Summary

  • In an emergency always call triple zero (000). If you or someone in your family is thinking about hurting themselves, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
  • Child protection services are responsible for investigating alleged child abuse and neglect, and working out the most appropriate care or support solution for the child. This may include placing the child in out-of-home care.
  • If you are concerned about the immediate safety of a child within their family, call the 24-hour Child Protection Crisis Line on 13 12 78 (toll-free within Victoria).
  • If you are experiencing violence at home, the Department of Health & Human Services provides support services and offers violence prevention programs.
  • If you are a woman who needs emergency help to escape family violence, contact Safe Steps Family Violence Response Centre on 1800 015 188.
  • For family members not confident with English, all government health services offer on-the-spot interpreter services either in person, over the phone or via videoconferencing.

In times of family crisis – when there is violence in the home or when a child is at risk of harm due to abuse or neglect – it’s good to know there is help only a phone call away.

In an emergency always call triple zero (000). If you or someone in your family is thinking about hurting themselves, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

If you are a woman who needs emergency help to escape family violence, contact Safe Steps Family Violence Response Centre on 1800 015 188.

If you are concerned about the immediate safety of a child within their family, call the 24-hour Child Protection Crisis Line on 13 12 78 (toll free within Victoria).

Child protection

Meeting the needs of children and making sure they are safe in the family is a shared responsibility between individuals, the family, the community and the government. When adults caring for children do not follow through with their responsibilities, are abusive or exploit their positions of power, then it is the child protection system that becomes responsible for taking action.

Child protection services are responsible for investigating alleged child abuse and neglect and determining the most appropriate care or support solution for the affected child. This may include placing the child in out-of-home care.

The Victorian Child Protection Service is specifically targeted to children and young people at risk of harm or where families are unable or unwilling to protect them.

The main functions of child protection are to:

  • investigate where it is alleged that a child is at risk of harm
  • refer children and families to services that help ensure the ongoing safety and wellbeing of children
  • take matters before the Children’s Court if the child's safety cannot be ensured within the family
  • supervise children on legal orders granted by the Children’s Court
  • provide and fund accommodation services, specialist support services and adoption and permanent care to children and adolescents in need. 

Mandatory reporting of child abuse

Some professionals such as doctors, nurses, police and school teachers are legally obligated to report suspected child abuse. Also, any person who believes on reasonable grounds that a child needs protection can make a report to the Victorian Child Protection Service. It is the child protection worker’s job to assess and, where necessary, further investigate if a child or young person is at risk of harm. 

Failure to disclose child sexual abuse offence

Legislation came into effect in 2014 making it illegal to stay quiet about child sexual abuse. Any adult who reasonably believes that a sexual offence has been committed in Victoria by an adult against a child (aged under 16) must disclose that information to police. The offence applies to all adults in Victoria, not just professionals who work with children, unless they have a reasonable excuse. 

Out-of-home care placements

Out-of-home care placements provide temporary living arrangements for children who need some time away from their parents. They are often the result of a court order and include:

kinship care – the child (or children) is placed with relatives and supported by the Department of Health & Human Services or community service organisations (CSOs) foster care – placement with foster parents and supported by CSOs

residential care – placement in a residential unit staffed by CSOs

voluntary care – placement where there is no court order requiring a child to live out of their parent’s care and the parent consents to a voluntary arrangement with a service for the temporary care of their child.

Kinship and foster care are sometimes referred to as ‘home-based care’ because they happen in a home.

There are no fees for using out-of-home care and support services.

For more information see the Temporary and permanent care for children fact sheet. 

Family violence

If you are experiencing violence at home, the Department of Health & Human Services provides family support services and offers violence prevention programs.

Services include individual counselling, specialised support groups and referral services. These services aim firstly to promote early intervention to prevent the occurrence or escalation of family violence, and secondly, to prevent future occurrences of family violence by offering post-crisis support.

The department can also help women who want to organise an intervention order. These services also help children to improve their coping skills and self-esteem and to help develop non-violent problem-solving strategies.

For more information about accessing these services, contact the Department of Health & Human Services.

For emergency help to escape family violence, women can contact the Safe Steps Family Violence Response Centre on 1800 015 188. Safe Steps can also help provide refuge accommodation.

For more information about how to help yourself or someone else who is being abused at home, see the Supporting yourself or someone else with family issues fact sheet. 

Financial help for families

The Australian Government provides one-off payments called a ‘crisis payment’ to help people who are experiencing difficult or extreme circumstances. These circumstances include being:

  • a victim of family violence
  • affected by a natural disaster
  • released from prison or psychiatric confinement, or
  • in Australia for the first time on a refugee or humanitarian visa.

For more information about the crisis payment visit the Department of Human Services website

Accessing an interpreter

For family members not confident with English, all government health services offer on-the-spot interpreter services either in person, over the phone or via videoconferencing. Simply tell your service provider that you would like an interpreter, specifying the dialect you speak (if relevant) and if you have a preference for a male or female interpreter.

Where to get help

  • In an emergency, call triple zero (000)
  • Child Protection Crisis Line, call 13 12 78
  • Safe Steps Family Violence Response Centre, call 1800 015 188
  • Lifeline, call 13 11 14.

More information

Child, family and relationship services topics

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Parenting, families and children

Crisis support for families and couples

Content Partner

This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by: Department of Health and Human Services

Last updated: October 2015

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