In many cases where it is suspected that a child has been, or is at risk of being abused, it is extremely important that parents/carers are notified as soon as practicable.
However before contacting parents, you must seek advice from DHHS Child Protection or Victoria Police (depending on who the report was made to).
This is critical to ensure the safety of the child as well as to avoid any compromise to the investigations being conducted by the relevant authorities or agencies.
Where advised to be appropriate, schools should make sensitive and professional contact with parents as soon as possible on the day of the incident, disclosure or suspicion.
This section steps you through the process for:
Seeking advice before contacting parents
Before contacting parent/carer, you must contact
Victoria Police or
DHHS Child Protection (depending on who the report has been made to). They will advise your service about whether it is appropriate to contact parents/carers at this stage.
You will be advised not to contact the parents in circumstances where:
- the parents are alleged to have engaged in the abuse
- a disclosure to the parent/carer may subject the child to further abuse
- the notification is likely to adversely affect the investigation of the incident by the relevant authorities.
Making contact with parents, where advised as appropriate
Where advised to be appropriate, your service should make sensitive and professional contact with parents as soon as possible on the day of the incident, disclosure or suspicion.
In many cases where it is suspected that a child has been, or is at risk of being abused, it is extremely important that parents/carers are notified as soon as practicable. This enables parents/carers to take steps to:
- prevent or limit their child’s exposure to further abuse.
- ensure that their child receives the support that they require.
It is also a requirement under the National Quality Framework that parents be contacted within 24 hours, if the suspected abuse occurs whilst a child is at an education or care service.
However, there are some circumstances where contacting parents/carers may place a child at greater risk.
How to discuss concerns with partents or carers
When talking to parents/carers about suspected abuse, it is important to:
- remain calm
- be empathic to feelings and acknowledge distress
- acknowledge and validate concerns
- provide appropriate details of the incident, disclosure and/or suspicion of child abuse
- outline the action the school staff have taken to date
- inform them of who the incident, disclosure and/or suspicion has been reported to
- provide the name and contact phone number of DHHS Child Protection and/or the police officer who is investigating
- provide information on whether they are likely to be contacted by DHHS Child Protection or Victoria Police (if known)
- inform them that the investigation may take some time and ask what further information they would like and how school staff can assist them.
For more advice on what information can be shared, see:
Privacy and information sharing
For guidance on sharing information about an incident to the school community, see:
Information sharing with school staff