Child protection

Meeting the needs of children and making sure they are safe in the family is a shared responsibility between individuals, the family, the community and the government. When adults caring for children do not follow through with their responsibilities, are abusive or exploit their positions of power, then it is the child protection system that becomes responsible for taking action.

The Victorian Child Protection Service is specifically targeted to those children and young people at risk of harm or where families are unable or unwilling to protect them.

The main functions of child protection are to:

  • investigate matters where it is alleged that a child is at risk of harm
  • refer children and families to services that assist in providing the ongoing safety and wellbeing of children
  • take matters before the Children's Court if the child's safety cannot be ensured within the family
  • supervise children on legal orders granted by the Children's Court
  • provide and fund accommodation services, specialist support services, and adoption and permanent care to children and adolescents in need

Mandatory reporting of child abuse

Some professionals such as doctors, nurses, police and school teachers are legally obliged to report suspected child abuse. In addition, any person who believes on reasonable grounds that a child needs protection can make a report to the Victorian Child Protection Service. It is the Child Protection worker’s job to assess and, where necessary, further investigate if a child or young person is at risk of harm.

Failure to disclose child sexual abuse offence

A new offence for failure to disclose child sexual abuse came into effect on 27 October 2014. The offence requires that any adult who holds a reasonable belief that a sexual offence has been committed in Victoria by an adult against a child (aged under 16) disclose that information to police. The offence applies to all adults in Victoria, not just professionals who work with children, unless they have a reasonable excuse.

Further information about the offence and how to report is available on this site.

Changes to child protection law

On Tuesday, 2 September 2014, the Victorian Parliament passed new laws that will strengthen the Victorian Government’s response to children and young people in out-of-home care.

These are important changes for children in out-of-home care, their parents and carers, and the services that support them.

For a detailed overview of changes to the law that will support more timely decision-making and permanency for children, see the Changes to child protection law webpage on this site.

Leaving children unattended

In Victoria it is an offence for a person responsible for a child to leave the child unattended for any longer than is reasonable, without making appropriate arrangements for the child’s supervision and care. This includes leaving a child at home, or in a car, or anywhere else unattended.

This page contains guidance for adults responsible for children about leaving children unattended and includes an overview of Victorian law and links to further information.

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