assist the receiving interstate department to assess the matter; and
- whether the sending department considers it appropriate for the receiving interstate department to initiate child protection proceedings and transfer the proceedings back to the sending state (this is extremely rare).
A department which receives information in accordance with the above must promptly inform the sending department of the intended response.
An interstate alert is made when there are concerns for the safety and welfare of a child who may be interstate but whose exact location is unknown despite efforts to determine their whereabouts, including where relevant, undertaking enquiries through Services Australia.
All alerts coming into Victoria must come via the interstate liaison team during business hours. Out of hours, alerts are made via the After Hours Child Protection Emergency Services (AHCPES). AHCPES will enter all alerts sent to Victoria from interstate departments.
Any child protection alerts which need to be sent interstate must first be sent to the Victorian interstate liaison team, with the exception of after hours matters. The interstate liaison team however must be advised of the after-hours alert on the next working day. All alerts will be sent to all interstate liaison officers in the various states and territories and New Zealand.
Alerts act in the same way as a child protection report. Should the child subject to the alert come to this department's attention, the matter is to be treated as a child protection report.
Types of carer assessments that can be requested include:
- carer assessment or carer re-approval/review assessment
- holiday and contact assessment
- household safety assessment
Interstate request for carer assessment for long-term placements
Such requests will be made when a potential long-term carer for a child lives outside of the state where the child normally resides. For example, Victoria may make a request to Queensland to conduct a carer assessment where a child subject to a Victorian protection order may be placed in Queensland with extended family or friends.
The information that is available for an interstate department undertaking an assessment will be an important factor in the quality of the assessment undertaken. The information is to be sent to the interstate liaison officer of the receiving state via the interstate liaison team and should include:
- results of criminal record checks on all adults in the home
- details of any history of contact with child protection in Victoria or any other state, territory, New Zealand, or international country if relevant
- departmental history – outline the child protection concerns and intervention
- reasons for seeking the assessment
- name, address, and phone number of the person/s to be assessed
- a current case plan, leaving care plan or cultural plan
- National Disability Insurance Scheme plan (where applicable)
- relevant education, medical, psychological reports or plans
- any previous carer assessments
- list of areas to be covered in the assessment, such as the proposed carers’:
- motivation and long-term commitment to care for the child
- accommodation or living arrangements
- health and any limitations to their capability to care for the child
- long term expectations regarding the future of the placement
- history of involvement with the child and an assessment of the strength of the relationship with the child
- understanding of the harms the child has been subject to, and their capability to cope with behaviour which might stem from such harm
- knowledge of child development and capability to prioritise and meet the child's present and future developmental needs
- capability to promote the child's wellbeing and connections with family, community and culture
- individual background, including their personal experiences, educational history, employment and relationship history
- current relationship and if appropriate, the likely effect of the placement on the relationship
- parenting skills and experience including discipline methods
- current lifestyle and employment and how this will impact on the child
- plans for schooling, social activities and after school care
- support networks, both formal and informal
- willingness to encourage and facilitate access with family members (as appropriate)
- willingness to facilitate counselling and therapy for the child
- willingness to work with appropriate services and child protection.
- Provided the receiving state is satisfied that the information provided by the sending state is sufficient to undertake the assessment, the receiving state should complete the assessment within an eight-week timeframe.
- An urgent carer assessment may be requested in circumstances such as the need for an emergency placement, where a child or young person self-places and the proposed carer has agreed to go through a carer authorisation process or where there has been a placement breakdown and there is a need to identify a new placement.
Interstate request for carer assessment for holiday and contact arrangements
Such requests may be made where a child subject to a protection order is travelling to or from Victoria to stay with family or friends for a holiday. It should be noted that not all states utilise holiday or contact assessments and some states do not have the mandate to undertake this type of assessment. Consult with the interstate liaison team prior to considering this type of request.
A contact assessment may also be considered to inform decision-making relating to a child recommencing contact with a parent or having contact with a family member or other significant person to re-establish family relationships and cultural connection.
Provided the receiving state is satisfied that the information provided by the sending state is sufficient to undertake the assessment, the receiving state should complete the assessment within six weeks.
The information above should be considered and included as relevant to the assessment request.
Relevant assessment issues for a holiday placement include:
- the relationship the child has with the carers
- the carer's capability to manage any specific behaviours and meet the child's needs
- the department's capacity to meet the conditions of any court orders, for example, contact conditions or parenting arrangements
- parental consent for the child to travel (as necessary)
- the carer's capability to keep the child safe for the duration of the holiday
- the travel arrangements and contingency plans
- local formal and informal supports available for the duration of the holiday.
Interstate request for household safety assessment
A request for a household safety assessment to determine if the home is a safe and suitable environment for a child or young person can be made in circumstances where the request is made as:
- part of a primary or respite/short-break carer assessment or carer re-approval assessment
- part of a holiday or contact assessment
- a part of a parent/s interview to explore readiness for reunification
- when a child and authorised carer relocate from one state to another
- when a child and authorised carer relocate within their resident state
The timeframe for this request is four weeks.
