Consultation with specialist practitioners
This advice outlines the requirements and processes for obtaining, using and documenting advice from four specialist practitioner roles within the child protection program.
Document ID number 3206, version 7, 30 June 2022.
Strengthening support and supervision is a central objective of the child protection operating model. The model values and promotes the input of practitioners with practice expertise and experience to consolidate a more supportive and educative environment for child protection practitioners in their work with vulnerable children, young people and families.
Consultation with a specialist practitioner is undertaken to broaden understanding of case dynamics and assist with planning and decision making. Consultation in this context occurs outside of a practitioner’s supervisory and management line however should occur with these positions being aware of the consultation occurring, at times with them taking part in the consultation.
Creating a record of the consultation on the client’s file is critical to ensure that:
- the purpose for the consultation is accurately reflected
- actions and directions arising from the consultation are accurately reflected
- the consultation assists to guide implementation of the actions and is available on CRIS to inform future work.
When seeking a consultation with a specialist practitioner, be prepared with the most recent risk assessment, case plan (where applicable) and purpose of the consultation. Following the consultation consider a review risk assessment if new information is received or identified that may change the risk assessment.
For the purposes of this advice, the term ‘specialist practitioner’, is used generically to refer to:
- Chief Practitioner Office of Professional Practice (Chief Practitioner)
- state-wide principal practitioner
- divisional principal practitioner
- practice leader.
Consultation in this context refers to the process by which information is shared and advice is given outside standard line management. Specialist practitioners can provide primary or secondary case consultation:
- primary case consultation – direct work with clients, their carers, child protection practitioners and case managers on complex cases
- secondary case consultation – discussion, advice and recommendations to child protection practitioners, case managers and case planners and other key service partners regarding complex cases.
Specialist practitioners can also undertake case reviews that examine part or all the history of an individual case to evaluate practice effectiveness and outcomes, and identify opportunities for improvement.
Consultations available from divisional specialist practitioners
The complexity of child protection practice and decision-making often requires multi-disciplinary and specialist input. Child protection area teams feature practice leaders to support, guide and develop child protection practitioners through co-working, modelling and reflective discussion and advice.
Where additional input into risk assessment and decision making is indicated, child protection practitioners should seek to utilise the expertise available to them from their local practice leader.
Practice leaders can carry a case load and work with child protection practitioners through hands-on case management, leading and assisting with joint interviews and assessments, family-led and professional case conferences, and professional development. Practice leaders are responsible for endorsing decisions to reclassify infants from ‘infant intensive response required’ to ‘infant response required’.
See procedure Infant risk assessment and response decision.
It is not mandatory to use the Principal Practitioner and Practice Leader case consultation form when seeking a consultation with a practice leader. Practitioners may use it to clarify the consultation purpose and assist discussion.
Consulting a practice leader
Practice leaders may be consulted on the following matters:
- when a child is having contact with a convicted or registered sex offender
- when consideration is being given to closing a report about a child in contact in contact with a sex offender in the intake phase or at any time during child protection involvement.(See procedure Child in contact with sex offender for tasks that must be undertaken)
Practitioners may use the Principal Practitioner and Practice Leader case consultation form when seeking a consultation with a practice leader to clarify the consultation purpose and assist the discussion. This is not a mandatory requirement.
Divisional principal practitioners
Divisional principal practitioners are part of the divisional child protection leadership team within each operational division and provide practice leadership, consultancy and advice to child protection practitioners. Divisional principal practitioners can work with child protection practitioners through a co-allocation of case management or provide mentoring to practitioners where the principal practitioner is directly allocated a case.
In more complex, challenging and high risk matters, clinical expertise, skill and capability is required to inform assessment and decision making. The role of the divisional principal practitioner is to provide such capability to child protection practitioners including practice leaders, senior practitioners and team managers.
Requests for a consultation with a divisional principal practitioner requires endorsement of a senior child protection practitioner at the CPP5 level or above. The Principal Practitioner and Practice Leader case consultation form should be completed for scheduled consultations with a principal practitioner, and in particular for mandatory consultation requirements.
Consulting a divisional principal practitioner
The divisional principal practitioner may be consulted on the following matters:
- when a child or young person is identified as being at risk of sexual exploitation (see procedure Sexual exploitation for tasks that must be undertaken).
