Interstate requests - advice
This advice provides additional information regarding managing interstate requests.
Document ID number 2008, version 2, 1 March 2016.
See procedure Interstate requests for tasks that must be undertaken.
The Interstate protocol (2016) provides comprehensive advice and should be referred to in all interstate matters. It relies on a spirit of cooperation and operates from the basis that child protection is the responsibility of all child welfare departments regardless of where the child originates. All requests are to be responded to in a timely manner and in a way that has the child’s best interests in mind.
Child protection has responsibilities with regard to 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 legislation 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 provide guidance for departmental staff and 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 such children.
Any reference to ‘Indigenous child’ is to be taken as a reference to an Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander or Maori child.
Children, Youth and Families Act
The legislation governing the provisions to transfer 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 central office coordinating interstate liaison officer (CILO).
All requests leaving Victoria go to the coordinating interstate liaison officer (CILO) in the receiving state via the divisional ILO.
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.
All alerts coming into Victoria must come via the CILO during business hours. Out of hours, alerts are made via the After Hours Child Protection Emergency Service (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 CILO, with the exception of after hours matters. The CILO however must be advised of the after hours alert on the next working day. All alerts will be sent to all CILOs 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.
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 CILO of the receiving state via the divisional ILO and should include:
- departmental history – outline the child protection concerns and intervention
- name, address and phone number of the person/s to be assessed
- reasons for seeking the assessment or placement
- 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, 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.
- results of criminal records checks on all adults in the home
- details of any history of contact with child protection.
For short term or holiday placements
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.
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 commitments
- 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.
For holiday assessments it is agreed between the states, territories and New Zealand that the majority of the assessment should be undertaken via the telephone by the division seeking the placement and a request made to the relevant interstate department for assessment of any areas requiring a face to face interview. For example, observations of the carer's home or interstate criminal records check.
Timeframe for assessment
Divisional ILOs should ensure completion of any requested assessment within six to eight weeks of receiving the interstate request unless special circumstances exist. Discussion must occur with the interstate department regarding the reason for any delay.
If practitioners need an assessment completed earlier, the request may still be forwarded to the CILO in the receiving state but the matter may be subcontracted at the expense of the state making the request. This will only be done with the practitioner's knowledge and consent. Where Victoria makes such a request, child protection 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.
Requests for casework
If a child subject to a protection order is placed interstate, the receiving and sending states would generally negotiate the transfer of the order in accordance with paragraphs 5-10 of the 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.
Interstate provision of information
Clause 26, Schedule 1 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.
Considerations for good practice
- 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.
- Incoming requests should be responded to as promptly as possible.
- Victoria should consent to any incoming transfer request unless exceptional circumstances exist.