Under the CYFA, Child Protection can:
- receive an unborn child report
- provide advice to the person who made the report
- provide advice and assistance to the mother of the unborn child, with her consent
- refer the mother of the unborn child to a community-based child and family service or a service agency to provide advice, service and support, with the mother's consent.
Under the Child Wellbeing and Safety Act (CWSA), Child Protection can:
- exchange information from prescribed entities regarding an unborn child in the interests of establishing if and what advice, assistance and referrals should be provided to the mother
- engage in assessments and planning in the interests of establishing if and what advice, assistance and referrals should be provided to the mother
- complete the above with or without the mother’s consent.
For an unborn child report:
- risk assessments relating to the unborn child are not conducted
- the report cannot be classified as a protective intervention report so there can be no investigation, substantiation decision, or protective intervention
- a protection application cannot be made prior to the child’s birth
- the case relates to the provision of advice, assistance and referrals to the mother, and should be closed once these goals are achieved or if the mother does not consent to receive the recommended supports.
For additional information see Unborn child reports - advice.
Case practitioner tasks
- Obtain information from the reporter about the:
- details of their concerns for the unborn child
- parent, siblings and extended family of the unborn child
- whether the child or the family is Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, Maori or from a culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) community.
Identifying Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children who are involved with Child Protection in Victoria is a practice requirement.
If the reporter (or other source) does not know if the unborn child or sibling is Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, the unborn child's Aboriginal status should be recorded as under assessment on the client file (CRIS) and further enquiries made later.
Practitioners are to proactively ask if each child and each parent is Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander.
Where either parent identifies as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, the unborn child is to be recorded on CRIS as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, irrespective of whether the other parent or carer identified the unborn child as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander.
- Register the report in CRIS as an ‘Intake – unborn child’ report and group save the unborn child in CRIS with any siblings or the mother if she is a current or previous client. The worker allocated to siblings and/or mother may also undertake any of the actions in this procedure.
If the mother is transient the case should be managed by the division that received the report until the mother is in stable accommodation or the location of the child's birth is known. If, at the time of report, the mother is in hospital or prison, the mother's last known home address determines case responsibility.
- Consult with ACSASS where it is known or believed that the unborn child is Aboriginal. The mother’s consent is not required for this consultation to occur:
- Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (Lakidjeka) ACSASS (entire state except for the Mallee area)
- Mallee District Aboriginal Services ACSASS
- Seek further information, as required, to determine the outcome of the unborn report (i.e. provide advice to the reporter, provide advice and assistance to the mother of the unborn, or refer the mother to a community-based child and family service or service agency). Consideration should be given to contacting the maternity service that is providing or has previously provided antenatal care to seek further relevant information to assist with determining the outcome.
- Sort the information throughout the Essential Information Categories (note categories and sub-categories relating to a child or harm will not be active for the unborn).
- Where information received leads you to suspect or form a belief family violence is a protective concern:
- complete an L17 Family Violence Historical Search to understand the perpetrator’s pattern and history of family violence, frequency, the nature of the violence (for example, coercive control, significant physical or verbal abuse, including threats to kill).
- If you are aware that a MARAM assessment has been completed by another service, request their assessment and save their assessment to CRIS. Provide the service with any new information relating to family violence risk, so they can review and update their MARAM assessment.
- Where no MARAM assessment exists, complete a MARAM assessment based on known risk factors (including those identified by the adult victim survivor). In Intake phase this will be a Brief MARAM assessment focused on the adult victim survivor - completed in paper form and uploaded to CRIS. In other phases this will be an Intermediate MARAM assessment focused on the adult victim survivor and any siblings.
Information contained in MARAM assessments can and should be used to inform your assessments regarding the most appropriate advice, assistance and referrals to the mother.
- Convene a case conference if required (see unborn child reports advice 'Appropriate circumstances').
- Consult with your supervisor and determine the report outcome.
- Inform the reporter of the outcome of the report, unless contrary to the best interests of the unborn child.
- If it is determined, by considering the risk indicators identified in the report, that the Secretary should provide advice and assistance to the mother of the unborn, transfer the client file to either the community-based senior Child Protection practitioner, or the existing practitioner allocated to the unborn child’s sibling group.
If the mother is a child protection client (tasks for mother's case practitioner)
- Consider whether an unborn report should be made if the mother is subject to Child Protection intervention or a protection order. Consult with your supervisor regarding this decision.
- If it is determined an unborn report is not required, record this decision and associated rationale in the mother’s CRIS file.
- Consult with Victoria Police if evidence suggests the mother became pregnant while under the age of 16 years or the pregnancy is the result of a crime.
