Assessing and managing family violence during the investigation phase
Follow this procedure when assessing family violence in the investigation phase.
Document ID number 1042, version 2, 6 December 2021.
Investigating family violence concerns requires careful planning for the safety of the child, adult victim survivor and practitioners. Practitioners need to be attuned and alert to the presence of family violence throughout the investigation phase and continue to review the level of risk posed by the perpetrator.
See Assessing and managing family violence in child protection - advice for further information.
Case practitioner tasks
See Conducting the risk assessment - procedure for tasks that are undertaken to complete the risk assessment during investigation phase and for substantiation.
- Consider previous risk assessments and the current intake risk assessment and those provided by other services, such as the police or specialist family violence services (including MARAM intermediate and comprehensive assessments).
- Identify any missing information from any previous assessments to seek during the investigation.
- Conduct an L17 Family Violence portal search to ascertain the perpetrator’s pattern and history of family violence, frequency, the nature of the violence, for example, significant physical or verbal abuse including threats to kill.
- Consider risk factors posed by the perpetrator for worker safety planning and the possible need for a joint visit with police.
- Plan how and where you will interview the child, adult victim survivor and perpetrator taking into account their safety, support needs and worker safety.
- Record this information in your investigation plan.
- Ensure you have the safety plan templates and family violence prompt tool in your outreach kit.
- If you have been provided with a risk assessment undertaken by another service:
- upload the assessment tool as a case note on CRIS with the subject heading:
MARAM risk assessment <name of agency> - at <risk/elevated risk/serious risk/serious risk and requires immediate protection>.
- Provide Victoria Police with the result of any risk assessment completed by the department, including the MARAM assessment where requested. This will support Victoria Police to bring an application for a family violence intervention order in the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria.
- Request Victoria Police or the Magistrates’ Court to provide you with the outcome of any family violence intervention order applications.
- Seek information on the victim survivors’ previous experience of family violence to inform assessments about cumulative harm for the child.
- Consider completing a safety plan, if safe to do so (not to be undertaken in the perpetrator’s presence). Use the safety plan tool to assist safety planning for each member of the family.
- Update the essential information categories as soon as possible to reflect family violence concerns.
If you identify serious risk factors (those that are linked with high chance of serious injury including death, which appear in orange in CRIS), take action to address any immediate safety needs of the adult victim survivor and the child. This may include assisting the adult victim survivor and child to seek emergency accommodation and other supports.
- Record the adult or child victim survivor’s safety plan in CRIS as a scanned copy attached to a case note titled:
Family violence safety plan <name of adult of child victim survivor> (not to be provided to <name of perpetrator>.
- Complete the risk assessment and MARAM assessment in CRIS, and assign a risk rating and rationale. The risk ratings are:
- At risk – serious-risk factors are not present; some other recognised family violence risk factors are present.
- Elevated risk - a number of risk factors are present, including some serious risk factors, risk is likely to continue if risk management is not initiated/increased. The likelihood of a serious outcome is not high.
- Serious risk - a number of serious risk factors are present, frequency or severity of risk factors may have changed/escalated, serious outcomes may have occurred from current violence and it is indicated further serious outcomes from the use of violence by the perpetrator is likely and may be imminent.
- Serious risk and requires immediate protection - escalation of severity of violence has occurred or is likely to occur, previous strategies for risk management have been unsuccessful.
Note – the adult victim survivor and child victim survivor may have different risk ratings.
- Implement the appropriate risk management strategies for the assessed level of risk.
MARAM risk ratings
- Consider implementing the below key risk management strategies and actions for each MARAM risk rating.
- At risk:
- safety planning with the adult and/or child victim survivor
- secondary consultation with co-located specialist family violence worker and/or specialist in a particular field for example perpetrator services, cultural and linguistically diverse communities, Aboriginal children and families, LGBTIQ and so on
- referral to appropriate support services
- considering the perpetrators readiness (or otherwise) to address their behaviour.
- Elevated risk:
- safety planning with the adult and child victim survivor
- referrals for the child and adult victim survivors to relevant services
- considering the perpetrator’s readiness (or otherwise) to address their behaviour
- secondary consultation with co-located specialist family violence worker and/or specialist in a particular field, for example perpetrator services, cultural and linguistically diverse communities, Aboriginal children and families, LGBTIQ and so on
- case conference for the purposes of managing risk and collaboration with services.
- Serious risk:
- consulting the co-located specialist family violence worker. Consider who is best placed to undertake a comprehensive assessment. This may be a specialist family violence service, or specialist/cultural service
- safety planning with the adult and child victim survivor
- where safe to do so, engaging with the perpetrator and documenting their readiness (or otherwise) to address their behaviour
- collaborating with other services involved with the family, including police and family violence services to assess and manage serious family violence risk
- considering a referral for a RAMP response to manage serious risk that is likely to result in lethality or serious physical or sexual violence. Discuss this with the co-located specialist family violence worker and/or your team manager.
- Serious risk and requires immediate protection:
- calling Victoria Police (000) where someone is in immediate danger and requires assistance
- consulting your team manager to confirm what actions are required for the child’s safety. Consider the need for a protection application by emergency care to the Children’s Court if other actions are insufficient to protect the child from the perpetrator’s behaviour
- considering what actions are required for the safety of other family members, including family who may be caring for the child, or other carers
- consulting the co-located specialist family violence worker or family violence practice leader
- requesting the co-located specialist family violence worker to undertake a comprehensive assessment, if a recent one has not been completed by a specialist family violence service
- considering a referral for a RAMP to manage serious risk that is likely to result in lethality or serious physical or sexual violence
- determining what specialist interventions are required for the child’s safety, wellbeing and recovery
- considering what interventions are required for the adult victim survivor’s safety
- contacting, or assist the adult victim survivor to contact Safe Steps Family Violence Response Centre for refuge/crisis accommodation, or The Orange Door during business hours to help facilitate crisis referrals if required
- developing a safety plan with the adult and child victim survivor
- confirming the relevant evidence-based factors in the family violence essential information category.
