Planning for children's safety where there is family violence
Follow this procedure when planning with families to address substantiated family violence concerns.
Document ID number 1806, version 4, 9 October 2018.
The presence of family violence is a common area of concern for families involved with child protection. Child protection’s response to family violence needs to address the risks to the child posed by the perpetrator of the violence and support the affected parent to provide for the ongoing needs of the child.
The impact and effect of family violence on the family is complex, and frequently co-exists with other protective concerns such as drug and alcohol abuse, neglect and mental health issues. Planning with families to address these concerns requires particular attention to the perpetrator’s patterns of coercive control, and recovery needs of both the affected parent and the child. It is important to remember that family violence perpetrated on the affected parent is perpetration on the child.
For additional information see Planning for children’s safety where there is family violence – advice and Working with families where an adult is violent (pdf, 1.17 MB) , which contains detailed information on family violence and its impact on children and families, and ways of working with families in responding to family violence concerns.
This procedure includes tasks and actions required to address substantiated family violence concerns. These tasks are additional to general case practice tasks.
Case practitioner tasks
- Review and update the areas of concern due to family violence.
- If not previously completed, conduct an L17 Family Violence Historical Search to ascertain the perpetrator’s pattern and history of family violence, frequency, the nature of the violence i.e. significant physical or verbal abuse including threats to kill.
- Gather information on the victim/survivor’s previous experiences of family violence, specifically in the context of cumulative harm for the child/ren. If there is a high risk of serious threat to the affected parent or child’s (including adolescent child protection clients) life consult the specialist family violence worker or senior child protection practitioner (family violence) about possible referral to a Risk Assessment Management Panel (RAMP).
- Consider a referral to Forensicare family violence assessment. Discuss the appropriateness of a referral with a team manager and divisional principal practitioner.
- If there is a threat to life follow the Threats to kill - procedure and refer to the related Threats to kill - advice.
- Contact the relevant Victoria Police Family Violence Team where risk assessment is assessed to be high or there is insufficient information to inform a risk assessment. Provide Victoria Police with comprehensive information about your unsuccessful attempts to engage the perpetrator and discuss alternative options to keep the child and affected parent safe.
- Consider whether a child protection application or family violence intervention is necessary
- Upon their request, provide to Victoria Police the result of any risk assessment completed by the department that indicates a risk of family violence to a child or young person, so as to support Victoria Police in bringing an application for a family violence intervention order in the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria.
- Request Victoria Police to provide you with the outcome of any family violence intervention order applications.
Managing risk - safety plans
- Develop or assist with the development of a safety plan with the adult victim/ survivor and the child or young person, if age appropriate. The safety plan includes the protection strategies and immediate responses to the violence. See Working with families where an adult is violent (pdf, 1.17 MB) for detailed information on developing and implementing safety plans.
- Where necessary consult the specialist family violence worker or senior child protection practitioner (family violence) when developing a safety plan and referrals to appropriate services and programs.
- Record the adult or child victim/survivor’s safety plan in CRIS as a scanned copy attached to a case note titled family violence safety plan – < name of adult or child victim/survivor>(not to be provided to <name of perpetrator>)
- Where the young person uses violence in the family home, refer to Adolescents and their families (pdf, 2 MB) for details on developing a safety plan with the young person to manage their violence.
- The perpetrator should not be provided with the affected parent’s or the child’s safety plan.
Developing and implementing the child’s case plan and actions table to address family violence
- Develop a case plan for the child that includes key decisions to address the family violence within 21 days of substantiation.
As well as identifying the direct harm to the child, consider how the violence perpetrated on the affected parent has impacted the child. The connection between trauma and family violence is a key consideration for practitioners. Addressing parent related protective concerns such as drug and alcohol use and mental health issues without considering the impact of family violence may lead to ineffective responses that do not address the underlining cause of the concerns.
- Develop the actions table to address the protective concerns for the child. Include a goal for the perpetrator cease violence to protect the child and tasks for the perpetrator to achieve this goal.
- Identify any special or additional educational needs or resources for the child.