An urgent household safety assessment may also be requested in circumstances where:
- information is required to support a carer assessment for an emergency placement
- a child or young person self-places with a person and that person has agreed to go through the carer authorisation process
- any exceptional circumstance where the need arises for an urgent assessment
Timeframe for assessment
The interstate liaison team should ensure completion of any requested assessment within the agreed to time frames unless special circumstances exist. Discussion must occur with the interstate department regarding the reason for any delay and make every effort to agree to an extension.
A sending state may request a receiving state to complete a carer assessment on its behalf or chose to complete the carer assessment itself. If the sending state is considering completing the carer assessment itself or contracting a private practitioner to undertake it, the sending state may consult with the receiving state to obtain local cultural knowledge and information. When a private practitioner is contracted to undertake the assessment, they should outline their qualifications and experience in the report.
If a request for an urgent assessment to be completed in less than the stated timeframe for that request type is made, the interstate liaison team will negotiate with the receiving interstate team to determine if the assessment can be completed. If this is not possible, the interstate liaison officers from both states will determine whether an appropriately qualified practitioner can be contracted to complete the assessment. This will only be done with the practitioner's knowledge and consent and costs to be borne by the sending state.
Where Victoria makes such a request, practitioners must seek the team manager's approval for payment before making this request. In all other cases any costs incurred as a result of undertaking the assessment are to be borne by the state completing the assessment.
When a child subject to child protection intervention is residing in a placement interstate, the sending state may request as soon as possible the receiving state to provide ongoing casework assistance. Excluding requests for urgent casework, or when a child has self-placed with a person who is not an authorised carer, a carer assessment is required to have been completed prior to submitting the request for ongoing casework assistance.
If a child subject to a Victorian protection order is placed interstate, the receiving and sending states would generally negotiate the transfer of the order in accordance with section 6 of the Interstate Child Protection protocol. However, if a sending state is unable to transfer an order or the transfer of the order would (at that time) be contrary to the interests of the child, the sending state may place the child interstate without transferring the order.
If a child on a protection order is placed, or proposed to be placed, interstate without transferring the order:
- the receiving state must cooperate with the sending state and provide all services reasonably requested by the sending state. Such services would include supervision of a placement and assessment of proposed care givers and
- the sending state must provide the receiving state with all information that is required by the receiving state.
Negotiations must occur before the child is sent interstate.
The receiving state should accept the request for casework assistance in writing as soon as possible within four weeks of receipt from the interstate liaison team.
Requests for urgent casework assistance will be considered on a case-by-case basis and may include situations where assistance is required for the purposes of undertaking an assessment of alleged risk of harm to a child and/or the need to act to ensure the child’s safety as a result of executing a warrant.
For requests for parent/s interview to explore readiness for reunification
Decisions on reunification are subject to each state’s legislation and policy requirements. As part of a decision making in considerations for reunification, a state may request another state to undertake a home visit to interview the parent/s and conduct a home safety assessment that would otherwise not be practical for the sending state to undertake.
The role of the receiving state is limited to the provision of general observations of the home environment, the parent/s presentation and obtaining the parent/s self-reported information. This request is not intended as a replacement for a comprehensive parenting capacity or reunification assessment.
If a sending state requires a specialist parenting capacity assessment or comprehensive reunification assessment the sending state can request the details of appropriately qualified private practitioners who could be contracted with the costs borne by the sending state. For further information see Family reunification
Clause 26, Schedule 1 of the CYFA, provides that information may be disclosed by Victorian child protection to interstate, territory and New Zealand child protection departments (despite any other provisions in the Act) if the Secretary considers it necessary to enable an interstate officer to perform duties or exercise powers under a child welfare law or an interstate law. That is, the information sharing authorised by this clause is broader than just for the transfer provisions.
In relation to the transfer of proceedings or orders and subject to confidentiality provisions in a state's legislation, departments must provide information requested by an interstate department if the information relates to:
- the safety and wellbeing of a child who is subject to a child protection order or proceeding; or
- the safety and wellbeing of a child who is subject to a child protection assessment or intervention.
The sending state must provide a copy of the departmental file to the department in the receiving state if a child protection order or proceeding is transferred interstate.
Confidentiality of information received by an interstate officer
Subject to contrary provisions in a state's legislation, if a departmental officer in a state receives information from an interstate department pursuant to the paragraph above, the received information should be dealt with as if the departmental officer in that state directly obtained it.
- In all matters the interests of the child are paramount.
- Planning an interstate placement, whether the child is subject to a child protection order or not, should include the thorough involvement of the relevant state prior to the interstate placement and consultation with the interstate liaison team.
- Incoming requests should be responded to as promptly as possible.
- Victoria should consent to any incoming transfer request unless exceptional circumstances exist.