Unidentified abandoned child

Follow this procedure when responding to reports regarding unidentified abandoned children.
Document ID number 1506, version 4 , 17 July 2020.

This procedure applies when child protection receives a report of an unidentified child who appears to have been abandoned, where the parents or family cannot be identified and reasonable attempts to identify the child have been exhausted.

All communication with media will be managed through the department’s media unit and Victoria Police.

This procedure should be read along with Publication of identifying details and associated advice detailed below.

For additional information see Unidentified abandoned child - advice.

Procedure – first 24–48 hours

Intake practitioner tasks

  • Register and process the report according to standard process for a report – see Receiving, registering and classifying a report. The report will be classified as a protective intervention report.
  • Continue attempts to identify the child and extended family as directed.

Team manager, deputy area operations manager, or area operations manager/director, child protection tasks

  • Assign an experienced practitioner to undertake the investigation and case management.
  • Substantiate the concern with the first visit recorded on the day of the initial contact with the child.
  • Restrict the CRIS file to the assigned practitioner, their line manager and AHCPES. Take any necessary steps to maintain the privacy of the child.
  • Brief line managers and executives up to and including directors.
  • Brief the media unit and keep them informed. Manage all issues and questions from the media unit quickly. Note that the media unit will assume responsibility for all communication with media outlets.
  • Endorse a protection application.
  • Consult the CPLO.
  • Oversee applications to the Children’s Court – this may include both a protection application and an application under s. 534.
  • Oversee the placement process, including consulting the adoption and permanent care team.
  • Make decision about placement with foster carers as soon as possible if no family members come forward. An infant will usually be cared for in hospital until a suitable discharge plan is in place. The decision about an interim placement can be critical to the child's long-term best interests. A placement with pre-adoptive foster carers is recommended, as these carers will have the experience to manage the issues and uncertainties.
  • Brief office reception and other affected staff on responding to inquiries. Take care not to release information about the child when responding to these calls. Keep a record of all calls, noting the date, caller’s details and brief details of enquiry and outcome.
  • Refuse offers of care. When a person offers to care for the child, they should be redirected to contact foster care agencies in their area, or the relevant adoption and permanent care teams, if they are interested in assessment and approval as a foster carer, permanent carer or adoptive parent.
  • If callers wish to donate a gift, tell them how to do this. 

Allocated case practitioner tasks

  • Keep in close communication with the PCU, the care agency worker, the CPLO and other key professionals (for example hospital social work if the child is in hospital).
  • Seek daily updates and directions from your manager.
  • Complete detailed records of all information and actions taken in CRIS.
  • Identify, record and store everything located with the child: clothing and other belongings, newspaper clippings, recordings of electronic media, cards and gifts from the public.

Area executive director, or director, child protection tasks

  • Brief the divisional deputy secretary and the director, office of professional practice.
  • Request that a senior police officer acts as a consistent point of contact for the department.
  • Establish a decision making group to provide oversight, coordination and communication, including a representative from the division (director or area operations manager, child protection), office of professional practice, legal services, media unit and Victoria Police.
  • Clarify and document roles and responsibilities. Agree on unambiguous lines of communication. Define processes for communication and decisions about media action and liaison with senior police. The core decision-making group should meet daily in the first week.
  • Establish a strategy to manage public inquiries. Consider establishing a dedicated phone line (preferably a 1800 number) and consult police about a Crime Stoppers phone line.
  • Determine a naming convention for the child if no name is known.
  • Ensure compliance with CYFA s. 534(1).
  • Consult legal services and office of professional practice about an application to the President of the Children's Court for an order to release identifying information (CYFA s. 534). See Publication of identifying details.
Ongoing case management

Allocated case practitioner tasks

  • Follow through on Children’s Court applications in consultation with the CPLO.
  • Consult legal services and senior staff from the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages about registering the birth if there is reason to believe the child’s birth is not registered.

Team manager tasks

  • Develop a case plan and consider a permanency objective of adoption or permanent care if the child’s parents cannot be located.

Area executive director, or director, child protection tasks

  • Complete an ‘Application for evidence of Australian citizenship – Form 119’ available online at the Department of Immigration and Border Protection website to give the child access to Medicare.
  • To access Medicare, evidence of Australian citizenship is required. Under s. 14 of the Australian Citizenship Act 2007, a person is an Australian citizen if the person is found abandoned in Australia as a child, unless and until the contrary is proven.