Information on when parents or carers should be notified if it is suspected their child is a victim of abuse and which relevant authorities need to be notified.
The following information applies to reporting all forms of child abuse including student sexual offending.
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 are notified as soon as practicable.
However there are some circumstances where contacting parents may place a child at greater risk.
Contact the relevant authority
Before contacting the child's parent, your principal (or their delegate) must contact Victoria Police or Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Child Protection (depending on who the report has been made to).
DHHS Child Protection will advise about whether it is appropriate to contact parents at this stage.
Permission not given to contact parents
Your principal (or delegate) 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 may subject the child to further abuse
- the child is a mature minor (assessed to be sufficiently mature and intelligent to make such decisions on his or her own behalf) and have requested that their parent/carer not be notified (in these circumstances ideally the child will nominate another responsible adult who can be contacted)
- the notification is likely to adversely affect the investigation of the incident by the relevant authorities.
Permission given to contact parents
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 enables parents to take steps to:
- prevent or limit their child’s exposure to further abuse
- ensure that their child receives the support that they require.
Guidance on contacting parents
The principal and/or reporting staff member (ideally together) should inform the parents/carers of the child impacted by the suspected child abuse.
During this conversation it is important to:
- remain calm
- be empathic to feelings
- 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
- assure them that school wellbeing staff can provide support to the child. Victorian government school staff can make referrals to student support services or other wellbeing staff based at the school
- invite the parents/carers to attend a student support group meeting where a student support plan can be prepared to ensure that appropriate support can be provided for their child.
Further support on contacting parents
For advice and support on contacting parents:
- Government schools can contact Student Incident and Recovery Unit on (03) 9637 2934
- Catholic schools can contact their Diocesan education office:
- Archdiocese of Melbourne: Legal Services on (03) 9267 0228
- Diocese of Sale: Child Protection Officer on (03) 5622 6600
- Diocese of Ballarat: Legal Services on (03) 5337 7135
- Diocese of Sandhurst: Assistant to the Director: Legal, Industrial & Human Resources on (03) 5443 2377.
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