Children in out-of-home care under the Children and Young People (Safety) Act 2017 should be placed in a safe, nurturing, stable and secure environment.
A care concern is a notification to the Child Abuse Report Line (CARL) where the following criteria have been met:
- The child or young person was, or is in care, pursuant to the Children and Young People (Safety) Act 2017 at the time of the allegation AND:
- The concerns relate to the care provided by:
- an approved carer and/or
- registered or approved household member; or
- temporary carer (pursuant to section 77 of the Children and Young People (Safety) Act 2017); or
- Department of Human Services, custodial staff; or
- Department for Child Protection (DCP) employee and/or DCP volunteer, providing direct care and/or contracted carer; AND
- There is a reasonable suspicion that:
- A child or young person has been harmed; or
- There is a risk that the child or young person will suffer harm; or
- The carer, DCP employee or DCP volunteer, has failed to meet the DCP Standards of Care, to a degree that the child or young person has been harmed or there is a risk that they will suffer harm.
The Child Abuse Report Line is the central point of all notifications of child abuse and will identify if a notification is a care concern. All care concerns are sent to the DCP Care Concern Management Unit for an assessment based on the available information. Those concerns requiring an urgent response, especially outside of business hours, will be forwarded by CARL staff to appropriate areas such as SA Police, Child Protection Services and the Crisis Response Unit for an immediate response.
It can be unsettling and stressful for carers when a care concern is received. It is important that the department ensures the safety of the child, that carers and children are treated in a fair and just manner, and are informed and supported throughout the care concern process.
Someone from the department or your support agency will advise you if a care concern has been made about you (except for those which are assessed as no action – see below). Depending on the nature of the care concern, you may be contacted by the child’s case worker or by the DCP Investigations Team.
Once the Care Concern Management Unit has received the care concern via CARL, they will determine the appropriate assessment. There are four different care concern categories, they are No Action, Minor, Moderate and Serious. The assessment determines the response pathway which will focus on the actions required to respond to the harm or risk of harm to the child or young person and other issues which may have contributed to the care concern, as well as the action required to address any risks identified.
No action care concerns – are assessed when a report has been made regarding allegations which have previously been raised and addressed and require no further action. Carers may not receive correspondence regarding no action care concerns, but can ask their support agency if any have been received.
Minor care concern – is a response pathway that addresses the concerns as part of a case management process to ensure that consideration is given to training and support to enhance the quality of care being provided.
Moderate Care Concern – is a response pathway involving a formal care concern review meeting undertaken by the case management team to discuss the allegations, this may include strategies to respond to any risks identified. An outcome finding will be made at the conclusion of the moderate care concern process.
Serious Care Concern – a response pathway for the management of a care concern involving a fact finding investigation to gather information relevant to the care concern.
The serious care concern investigation will seek to:
- Identify the contribution of a carer’s actions (or inactions) to a deficit in care, or any abuse or neglect experienced by the child or young person.
- Identify whether any systemic or operational issues contributed to the child or young person’s adverse experience.
Serious care concerns are managed by the Investigations Unit, DCP. This unit is a multi-disciplinary team comprising staff with expertise in child protection and law enforcement.
Depending on the circumstances of the care concern, the child or children in your care may be moved to another placement while the investigation is undertaken.
DCP will refer the care concern to SA Police if the concern relates to a possible criminal offence. Police will make a decision about whether they will investigate allegations or not and coordinate any follow up actions.
Carers may seek to obtain legal advice or have a legal representative present during a police interview.
The department aims to manage all care concern matters in a timely manner. Timeframes will vary depending on a range of factors such as:
- the complexity and number of concerns the matter relates to
- the response pathway required to manage the concerns
- the extent of enquiries to investigate the concerns such as the number and availability of people to be spoken to or interviewed
- whether any information needs to be sought from other sources
- any restrictions upon DCP progressing the matter whilst police are involved.
You will be provided with an opportunity to respond to any care concern assessed as a Minor, Moderate or Serious.
You may contact the DCP Investigations Team on 8226 5320 or at DCPInvestigations@sa.gov.au if the care concern has been determined as serious.
You are encouraged to first make contact with your support agency if you need support.
The outcome and rationale of the care concern process will be provided in writing to relevant parties, including the person/s subject of the concerns. The outcome of a moderate or serious care concern may be that the allegation/s are not substantiated if thereis no evidence to support the allegations.
Alternatively, the outcome may confirm that the allegation/s were likely to have occurred if there is evidence consistent with the allegations made. In these cases the allegations will be substantiated.
On occasion an outcome may be undetermined, as there is not enough evidence to confirm whether the allegation/s did or did not occur.
The outcome will also consider whether the care provided to the child or young person has fallen below what is considered to be an acceptable level of care, that is, whether there has been a deficit in care or not.
Yes. All documentation regarding care concerns are kept on file. The benefit of this for all carers is that there is a clear record kept of any concerns raised and how the matter was assessed and managed. There is a record of the response and outcome if the matter is again raised in the future.
The Department of Human Services (DHS), Screening Unit are responsible for the management of WWCC. The DHS Screening Unit consider criminal history, child protection information and other information with which to make a decision. Additional information regarding the Screening Unit’s processes and assessment can be found at https://screening.sa.gov.au/about-checks/check-process.
The Care Concern Management Unit can be contacted on 8226 8441 or at DCPCareConcernManagementUnit@sa.gov.au.