- Inform the child’s school or childcare of the family violence concerns and any contact arrangements (including court ordered arrangements).
- Identify the therapeutic needs of the child to assist in their recovery from the family violence (including services for adolescents who use violence in the home). Check The Lookout website for lists and contact details of family violence services that include services for children.
Where parents separate
- Identify and verify any current Family Court orders in relation to parenting orders. See Verifying orders- advice for further information.
- Identify and verify current family violence intervention orders and family court orders to ascertain any legal requirements that may need to be amended due to current risk and to ensure that the affected parent is not inadvertently contravening any court orders. See Verifying orders- advice for further information.
- Where an Aboriginal child or a child from a CALD community has relocated from their community, include in the case plan and actions table how their connection to their culture will be maintained.
- Where the affected parent and child have sought refuge contact needs to be managed with care. Consider how to manage the risk of the perpetrator locating the affected parent and child, and using the contact to indirectly harm or exert control over the affected parent via the child. For example, full supervision or suspension of contact may be needed
- Avoid placing the responsibility for supervising contact with the perpetrator, on the affected parent or extended family.
An affected parent or extended family cannot be expected to exert control over a situation to protect their child during contact if they have been subject to violence themselves or are fearful of the perpetrator, especially where there has been a recent separation or changes to contact arrangements. Under these circumstances the perpetrator has opportunity to continue perpetrating violence and coercive control against both the affected parent and the child. In addition, the perpetrator’s focus will likely be on regaining control, rather than the child’s needs and wellbeing.
Working with adult perpetrators
- Review and update worker safety assessment and safety plans on a regular basis when engaging or intervening with a perpetrator of family violence and discuss this with a supervisor.
- Where the perpetrator is subject to a correctional order, contact the community corrections case manager to advise of child protection’s involvement and include corrections in case planning processes.
- Contact Corrections Victoria when planning to interview a perpetrator in prison and confirm safety arrangements for the visit.
- Verify all information provided by the perpetrator against information provided by the affected parent, the child and other sources such police and court records and other services involved including men’s behaviour change programs and drug and alcohol treatment services.
- Refer to Working with adult perpetrators of family violence – advice for information on engaging and working with perpetrators, and worker safety considerations.
- Consult the specialist family violence worker or senior child protection practitioner (family violence) for advice on how to engage and include the perpetrator in case planning and risk assessment processes where required.
- Consult a supervisor, practice leader or principal practitioner where a perpetrator is avoidant and has not been interviewed, consult and document the consultation on CRIS.
- Where there are multiple services involved, hold a case conference to ensure that everyone is aware of their role and responsibilities in implementing and monitoring the case plan, actions table and other safety plans.
- Review the actions table and any safety plans on a regular basis to respond to changes in circumstances and risk level.
- When closing a case with support services and programs in place, hold a case conference to clarify responsibilities and roles beyond child protection involvement.
- Ensure a summary of the concerns and subsequent risk assessment is recorded on CRIS.
- As part of supervision, review the child’s case plan, actions table and any safety plans with the practitioner to assess the current level of risk due to family violence and other protective concerns, and ongoing needs of the child.
- Assist and oversee development of safety plans and support worker safety.
Specialist family violence worker/senior child protection practitioner (family violence)
- Assist the practitioner to understand and navigate the family violence system.
- Contribute to the substantiation rationale and participate in secondary consultation with the practitioner in relation to safety and risk assessments and understanding perpetrator behaviour.
- Assist the practitioner in developing and reviewing the child’s case plan, actions table and safety plans where needed.
- Assist the practitioner to make referrals to specialist violence services.
Team manager / practice leader tasks
- As case planner, review and endorse the child’s case plan.
- Planning for children's safety where there is family violence - advice
- L17 Family Violence Portal Historical Search - advice
- Threats to kill - advice
- Verifying orders - advice
- Working with adult perpetrators of family violence
- Working with families where an adult is violent (pdf, 1.17 MB)
- Adolescents and their families (pdf, 2 MB)
- The Lookout website