Responding to other concerns about the wellbeing of a child

This section will support you to determine how to respond to concerns about the wellbeing of a child which do not appear to be the result of child abuse, with information on:

  • When to Report Wellbeing Concerns to Child FIRST
  • When to Report Wellbeing Concerns to Victoria Police
  • When to Report Wellbeing Concerns to DHHS Child Protection.

In addition to reporting and referring wellbeing concerns to relevant authorities, you also have a Duty of Care to ensure that students feel safe and supported at school.

See Action Four - Providing Support for advice on how to engage relevant allied health professionals and plan and document support strategies via a Student Support Planning process.

                   

​Critical Information

Regardless of the suspected cause, all concerns about the wellbeing of a child (or their unborn child) should be taken seriously and acted upon. This includes concerns about the wellbeing of a child, which do not appear to be the result of abuse.

You should make a referral to Child FIRST if:

  • you have a significant concern for a child's wellbeing

  • your concerns have a low-to-moderate impact on the child

  • the child's immediate safety is not compromised

  • you/your school has discussed the referral with the family and they are supportive of it.

You must contact Victoria Police if:

  • there is any concern for a child's immediate safety and/or

  • a child is partaking in any risk taking activity that is illegal and extreme in nature or poses a high risk to the child.

You should contact DHHS Child Protection if:

  • after consideration of all of available information you form a view that the child is in need of protection

  • you believe that the child's parent/carers will not be open to support from family services to address their child's wellbeing.

If you are unsure whether to take action, or what action to take, you should discuss this with your leadership team and make contact with authorities for further advice.

If you are unsure whether to take action, or what action to take, you should discuss this with your leadership team and make contact with

When to Report Wellbeing Concerns to Child FIRST

Child FIRST (Family Information, Referral and Support Team) is a community-based referral point into Family Services.

In addition to reporting suspected abuse to appropriate authorities, you should make a referral to Child FIRST if:

  • you have a significant concern for a child’s wellbeing
  • your concerns have a low-to-moderate impact on the child
  • the child's immediate safety is not compromised
  • you/your school has discussed the referral with the family and they are supportive of it.

Examples of concerns that school staff should reported to Child FIRST include instances when a child’s care or development is significantly impacted on by:

  • parenting problems
  • family conflict or family breakdown
  • pressure due to a family member's physical/mental illness, substance abuse, or disability
  • vulnerability due to youth, isolation or lack of support
  • significant social or economic disadvantage 

When to Report Wellbeing Concerns to Victoria Police

In addition to reporting suspected abuse to appropriate authorities, you must contact Victoria Police on 000 if the:

  • child's immediate safety is compromised
  • child is partaking in any risk taking activity that is illegal and extreme in nature or poses a high risk to the child.

When to Report Wellbeing Concerns to DHHS Child Protection

In addition to reporting suspected abuse to appropriate authorities, you should contact DHHS Child Protection if you believe a child is in need of protection.

This includes all concerns that:

  • have a serious impact on a child’s safety, stability or development, including abandonment, death or incapacity, extreme risk-taking behaviour, or harm to an unborn child.
  • are persistent and entrenched and likely to have a serious impact on a child's safety, stability or development and
  • relate to a parent/s who cannot or will not protect the child from significant harm
  • include a belief that the family is likely to be uncooperative in seeking assistance.

Common grounds for protection include:

  • Abandonment
    The child's parents have abandoned the child and after reasonable inquiries, the parents cannot be found, and no other suitable person can be found who is willing and able to care for the child.
  • Death or incapacity of parent/carer
    The child's parents are dead or incapacitated and there is no other suitable person willing and able to care for the child.
  • Extreme risk-taking behaviour
    The child is displaying extreme risk taking behaviour, which has potentially severe or life threatening consequences. Examples include severe alcohol or drug use, unsafe sexual activity including prostitution, solvent abuse and chroming, and violent or dangerous peer group activity.

    In addition to contacting DHHS Child Protection it may also be necessary to contact Victoria Police where the risk taking activity is illegal and extreme in nature or poses a high risk to the child.
  • Harm to an unborn child
    There is a threat of harm to an unborn child, including circumstances where a parent has previously demonstrated an inability to safely parent.

    The Children Youth and Families Act 2005 allows DHHS Child Protection to receive and respond to reports about an unborn child, which provides an important opportunity for earlier intervention and prevention. Prenatal reports may be particularly helpful to the unborn child in family violence situations, or where there are mental health concerns or drug or alcohol misuse during pregnancy.