Summary

  • Child Protection protects children and young people from harm caused by abuse or neglect within the family.
  • Community-based family support services may be able to help families having difficulties.
  • A report to Child Protection needs to occur when the risk to children is significant.
  • Some professionals are legally obliged to report to the Child Protection Service if they encounter abuse in the course of their work.
  • Anyone who is concerned about a child’s welfare can voluntarily make a child abuse report to Child Protection or a referral to a family support agency.
Child protection protects children and young people from harm caused by abuse or neglect within the family. Anyone can make a report to Victorian Child Protection if they believe a child is in need of protection. Suspected abuse may be physical, emotional or sexual, or may involve neglect.

The responsibility for making sure that children are safe is shared by the family, the general community, community agencies, and professionals working with children, police and government. Early identification and effective intervention can reduce the initial and long-term effects of child abuse, and promote recovery of the children and families involved.

The child protection system

There are a range of services in our community that aim to support families and protect children. These can be categorised into three levels, which are:
  • Universal (primary) services – are offered to everyone in the community. They include antenatal services (pregnancy counselling and advice), maternal and child health services, and preschool education. These services aim to provide support and help to prevent abuse and neglect.
  • Secondary services – identify and reduce the personal and social stresses on parents that may lead to family breakdown or child abuse. Services include in-home family help, financial or family counselling, respite care, and various parenting and self-help groups.
  • Tertiary (statutory) services – are for children who are or may be at risk of significant harm, and for whom intervention is needed for their ongoing safety. These services include statutory Child Protection and Out-of-Home-Care for children who are unable to live at home. Generally, where families are experiencing difficulties, it is more appropriate that less intrusive community-based professionals and agencies attempt to help. A report to Child Protection occurs when children and young people are considered to be at risk of significant harm.

The role of Child Protection

Child Protection is part of the Victorian Department of Human Services. Child Protection provides child-centred, family-focused services to protect children and young people from significant harm resulting from abuse or neglect within the family.

It also aims to make sure that children and young people receive services to deal with the impact of abuse and neglect on their wellbeing and development.

Child Protection:
  • receives reports from people who believe on reasonable grounds that a child is in need of protection
  • provides advice to people who report such concerns
  • investigates matters where it is believed that a child has been abused or is at risk of significant harm
  • refers children and families to services, which help to provide for the ongoing safety and wellbeing of the children
  • takes matters before the children’s court if the child’s safety cannot be assured within the family
  • supervises children on legal orders granted by the children’s court.

Legally mandated reporters

The Children Youth and Families Act (2005) Section 182(1) states that certain professionals must report to the Child Protection Service when, in the course of their work, they believe on reasonable grounds that a child is in need of protection from physical or sexual abuse.

These professions are:
  • primary school principals and teachers
  • secondary school principals and teachers
  • registered nurses
  • registered medical practitioners (doctors)
  • police.

Voluntary (non-mandated) notification

Anyone can make a report to Child Protection if they believe a child is in need of protection. Suspected abuse may be:
  • physical
  • emotional
  • sexual
  • neglect.
The person making the report is not expected to prove the abuse. The law also protects the identity of the person making the report. Making the decision to report can be a difficult decision. However, where a child’s parents appear unwilling or unable to care for and protect them, some other responsible adult needs to make sure that the child’s situation is assessed and the necessary action is taken to protect them.

Contacting Child Protection

To make a report of child abuse, contact your regional Child Protection office as soon as possible. If you are making a report, please use the Intake Unit phone number. The Where to get help section below has a listing of Child Protection contact numbers for all areas.

During business hours, ring the number covering the local government area (LGA) where the child lives. If you know the suburb or postcode, you can find the nearest LGA here. For Child Protection after hours, phone 13 12 78.

Child Protection Intake Workers are skilled in assessing the risks to children. When you phone, they will talk with you about your concerns and ask a series of questions. The answers to these questions will help them to gain a clear understanding of the situation and to make an assessment of what action may need to be taken.

How Child Protection responds to a report

After you have reported your concerns, Child Protection will decide whether the child or young person is in a situation that falls within the legal definition of ‘a child in need of protection’. If the report does not require Child Protection’s further action, a child protection worker may speak with you about other options including referrals to other organisations that may help the family.

If the report requires further action, a decision will be made regarding the urgency of the situation. Where a case is assessed as urgent, contact with the family will occur within 48 hours. If a case is considered non-urgent, the investigative process may take up to 14 days.

In cases where physical or sexual abuse has been alleged, the police will need to be involved in the investigation.

Where to get help

  • Child protection (after hours) Tel. 13 12 78
  • Intake Unit phone numbers:
  • Northern and western suburban LGAs (Banyule, Brimbank, Darebin, Hobsons Bay, Hume, Maribyrnong, Melbourne, Melton, Moonee Valley, Moreland, Nillumbik, Whittlesea, Wyndham, Yarra) Tel. 1300 664 977
  • Eastern suburban LGAs (Boroondara, Knox, Manningham, Maroondah, Monash, Whitehorse, Yarra Ranges Tel. 1300 360 391
  • Southern suburban LGAs (Bayside, Cardinia, Casey, Frankston, Glen Eira, Greater Dandenong, Kingston, Mornington Peninsula, Port Phillip, Stonnington) Tel. 1300 655 795
  • South-western rural and regional LGAs (Colac-Otway, Corangamite, Glenelg, Greater Geelong, Moyne, Queenscliffe, Southern Grampians, Surf Coast, Warrnambool) Tel. 1800 075 599
  • Western rural and regional LGAs (Ararat, Ballarat, Golden Plains, Hepburn, Hindmarsh, Horsham, Moorabool, Northern Grampians, Pyrenees, West Wimmera, Yarriambiack) Tel. 1800 000 551
  • North-western rural and regional LGAs (Buloke, Campaspe, Central Goldfields, Gannawarra, Greater Bendigo, Loddon, Macedon Ranges, Mildura, Mount Alexander, Swan Hill) Tel. 1800 675 598
  • North-eastern rural and regional LGAS (Alpine, Benalla, Greater Shepparton, Indigo, Mansfield, Mitchell, Moira, Murrindindi, Strathbogie, Towong, Wangaratta, Wodonga) Tel. 1800 650 227
  • Eastern and south-eastern rural and regional LGAs (Bass Coast, Baw Baw, East Gippsland, Latrobe, South Gippsland, Wellington) Tel. 1800 020 202

    Things to remember

    • Child Protection protects children and young people from harm caused by abuse or neglect within the family.
    • Community-based family support services may be able to help families having difficulties.
    • A report to Child Protection needs to occur when the risk to children is significant.
    • Some professionals are legally obliged to report to the Child Protection Service if they encounter abuse in the course of their work.
    • Anyone who is concerned about a child’s welfare can voluntarily make a child abuse report to Child Protection or a referral to a family support agency.
    References
    • How to Make a Report to Child Protection, ,Child Protection Placement & Family Services, Victorian Government. More information here.
    • Responding to children and young people’s disclosures of abuse, Australian Institute of Family Studies, Australian Government. More information here.

    More information

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    This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by: DHS - Children Youth & Families

    Last updated: February 2014

    Content on this website is provided for education and information purposes only. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your doctor or other registered health professional. Content has been prepared for Victorian residents and wider Australian audiences, and was accurate at the time of publication. Readers should note that, over time, currency and completeness of the information may change. All users are urged to always seek advice from a registered health care professional for diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.