With the introduction of SAFER in November 2021, the essential information categories replace what was previously known as areas of concern, types or harm and actions leading to harm.

Document ID number 2977.1, version 2, 30 June 2022.

Introduction

There are seven essential information categories.

They are:

  • child
  • parent/caregiver
  • family, community and environment
  • family violence
  • harm
  • strengths
  • protection and safety

Categories one (child), two (parents and caregivers) and three (family, community and environment) contain evidence-based risk factors for adverse outcomes as identified in a literature review by Gaskin Research (2017).

Category four is family violence. The evidence-based factors in this category have been developed with Family Safety Victoria. They align with MARAM. Serious risk factors are bolded in the child protection manual, and in CRIS appear in the colour orange.

Categories five and six are strengths, and protection and safety. They allow practitioners, managers and leaders to take a strengths-based approach. They help identify strengths that may provide safety (strengths demonstrated as protection over time) or can be built on to create safety and protection. Information on the SAFER framework is found in the SAFER children framework guide.

Category seven is harm. This category is the harm types under section 162 of the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005. Therapeutic treatment reports s. 244 of the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 is also included in category seven.

From intake phase onwards practitioners enter information and evidence into the supporting information box for each selected evidence-based factor within each essential information category. In this way, as information is received, additional information and evidence is added to build an emerging picture of the child within the context of their family, community and environment.

If a case is transferred to investigation, practitioners view the reported information in the essential information categories as part of the intake report and intake risk assessment.

The investigations practitioner investigates the reported concerns, adding information to the essential information categories.

The essential information categories are to be viewed as a dynamic activity throughout all phases of child protection. Practitioners regularly update the essential information categories and factors as they seek and store more information.

The factors within the essential information categories help to sort information that is sought and stored in case notes, assessments and other written material. They help by narrowing what is sometimes large amounts of information according to the indicators of vulnerabilities, risk and harm.

Prompts for using the essential information category of strengths, protection and safety

Strengths equal the positive characteristics that exist within children, parents and caregivers, family community and environment.

Protection equal strengths that are able to mitigate or reduce the identified harm and risk factors, providing protection for the child or young person

Safety equals ‘strengths demonstrated as protection over time’

Not all strengths equal protection, and not all protection equals safety for a child or young person.

Identified protection and safety for one child might not extend to other siblings. Each child’s individual characteristics and situation must be considered.

Tick the ‘provides protection and safety’ box if the identified strength has been demonstrated as providing protection and safety (remember the above definitions) for the individual children and young people subject to the report or intervention. If the box is ticked, document a clear rationale with evidence, for how the strength provides for protection and safety.

To identify that a person or service provides sufficient protection and safety, direct communication with that person or service will be made by Child Protection. An example of this is where Child Protection may have closed a case previously because a grandmother was taking responsibility for caring for the child when the parents were drug effected. On receipt of another report, undertake direct communication with the previously identified person to check in. What is their understanding of any current concerns? Was the previous plan adhered to by the parents? How does the person know it was effective in providing safety for the child?

Category 1: Child

Child identity

  • Identifies as LGBTQIA or unsure or questioning their sexuality or gender
  • Intellectual disability or low cognitive function
  • Is Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander
  • Is under 2 years of age
  • Physical disability or poor physical health
  • Is culturally, linguistically and faith diverse
  • Other

Child characteristics

  • Alcohol or substance use
  • Changes in behaviour
  • Disrupted education
  • Frequent or unusual attendance of child at emergency departments or health services
  • Has a history of abuse or neglect
  • Involved with police or youth justice, or criminal behaviour
  • Is pregnant
  • Mental health issue, conduct or behavioural disorder
  • Risk taking behaviours
  • Other

Category 2: Parents and caregivers

Parent and caregivers identity

  • Identifies as LGBTQIA or unsure or questioning their sexuality or gender
  • Intellectual disability or low cognitive function
  • Is Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander
  • Is culturally, linguistically and faith diverse
  • Poor physical health or a physical disability
  • Under the age of 20 when first child was born
  • Other

