Follow this procedure when conducting the first visit.

Document ID number 1018, version 7, 12 May 2022.

Introduction

The purpose of the first visit is to have direct contact with the child and family to investigate the protective intervention report.

The first visit is conducted once the investigation plan has been approved.

Procedure

Case practitioner tasks

  • Undertake the first visit guided by the investigation plan.
  • On arrival, check the house or unit number and street name is correct.
  • If no one is home, decide whether it is appropriate to leave a note. Consider the nature of the concerns. It is not appropriate to leave a note where a forensic investigation (physical or sexual) is required.

A note on plain paper may be left with your contact details.

  • When the door is answered, ask for a parent by name, or request to speak with the parent of the subject child.
  • Until it is confirmed that a parent/carer of a subject child is being spoken to, only provide the names of practitioners, not the purpose of the visit or mention of child protection. When it is confirmed that you are speaking to the child’s parent/carer, identify yourself and show identification. Ask to go inside to discuss the report.
  • For safety reasons, ask who is in the house.
  • Explain the role and legal mandate of child protection practitioners as protective interveners to the parents/carers and the child (where appropriate for the child’s age and ability), before discussing the report. Inform them that any information they give may be used for the purposes of a protection application.
  • Comply with the confidentiality requirements of the CYFA:
    • The name of the reporter or anyone who provided information must not be disclosed without their written consent.

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).

Information about a person’s status as a registered sex offender is not to be provided to any person other than a protective intervener without the person’s consent, other than where disclosure is required in the interests of the safety and wellbeing of the child.

See Information sharing in child protection practice.

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) did not know if a child or sibling is Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, the child’s Aboriginal status would be recorded as under assessment on the client file (CRIS).

No matter how the status is recorded during Intake, practitioners must 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, irrespective of whether the other parent or carer identified the child as Aboriginal.

  • If you identify a child is Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander during the first home visit, give the child and their family information about ACSASS and explain the requirement for child protection to consult with them regarding all Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children.
  • In consultation with your supervisor, if assessed as safe to do so, offer to reschedule the visit when ACSASS is available to attend. Contact ACSASS, provide details of the report and consult with them on all significant decisions.
  • Interview the parents, as per the investigation plan, about the reported concerns.
  • Where there is family violence, interview the adult victim survivor and child victim survivor(s) separately from the perpetrator being mindful of the safety of victim survivors at all times. Where possible, interview victim survivors prior to the perpetrator.
  • Refer to the MARAM prompt tools for support in assessing family violence and questions required to inform the MARAM assessment requirements.

An initial MARAM assessment and risk rating will have been completed and will have informed the intake risk assessment. Use this in investigation planning and preparing for safety at the first visit. See Working with adult perpetrators of family violence - advice for information on engaging and interviewing perpetrators.

  • Observe the environment and the behaviour and interaction of family members about the reported concerns.
  • Interview, observe and assess the child, guided by the investigation plan and consistent with the child’s age and capability. If the child is not home at the time of the visit, make another time to return and assess the child as soon as possible or where urgent, locate the child.
  • Where there are allegations or suspicions of physical abuse or serious neglect, request parental consent and conduct a thorough visual examination/body check of the child – see Children and their families. Note:
    • You have no legal authority to conduct an examination or remove the child’s clothing against the child’s expressed wishes or those of their parents.
    • Visual examination/body check of a child does not ordinarily require physical contact with the child, but it does require viewing the child’s skin with sufficient clothing removed to satisfy you that there are no reasonably observable signs of injury or harm as a result of physical abuse or serious neglect. Depending on the child’s age the child may remove their own clothing, or their parent will. Child Protection should only assist where required and with consent of the child and parent.
    • Where a visual examination/body check occurred without the parents’ prior knowledge with consent provided by the young person (such as at a school) inform the parent(s) at the earliest opportunity.
    • Interview the child separately or with the adult victim survivor present (if this can be established).
    • Make a detailed record of any injuries, including a detailed description and diagram of their location on the child's body.
    • Make a detailed record of the visual examination/body check. This should include who gave (or refused) permission, who was/was not present during the body check, whether any items of clothing were removed and if so what and by whom, location body check was undertaken,  the process that was explained to the child or young person and any other concerns or comments made during the visual examination/body check.
    • Discuss with your supervisor and/or police whether there is a need for a medical assessment – see procedure Medical and forensic examinations.
  • See Infant risk assessment and response decision and follow procedures for observing and assessiing a child under two years of age.
  • Verify and sight the existence of any current or past court orders from other authorities and obtain a file copy from parents or the relevant court or other authority (family court or police). See Verifying orders - advice.
  • If the child is under two years, assess the sleeping arrangements and discuss safe sleep practices and risk factors associated with sudden, unexpected death and sudden infant death syndrome.
  • Discuss risk reduction strategies with parents and provide parents with information about safe sleeping information and assist in addressing any unsafe sleeping arrangements. (An easy-to-read brochure can be downloaded at https://rednose.org.au/section/safe-sleeping). See procedure SIDS and safe sleeping assessment for tasks that must be undertaken.
  • Parental permission must be provided to interview other children in the home who are not subject to a report. Where protective concerns are identified for other children in the home who are not subject to a report, make a report on these other children.
  • Initiate a report if you become aware that a sex offender is in contact with a child not currently subject to child protection involvement and notify Victoria Police Sex Offender Registry on (03) 9247 5839.
  • Formulate the risk assessment in accordance with the SAFER practice activities, see Conducting the risk assessment and Assessing and managing family violence during the investigation phase for guidance on completing the risk assessment.
  • Discuss your observations and risk assessment with your colleague and your supervisor.
  • Find a place to speak privately or step outside the home to conduct your discussions. Consult your supervisor about your observation of the child, your interviews, your risk assessment and recommended decisions, including decision on court action.
  • See procedure Emergency care applications where, after consultation with your supervisor and endorsement by a team manager, the decision is made to place a child in emergency care.
  • Develop a safety plan to ensure the child’s safety in the immediate assessment period if necessary.
  • Discuss with the child and the parents:
    • the outcome of the first visit
    • what will happen next and why
    • a safety plan (if necessary)
    • the intention to contact services and others regarding the investigation
    • the process of communication and decision making from here.
  • Provide the child (if they are 12 years or over) and the parents with written information:
  • In cases where contact with the child or access to the home is denied or delayed by a parent or caregiver, consider seeking a Children’s Court warrant or a temporary assessment order to secure access to the child and the home.
  • Record the date and time of the first visit in CRIS, including the SAFER statement, and the decisions and rationales for these.

The CRIS field ‘first visit’ requires you to enter the first visit date and time to enable counting of the program two and 14-day KPIs. This entry relates to actual or attempted face-to-face contact with the child and/or parents. The information and evidence obtained in the first visit is crucial in formulating your risk assessment.

  • Where the first visit KPI (either two or 14 day) has not been met, record the reasons on CRIS.
  • Review and update the investigation plan in CRIS.
  • If an application to the Children’s Court is proposed, seek authorisation from the team manager.
  • Complete CRIS requirements and record of activity, sort and store information obtained from the first visit in the essential information categories on CRIS, updating the evidence-based factors as required.

Supervisor tasks

  • Provide ongoing supervision and consultation.
  • Approve significant decisions affecting the conduct of the investigation.
  • Approve amendments to the investigation plan.

Team manager tasks

  • Endorse the risk assessment in CRIS and key decisions including:
    • applications to the Children’s Court.

Practice Dictionary Definition

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