As an early childhood service staff member you are permitted to share certain information about a child who has been impacted (or is suspected to have been impacted) by abuse with:
- your manager/approved provider and other staff members in order to enable staff to best support and protect that child
- an officer from DHHS Child Protection, if the information requested may be of assistance to DHHS Child Protection in their investigation of protective concerns
- Victoria Police if the information may assist in the investigation of potential criminal offences, or may aid in the immediate protection and safety of the child.
In this section
Following a report to DHHS Child Protection, Victoria Police and/or ChildFIRST you should:
- consult with your approved provider or licensee before disclosing information about the report and the child and their family to anyone (except to verified Victoria Police and DHHS Child Protection workers in very urgent situations and/or if the information is required to protect the safety of that child) and/or
- seek consent from a child or their parents/carers before disclosing information about the report and the child and their family to anyone other than authorities and service staff members (provided this does not place the child or another person at risk).
This section provides detail on the specific information sharing requirements between:
- early childhood service staff
- maternal child health staff
- DHHS and Victoria Police
- Family services
Privacy laws allow for staff to share a child's personal and health information to enable the services to:
- provide and support the education of the child, plan for individual needs and address any barriers to learning
- support the social and emotional wellbeing and health of the child
- fulfil duty of care obligations to the child, other children, staff and visitors
- make reasonable adjustments if the child has a disability, including a medical condition or mental illness
- provide a safe and secure workplace.
Information sharing between Early Childhood staff
Your manager/approved provider and staff at your service need to have sufficient information in order to be able to support a child who has been impacted (or is suspected to have been impacted) by child abuse. Therefore, it is legally allowable for service staff to share certain information about a child with other staff members, without the consent of a parent/carer and without breaching privacy laws.
Circumstances where it is appropriate to share information about a child who is impacted, or suspected to be impacted by child abuse, may include informing service staff:
- that a child is in a difficult situation
- that a child should be monitored and may need support
- of details on what to do if the child seems distressed or how the child can be supported
- of the management plans and strategies that have been put in place
- of any potential risks to other children
- of a contact person if any additional concerns/observations are made about the child or their family.
Maternal Child Health staff
To support you to meet your privacy and information sharing requirements, see: Maternal Chlid Health Service Practice Guidelines (pdf - 791.74kb)
Information sharing with DHHS and Victoria Police
If you receive a request from an officer from DHHS Child Protection or Victoria Police, for information relating to a child who has been impacted (or is suspected to have been impacted) by child abuse, you should:
- first check the authority and credentials of the person identifying him/herself as an officer from the DHHS or Victoria Police
- provide the information, if the information requested will assist in protecting the child (disclosing information to police will ensure that staff avoid committing a failure to disclose offence). Your approved provider or licensee should maintain contact with Victoria Police and DHHS Child Protection as necessary to protect the safety and wellbeing of the children involved.
Information sharing with family services
Once a family service or other agency) commences providing services, staff members require consent of the child's parents (and the child if they are old enough to consent) to share information with this agency.
This is because service provision in these circumstances is by voluntary agreement between the family and the service provider.
Family services are allowed to consult with DHHS Child Protection at any time, if necessary.
Information sharing with the community
Planning and care should be taken before providing any information about child abuse to the community. You should be aware that even confirming the existence of an allegation can lead to the identification of a victim. This may be a breach of privacy laws and other legal obligations.
Reporting suspected child abuse to DHHS Child Protection or Victoria Police
does not constitute a breach of Victorian privacy laws. Staff are allowed to disclose personal or health information in cases where this disclosure is authorised or permitted by law. For example, mandatory reporters can report a child in need of protection from physical abuse or sexual abuse to DHHS Child Protection or the Victoria Police. This is expressly permitted and authorised in the Children Youth and Families Act 2005.
Staff cannot be successfully sued or suffer formal adverse consequences in their work because they have made a report to Victoria Police or DHHS Child Protection. Reporters and referrers identity will be protected, unless they consent to its disclosure or disclosure is required by law.
Disclosure of information to DHHS Child Protection in good faith does not constitute unprofessional conduct or a breach of professional ethics.