Parent and caregiver characteristics

  • A child died or injured in either parent's care
  • A child was removed from either parent's care
  • Alcohol misuse compromises child safety and wellbeing
  • Attachment difficulties
  • Child's birth or pregnancy was complicated
  • Drug use compromises child safety and wellbeing
  • Experienced childhood abuse or was in care
  • Frequent or unusual attendance of parent at emergency departments or health services
  • Involved with police or criminal justice system
  • Involves the child in crime or anti-social behaviour
  • Is pregnant
  • Mental illness compromises child safety and wellbeing
  • Offers unconvincing explanation for harm
  • Parent engages in violent extremism
  • Parent refusal of services - hostility or passive co-operation
  • Parent unwilling or unable to sustain protective changes
  • Person alleged responsible for harm has access to child
  • Poor parenting skills or knowledge
  • Transient or homeless
  • Minimises responsibility for harm
  • Other

Category 3: Family, community and environment

Family

  • Complex family circumstance
  • Intergenerational trauma history
  • Previous involvement with child protection
  • Other

Community and environment

  • Limited collaboration between services
  • Limited service availability or accessibility
  • Socially isolated or limited social network
  • Socioeconomic disadvantage
  • Other

Category 4: Family violence

 This category aligns with MARAM risk factors. Serious risk factors are in bold and appear in orange in CRIS. This category lists evidence-based factors for family violence in sub-categories of:  

Adult victim survivor circumstance

  • Adult victim has been physically assaulted whilst pregnant or following new birth
  • Adult victim has been seriously harmed (physically) by perpetrator
  • Adult victim has been emotionally abused by family members
  • Adult victim survivor has been stalked by perpetrator
  • Adult victim planning to leave perpetrator or recently separated
  • Adult victim's self-assessed level of risk (afraid of the perpetrator currently)
  • Has there been an escalation or increase in severity/ frequency of violence
  • Perpetrator behaviour toward the adult victim is obsessive or jealous
  • Adult victim access to money/negatively impacted their financial situation
  • Controlled adult victim's day-to-day activities or put them down
  • Forced adult victim survivor to have sex/ participate in sexual acts
  • Isolated the adult victim survivor
  • Perpetrator has threatened to kill the adult victim survivor
  • Perpetrator has threatened to harm the adult victim survivor
  • Perpetrator has tried to strangle or choke the adult victim survivor
  • Other

Child victim survivor circumstance

  • Child victim survivor is a victim of other harm
  • Child victim has been emotionally abused by perpetrator
  • Child victim has been isolated by perpetrator
  • Child victim survivor has been physically harmed by the perpetrator
  • Child victim survivor has been sexually assaulted by the perpetrator
  • Child victim has been stalked by the perpetrator
  • Child victim has intervened in the violence
  • Child victim survivor is the subject of a professional or statutory intervention
  • Child Victim survivor has been present during and/or exposed to family violence
  • Child aged under 1 year old
  • Perpetrator behaviour indicates non-return of child victim survivor
  • Perpetrator behaviour toward the child victim is obsessive or jealous
  • Perpetrator has threatened to harm the child victim survivor
  • Perpetrator has threatened to kill the child victim survivor
  • Perpetrator has tried to strangle or choke the child victim survivor
  • Perpetrator undermines the parent-child relationship
  • Other

Perpetrator behaviour

  • Exhibits controlling behaviours towards adult or child victim survivors
  • Has assaulted a previous partner while she was pregnant or following birth
  • Has breached a Family Violence Order or other court order
  • Has damaged property
  • Has harmed or killed pets or animals, or has threatened to
  • Has threatened or attempted self-harm or suicide
  • Other

Perpetrator circumstance

  • Has a history of family violence to previous partners or other family members
  • Has a history of other violent or criminal behaviour
  • Has access to a weapon to perpetrate violence
  • Has mental illness or depression (current or historical)
  • Is currently unemployed or disengaged from education
  • Misuses drugs, alcohol or other substances
  • Perpetrator has used a weapon to perpetrate violence
  • Other

Adolescent using violence

  • Calls family members abusive names
  • Demands that family members do what they want them to do
  • Kicked family members
  • Pushed, shoved or grabbed family members
  • Puts family members down
  • Says things to scare family members
  • Screams or yells at family members
  • Slapped, hit or punched family members
  • Threatened or physically hurt siblings
  • Threats to kill family members
  • Threw, hit, kicked or smashed something during an argument
  • Tried to choke a family member
  • Tries to get their own way by intimidating and threating family members
  • Used a knife or weapon against a family member

Category 5: Strengths

NOTE: No factors are specified, allowing strengths to be identified, as well as where those strengths are considered to provide protection and/or safety.

