See Receiving, registering and classifying a report for tasks that must be undertaken.
Where child protection has received two consecutive reports in 12 months, neither of which have been investigated, irrespective of classification, any subsequent report received in that 12 month period must be investigated unless the deputy area operations manager , child protection or their delegate reviews the case and assesses that an investigation is not warranted.
If it is assessed an investigation is not warranted, the decision maker must record an explicit rationale for this decision in CRIS.
Additionally, if CRIS shows a report is the fifth report to be received about a child in their lifetime, and it is assessed that the report should not be classified as a protective intervention report, the child protection practitioner, supervisor and team manager and an independent reviewer should consider a detailed case review of the child protection history for that child with a specific focus upon issues related to cumulative harm. In such cases, a consultation with a practice leader or principal practitioner may be appropriate.
The deputy area operations manager may delegate the case review and decision to a team manager (or equivalent or more senior officer) subject to the requirement for an independent review as described in this advice.
The purpose of an independent review is to provide an assessment of the facts and circumstances of a report free of any preconception or influencing factors arising from previous consideration of the current report.
The independent review, conducted by a manger not directly involved in the current recommendation not to classify the report as a protective intervention report, is to provide an outcome assessment that is consistent with the child's best interests with heightened attention to issues of potential cumulative harm. The review should consider:
- Age, stage and development of the child at the first report and subsequent reports - is there information to suggest that child's development is being adversely impacted upon?
- Are the current reported harms consistent with the harms reported in the first and subsequent reports?
- Have the risk factors remained persistent over time indicating prolonged exposure of harm to the child?
- Have the risk factors escalated in severity or frequency?
- Are their multiple risk factors that may be now impacting on the child's safety, development and wellbeing?
- If previous reports included disclosures made by the child, how was the child responded to, to assess and address their concerns? If the report was closed at Intake, was there an agreement or plan for someone to talk with the child about their concerns? If the report was investigated, was the child interviewed about their disclosure, was the child given the opportunity to discuss their concerns?
Parental and family factors
- Are there multiple interlinked problems (risk factors) such as mental health problems, substance use and family violence - have they remained persistent over time, have they increased?
- Are there enduring parental problems impacting on their capacity to provide adequate care (such as intellectual disability or substance abuse)?
- Has parenting capacity strengthened or deteriorated over time?
- Is the reporter the only person who has reported concerns over time, or are there multiple reporters, reporting the same concerns but from differing perspectives thereby validating the concerns?
- If the reports are from one person and one perspective, have we made attempts to validate the concerns from other sources? What was the outcome?
- Are there formal and informal support networks for the child?
- Have referrals for support services, including Child FIRST, been made in the past? Did the family engage with the support service and if so, what was the level of engagement and was it sustained by the family?
- Do the support networks impact positively or negatively on the child's experience?
- Have the support networks reduced, is the child becoming isolated from supports - is the family socially isolated?
Previous report outcomes
- Were actions and outcomes from previous reviews targeted to address the child's needs?
- In cases previously referred to support services were the referrals strengthened by:
- Case conferencing with professionals and/or the family?
- Joint visit and/or co-work by the support agency with the reporter/child protection/a CSO?
Cumulative harm may be an issue in any report. Pattern and history of harm should always be considered as part of the initial assessment of every report. Past abuse or neglect in a family is a key indicator of current and future risk of harm to a child’s safety, development or wellbeing. Past history provides vital information relevant to the assessment of accumulated harm. Information about types of maltreatment to which a child has been exposed is also highly relevant. See Cumulative harm.
Implications of re-reports
Often where a reported concern has previously been assessed at intake as not meeting the threshold for investigation, the recurrence of the concern, or indicators of additional concerns should lead to an investigation to assess the risk of significant harm to the child. This may be through the accumulation of multiple types of maltreatment or a series or pattern of harmful experiences.
Where there has previously been a referral made or some level of protective intervention has occurred, a re-report may indicate that this was ineffective and that a period of sustained or different intervention may be required.
Some issues such as family violence, mental illness and substance abuse are recognised as likely to be chronic and relapsing in nature. This should be taken into account in assessment and planning to provide a response in the best interests of children affected by these issues.