- At risk:
Consider substantiating harm for all cases where the risk rating is assessed as serious risk or serious risk and requires immediate protection.
- Reference any information contained in other MARAM assessments from agencies to inform your risk assessment.
- Consider a consultation with the co-located specialist family violence worker or senior child protection practitioner (family violence) about a possible referral to the Risk Assessment Management Panel (RAMP) if serious risk factors are identified.
- Discuss any misidentified predominant aggressor (perpetrator) with your manager or co-located specialist family violence worker to inform next steps for advising the police and other services involved. Correct the misidentification on CRIS by:
- completing a review of the MARAM assessment and a review of the risk assessment
- reviewing and updating the essential information categories
- amending the Person responsible for harm assessment, if applicable
- including a case note in CRIS stating the misidentification and steps taken to rectify this.
- Follow the Threats to kill a child, parent or carer – procedure if there is a threat to life and refer to the related Threats to kill a child, parent or carer - advice.
- Contact the Victoria Police Family Violence Investigation Unit where the risk is assessed to be serious or there is insufficient information to inform a risk assessment.
Substantiation and planning
When family violence has been identified within a family, the harm may be substantiated across one or more harm types under s162 of the CYFA.
Family violence is not a harm type that is substantiated under the CYFA. The risk assessment may lead to a decision that the family violence has caused or is likely to cause harm that is substantiated against s162(1)(b) through to s162(1)(f).
- Complete the MARAM assessment and then the risk assessment, to determine decision making.
- Determine if the child is in need of protection based on confirmed family violence evidence-based factors, other confirmed evidenced based factors within the essential information categories, MARAM risk rating and the assessed consequence of harm and probability of harm, determine if the child is in need of protection.
- Consider the perpetrator’s pattern of coercion and control and impact on family functioning.
- Consider arranging a case conference to coordinate service responses and supports in line with MARAM risk management needs
- Convene a case conference where there are multiple services involved to ensure that everyone is aware of their role and responsibilities in implementing and monitoring the case plan, actions table and other safety plans.
- Update the essential information categories after the case plan.
- Share all current MARAM assessments in line with the information sharing schemes.
- Review the actions table and any safety plans on a regular basis to respond to changes in circumstances and risk level.
- Hold a case conference prior to closure to clarify responsibilities and roles beyond child protection involvement
- If you have assessed or received a current MARAM assessment with a risk rating of serious risk or serious risk and requires immediate protection but the decision from the risk assessment is for the case to close:
- convene a case conference which includes key services involved in managing the family violence risk (such as Victoria Police, a family violence specialist worker and a cultural representative where appropriate)
- discuss and document actions regarding the need for RAMP referral and other agreed risk management strategies
- record a clear rationale for closure at intake phase.
- Where differing views remain between another service and child protection regarding child protections assessment to close:
- escalate the matter for review by the Statewide Services Principal Practitioner
- consider referring the matter to the Statewide Family Violence Principal Practitioner for consultation and further advice as facilitated by the Statewide Services Principal Practitioner.
- Provide ongoing supervision and consultation.
- Support and chair (as required) case conferences.
- Review the risk assessment, child’s case plan, actions table and any safety plans with the practitioner during supervision to assess the current level of risk due to family violence, other protective concerns and ongoing needs of the child.
- Support the practitioner to formulate and enact plans which are purposeful and goal oriented, with a focus on building safety for the child and the adult victim survivor and which hold the perpetrator of family violence to account.
- Assist and oversee development of safety plans and support worker safety.
- Discuss any safety concerns and needs with the practitioner prior to direct client contact.
- Consider the unknowns, work through possible scenarios.
- Provide support and opportunities for the practitioner to debrief following direct client contact and during supervision sessions.
Team manager / practice leader tasks
- Endorse key decisions including:
- the risk assessment
- substantiation decision
- legal intervention as required
- RAMP referral
- case closure where MARAM risk rating is serious risk or serious risk and requires immediate protection.
- Ensure all practitioners include the training they require to support effective family violence practice in their Performance and Development Plans (PDPs). This should include:
- family violence specific training
- trauma training
- cultural competence training
- suicide prevention training
- information sharing training.
Specialist family violence worker/senior child protection practitioner (family violence)
- Assist the practitioner to understand and navigate the family violence system.
- Contribute to the substantiation rationale, the MARAM assessment and actions and the risk assessment or review risk assessment.
- Participate in secondary consultation with the practitioner in relation to safety and risk assessments and understanding perpetrator behaviour.
- Assist the practitioner in developing and reviewing the child’s case plan, actions table and safety plans where needed.
- Assist the practitioner to make referrals to specialist violence services.
- Provide the time and forums for practitioners to engage in critical self-reflection on their practice methods and their effectiveness.
Area Principal Practitioner
- Where requested, review and provide advice on decisions to close the case where there is a current MARAM risk rating of serious or serious and requires immediate protection.
Statewide Family Violence Principal Practitioner
- Where requested, review and provide further advice on decisions to close the case where there is a current MARAM risk rating of serious or serious and requires immediate protection. Consultation and advice must be recorded on CRIS.