  • Child
  • Parent
  • Family
  • Community and environment

Category 6: Protection and safety

NOTE: In this essential information category, there are no specified evidence-based factors. Practitioner can select ‘other’ and add information or evidence. If there are no protection and or safety  identified, practitioners can document ‘no identified strengths at this time’ in the ‘other’ box for the subcategories of:

  • Child
  • Parent
  • Family
  • Community and environment

Category 7: Harm

This category lists the harms as per the grounds under s. 162 of the Children, Youth and Families Act and s. 244 of the Act for children in need of therapeutic treatment.

S 162 (1)(a) Abandonment

  • Parent has abandoned child no other suitable person willing and able to care for the child

S 162 (1)(b) Parents are dead or incapacitated

  • Child's parents are dead
  • Child's parents are incapacitated

S 162 (1)(c) Physical injury

  • Physical assault
  • Other physical abuse
  • Female genital mutilation
  • Induced illness or fictitious disorder
  • Physical injury without reasonable explanation
  • Inappropriate discipline

S 162 (1)(d) Sexual abuse

  • Contact with convicted child sex offender
  • Developmentally inappropriate sexual behaviour by child
  • Exposure to pornography or sex acts
  • Grooming towards child
  • Sexual exploitation
  • Sexual penetration or assault
  • Sexualised touching or contact
  • Other sexual abuse

S 162 (1)(e) Emotional or psychological

  • Attachment disruption
  • Child has experienced significant trauma
  • Child has risky or significant concerning behaviour
  • Parent has threatened to abandon child
  • Excessive criticism or verbal abuse
  • Forced marriage
  • Radicalise to extremism or ideology
  • Rejection or blaming of child
  • Threaten to kill or harm child
  • Other emotional or psychological harm

S 162 (1)(f) Physical development or health

  • Failure to ensure adequate education
  • Failure to provide adequate care or supervision
  • Failure to provide adequate food or fluids
  • Failure to provide adequate shelter or space
  • Failure to ensure adequate development
  • Other physical development or health harm

TTR s244

  • Inappropriate harmful or abusive sexual behaviours towards animals
  • Inappropriate harmful or abusive sexual behaviours towards others
  • Inappropriate harmful or abusive sexual behaviours towards self
  • Inappropriate sexual behaviour by child towards a child of similar or older age or adult
  • Inappropriate sexual behaviour by child towards younger child.

Prompts for using the essential information category of strengths, protection and safety:

Strengths equal the positive characteristics that exist within children, parents and caregivers, family community and environment.

Protection equal strengths that are able to mitigate or reduce the identified harm and risk factors, providing protection for the child or young person

Safety equals ‘strengths demonstrated as protection over time’

Not all strengths equal protection, and not all protection equals safety for a child or young person.

Identified protection and safety for one child might not extend to other siblings. Each child’s individual characteristics and situation must be considered.

Select the 'other' box if the identified strength has been demonstrated as providing protection and safety (remember the above definitions) for the individual children and young people subject to the report or intervention. If the box is selected, document a clear rationale with evidence, for how the strength provides for protection and safety.

To identify that a person or service provides sufficient protection and safety, direct communication with that person or service will be made by Child Protection. An example of this is where child protection may have closed a case previously because a grandmother was taking responsibility for caring for the child when the parents were drug effected. On receipt of another report, undertake direct communication with the previously identified person to check in. What is their understanding of any current concerns? Was the previous plan adhered to by the parents? How does the person know it was effective in providing safety for the child?

Practice Dictionary Definition

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