When a parent’s drug use is believed to be impacting on their parenting, child protection may refer them for a drug screen to inform the risk assessment regarding their ability to care for their child. Drug screens may be ordered as a condition on a Children’s Court order, or a parent may voluntarily agree to this as part of the child protection investigation or case planning process.
If a drug screen is required where a protection application has not been issued and a parent refuses, consider whether an application for a temporary assessment order may be appropriate and discuss this with the Child Protection Litigation Office (CPLO).
Individuals who provide drug screens for child protection purposes, will be fully supervised by collection site staff when providing a sample, that means someone will be in the room watching whilst the urine sample is being provided. The pathology provider use the terminology ‘witnessed’.
See Drug screens – advice for further information.
Administrative worker tasks
- Record referral forms issued to the parent by child protection practitioners accurately on a spreadsheet. Include the child protection practitioner’s name, the child’s CRIS number, the parent/s names, the number of referral forms provided to the parent and the date issued.
- Reconcile this spreadsheet with details provided monthly by finance by the deadline provided.
- Request referral forms, as required, direct from the pathology provider. Contact details can be found in the FAQs regarding drug screen results.
Case practitioner tasks
- Complete a referral form with the parent’s details, and the type of screen that is being requested, including whether confirmation of the screen is required or not. All referral forms must be original. Copies will not be accepted by collection sites.
You must use a referral form that has your unique team code on it, as this is attached to your cost centre for billing purposes, and gives you access to the results via the online e-viewer system.
- Record the child’s CRIS number on the referral form. If there is more than one child in the family, decide which sibling’s CRIS number to record and use the same number on each form for consistency and accuracy. Record the CRIS number used on CRIS.
- Record your name on the referral form, next to your team’s pre-printed name and code. This is required in the event there is an issue with the drug screen and the pathology provider needs to identify the allocated child protection practitioner.
- Record your name, team name and team code when using a blank referral form located at all metropolitan Children’s Courts.
- Provide the completed referral form to the parent. Only provide a small number of referral forms at one time.
- Inform the parent of the collection pathology sites they can attend; their opening hours; requirements to produce photographic identification and expectation of behaviour on attendance. Confirm their understanding and remind them to attend at least 15 minutes prior to the time slot ending.
For an up to date list of available collection pathology sites, refer to Drug screen collection sites for child protection. This is updated monthly.
- Provide the parent with an information sheet regarding drug screens. This includes information about drug screens and requirements, such as the need to have photographic identification (photo ID) in the prescribed form. See Drug screens - information sheet for parents.
If a parent does not have photo ID, provide the parent with a letter, which includes their photo (either a passport photo or one taken by you), confirming their identity. This letter is only valid at collection sites for a period of four weeks from the date the letter was signed. The letter must be dated.
For security and accuracy of screens, parents must produce appropriate photo ID and cannot rely on a letter issued by the department in the long term. Support parents to secure photo ID such as a driving licence, passport, proof of age card or keypass card issued from Australia Post, where required.
- Remind parents not to take children to the collection site unless they have another adult who can attend and provide appropriate supervision in the waiting room.
- Once the screen has been completed, access the results online via the e-viewer, usually available within 24-48 hours. If you do not know the username and password to access your team e-viewer account, please contact your team manager.
You must use the username and password allocated to your team to access the results linked to your unique team referral form.
- Record the results of the screen on CRIS in the relevant section. Ensure the results are recorded against each child in the family (save to the group).
- Discuss the results with your supervisor should you require assistance, and consult the e-learning module on reading and interpreting drug screens and review the FAQs regarding drug screen results. Should you need further assistance, please see the FAQs regarding drug screen results for contact details.
Do not contact collection site direct or the laboratory as they will be unable to assist and this will delay the efficiency of child protection receiving results.
- Discuss the results with the parent and consider these results as part of your assessment of the impact of drug use and the overall risk assessment.
- Only share the results of the drug screen as required to carry out your responsibilities under the CYFA, for example, with Court and specialist drug services, and to the extent necessary with the care team. See Information sharing in child protection practice.
- If a parent fails to provide a drug screen and it is a condition of a Children’s Court order, explain the potential consequences of non-compliance, that is the order being breached and returning to court.
- If a parent refuses to agree, or fails to provide a drug screen to which they have agreed, prior to the issuing of a protection application, discuss with your team manager whether it is appropriate to apply for a temporary assessment order to secure a drug screen from the parent and discuss options with CPLO.
- Provide assistance and direction regarding when it is appropriate to refer a parent for drug screens.
Team manager or practice leader tasks
- Endorse the decision that drug screens are required.
- Consider the relevance of drug screens to the overall risk assessment, how this relates to case planning and whether they are being provided subject to court orders or by agreement.
Parents should not be asked to agree to provide drug screens, and a condition regarding drug screens should not be recommended to the Court, if the parent’s drug use is not relevant to the safety and protection of the child.
- Endorse alternative arrangements for obtaining drug screens that are needed that attract additional costs, for example using an alternative provider when exceptional circumstances exist.
- Endorse any action required if a parent refuses or fails to comply with drug screens, taking into account whether this is court-ordered, or had been requested or agreed as part of the child protection investigation or case planning process. This includes discussing the option of applying for a temporary assessment order with CPLO where appropriate.
- Ensure accurate information is recorded by administrative staff.
- Liaise with central procurement regarding any billing queries and provide information as requested.
Local area contact tasks
The local area contact is the nominated representative from your area – normally a practice leader,deputy area operations manager, or area operations manager/director, child protection.
- Liaise with the pathology provider to address any local issues.
- Liaise with Child Protection Unit in the Children and Families Branch for any emerging statewide issues.
- Drug screens - advice
- Drug screens - information sheet for parents
- Drug screen collection sites for child protection
- Drug and alcohol assessments - advice
- Drug and alcohol assessment and treatment services
- Parental substance use assessment tool
- Drug treatment services
- Information sharing- Our approach
- Temporary assessment orders (TAO) - advice
- FAQs regarding drug screen results- Forms and secure documents
- Understanding and interpreting drug screen results