- when a child is having contact with a convicted or registered sex offender,
- when consideration is being given to closing a report about a child in contact with a sex offender in the intake phase or at any time during child protection involvement. (see procedure Child in contact with sex offender for tasks that must be undertaken), and;
- when consideration is being given to placing a young person in Secure Care (see procedure Secure Care Services Placement).
The divisional principal practitioner must be consulted on the following matter:
- when a young person is aged 16 years 9 months or more and has a disability or complex medical need and Child Protection has decided to close the case (see Closing a case procedure and Disability and complex medical needs advice for tasks to be undertaken).
Authority of advice and direction from divisional principal practitioner
The advice and direction provided by a divisional principal practitioner during a consultation is authoritative and should be acted on promptly.
If after a consultation has occurred differing views emerge regarding the direction of a case these should be brought back to the divisional principal practitioner for further discussion and resolution.
If the differing views cannot be resolved with the divisional principal practitioner, the matter should be referred to the director or area operations manager, Child Protection, to mediate an outcome.
If the matter remains unresolved, the area executive director is the final position for resolving the issues and setting the final advice on the case.
Consultation, advice and direction from the Office of Professional Practice
The Office of Professional Practice (the office) provides practice leadership and evidence-informed directions and recommendations about child protection practice.
The office, through the chief practitioner and the statewide principal practitioners, has responsibility for:
- Providing practice leadership and making authoritative decisions based on sound practice expertise and contemporary research.
- Intervening in and assisting case management of high risk, extremely complex or sensitive cases across divisions as agreed by the area manager and the office.
- Preparing and presenting comprehensive reports, briefings and submissions on complex cases as required.
- Providing practice supervision to divisional principal practitioners.
- Contributing to the professional capability of practice leaders and other child protection practitioners.
- Providing Court Practice Advice and Support (CPAS) consultations.
In relation to case practice and leadership, the office has a focus on supporting assessment and management of high risk, complex and challenging cases (including infant intensive response required cases).
The office is expected to undertake assessments and make decisions in relation to a range of high-risk case matters:
- proposed kinship placements where a criminal history check of an adult significant to the placement has revealed a category one offence
- sexual exploitation of a child or young person requiring coordinated police or court response
- action to be taken to the Supreme Court and County Courts
- transfer of young people from youth justice centres to adult prisons
- when children are being administered medicinal cannabis.
The office must also be advised of client matters with a significant public profile (for example, interest from media or ministers) or the potential for significant public interest and that involve external review bodies (Ombudsman, Disability Services Commissioner, or Commission for Children and Young People).
In addition to specific cases where it is mandatory to either consult with or inform the office, requests for case review and consultation can be made where there are serious concerns and specialist input is required to inform decision making.
Requesting a consultation with a statewide principal practitioner and chief practitioner
Referrals to the office for a case consultation, or case practice review will be considered on the basis of factors such as:
- immediacy of incident
- opportunity for capacity building
- systemic learning and professional development
- resource availability and need for specialisation, and
- source of referral or request.
Case consultation request forms are available on the Office of Professional Practice web page.
Information about CPAS, including consultation referral pathways is found on the CPAS sharepoint webpage.
Child protection referrals to the office must be discussed with the divisional principal practitioner or area operations manager/director, child protection, prior to submitting a consultation request.
Completed consultation request forms should include the endorsement of a senior manager at CPP6 or VPS6 level or above and be emailed to email@example.com for Integrated Specialist Practice including Statewide Principal Practitioners, and OPPCourtPracticeAdviceandSupport@dffh.vic.gov.au for Court Practice Advice and Support.
Authority of advice and direction from the Office of Professional Practice
The chief practitioner and statewide principal practitioners lead the provision of specialist practice advice and consultation regarding child protection practice and service delivery across the state. The practice advice and leadership they provide is authoritative and should be acted upon promptly.
Should differing views emerge during a statewide principal practitioner consultation the matter should be raised with the chief practitioner who will be responsible for determining the final advice on the case.
Recording specialist practitioner consultation advice and recommendations
See Case recording for requirements regarding case related consultations with a specialist practitioner. Note that all such consultations must be recorded on the client file.