Follow this procedure when managing reports about unborn children.
Document ID number 1004, version 9, 20 November 2021.

 

Introduction

Under the CYFA, child protection can:

  • receive an unborn child report
  • share information about the mother of the unborn child with an information holder or service provider, for the purpose of assessing risk or seeking advice on the most appropriate service to provide assistance
  • provide advice to the person who made the report
  • provide advice and assistance to the mother of the unborn child
  • 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.

For an unborn child report:

  • intervention can only occur with the mother’s consent
  • 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.

For additional information see Unborn child reports - advice.

Procedure

Case practitioner tasks

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 a child or sibling is Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, the 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 child is to be recorded on CRIS as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, irrespective of whether the other parent or carer identified the 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.

  • Seek further information, including contacting the maternity service which is providing or has previously provided antenatal care.
  • Update information in the essential information categories in CRIS.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Information contained in MARAM assessments can be used to inform your risk assessment, including recording family violence risk factors in the essential information categories in CRIS.

  • 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) - (03) 9388 2488
    • Mallee District Aboriginal Services ACSASS (Mallee area only) - 0429223833 (daytime), 0427474863 (after hours)
  • 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 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 an unborn intake risk assessment while working with the mother and family. The risk assessment assists with making the decision on whether to close the case in the unborn phase or whether to make a report once the child is born.

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 risk assessment 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, and 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.
  • 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
    • 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.

  • Undertake further assessment and casework.
  • Seek information from the ante-natal birth hospital and add the information to the essential information categories to inform your risk assessment and liaise with them regarding planning and pre and post birth support requirements for the mother and child.
  • Consult your supervisor about the assessment, plans for pre-birth support, safety plan following the birth, and next steps including convening a case conference or endorsement for case closure if assessment indicates sufficient safety will be present after the birth of the child.
  • Complete the intake risk assessment for the unborn phase requirements in CRIS and move the case to closure phase.

If the infant is born during an open unborn child report

  • Consult your supervisor.
  • Finalise the intake risk assessment for the unborn child to make a decision about actions.
  • 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.

Community-based senior child protection practitioner tasks during an open unborn child report

  • Undertake practitioner tasks above if case is allocated to the community-based senior child protection practitioner.
  • 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.

  • Enter a case note in CRIS noting the hospital details and the mother's residential details at the time of closure if the mother has moved since the unborn report was made.
  • Update information across the essential information categories to capture information about the parent’s identity, community and environment, family violence risk factors, strengths, and protections.
  • Maintain case responsibility and proactively work with the mother and her family, until the birth of the child.

Supervisor tasks

  • Provide ongoing supervision and consultation.

Team manager / practice leader tasks

  • Endorse the intake risk assessment prior to phase movement.
  • If, following the intake or review of the intake risk assessment for the unborn child, a decision is made for the report to remain open until the birth of the child, upon receiving advice of the birth, the intake 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:
    • intake risk assessment for the unborn child
    • classification and outcome of reports
    • priority and urgency of protective intervention reports.
  • Transfer cases to other teams.

Practice Dictionary Definition

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