- Complete a category one Incident Report where she is subject to a family reunification order, care by Secretary order or long-term care order.
- Review mother’s risk assessment and complete a review risk assessment on CRIS.
When Child Protection is currently involved with siblings (tasks for siblings' case practitioner)
- If you become aware that the mother of a current client is pregnant, consider, through consultation with your supervisor, and where required with a practice leader, whether an unborn child report should be made.
- If it is determined an unborn report is not required, record this decision and associated rationale in the CRIS file of the current client.
- Consider reviewing the siblings’ risk assessment on their CRIS file if the mother’s pregnancy is impacting or changing the level of risk for the children. Complete CRIS requirements, including records of actions, decisions and rationales.
- If an unborn report is made, the worker completes all unborn intake tasks, including completion of case notes and SAFER statement while working with the mother and family. The SAFER statement is not a risk assessment, however, it may include details of follow-up required to determine what, if any, advice, assistance and referrals should be provided to the mother. The case notes should reflect the steps taken to identify and recommend support, including any planning with professionals.
If referring the mother to a child and family service or a service agency
- Contact the mother, advise her of the report and seek her consent to referrals.
- If consent is provided, complete referrals.
- Complete CRIS requirements, including records of actions, decisions and rationales.
- Complete intake tasks and move the case to closure phase.
If providing advice and assistance to the mother (tasks for either existing child protection practitioner or community based senior child protection practitioner as applicable)
- Contact the mother to:
- advise her of the report
- seek her consent to Child Protection involvement
- seek her consent to the involvement of the father of her unborn child or other children. The mother’s consent must be obtained before involving the father or any other non-professional person.
- Complete Worker safety checklist.
- Consult your supervisor and the practice leader when high-risk factors are present if the mother refuses or withdraws consent at any time. Consider a professional case conference in accordance with Part 6A of the CWSA to exchange information with prescribed information sharing entities.
- At the initial contact with the mother:
- identify yourself and show identification
- explain the role and legal mandate of Child Protection, including explaining the limited mandate in relation to unborn child reports
- interview the mother about the reported concerns
- if family violence has been identified, complete a MARAM for adult victim/survivor, this will need to be a paper MARAM, and upload this in a case note
- comply with the confidentiality provisions of the CYFA
- consider interviewing other children in the home not subject to the report, with parental consent or by initiating a report, unless the other children are current clients.
Other than in legally prescribed circumstances, the name of the reporter or any person who has provided information in confidence during the investigation or any information likely to lead to their identification must not be disclosed without the written consent of the person – s. 209 (1) CYFA.
- Complete all case notes, including what assistance, advice, and referrals should be/are being/have been provided to the mother.
- Seek information from and share information with the ante-natal birth hospital to aid the provision of assistance, advice and referrals to the mother; sort the information throughout the Essential Information Categories and ensure the information is included in your case notes to inform your planning. This can include discussing pre- and post-birth support requirements for the mother and child.
- Where family violence has been identified, consider what service is best placed to undertake an intermediate or comprehensive MARAM assessment with the mother.
- Consult your supervisor about the service needs, pre and post-birth plans, and next steps, including convening a case conference.
- Maintain case responsibility and proactively work with the mother until the birth of the child.
- If sufficient, support will be in place after the birth of the child, consult your supervisor about endorsing case closure.
- If the mother has moved since the unborn report was made, enter a case note in CRIS noting the hospital details and the mother's residential details at the time of closure.
- If it is determined that the case will be closed, complete the intake tasks in CRIS and move the case to closure phase.
If the infant is born during an open unborn child report
- Consult your supervisor.
- Complete or review the intake notes in CRIS to make a decision about whether an intake report will be made for the child.
- Close the unborn child report, or progress to an intake report for the child by completing the CRIS requirements and select the appropriate outcome – see Receiving, registering and classifying a report or Closing a case.
- In the event the mother moves to another area or division, consider whether to continue to manage the unborn child report until it is closed.
- A case transfer may be negotiated where the mother is seeking assistance to connect her with services local to her new location and it is her intention to remain in that location. Alternatively, a request to undertake case tasks in the new division may be made.
- Provide ongoing supervision and consultation.
Team manager/practice leader tasks
- If the case has remained open until the birth of the child, upon receiving advice of the birth, the team manager will close the unborn child report and make a new report regarding the newborn child to the appropriate division.
- Provide ongoing supervision and consultation.
- Endorse key decisions including:
- classification and outcome of reports
- priority and urgency of protective intervention reports.
- Transfer cases to other teams.