How to make a referral to Child FIRST

Who to contact?

To make a referral contact a Child FIRST or a family service go to:

A guide for professionals

If you have concerns about a child or young person and need guidance in deciding whether to make a report to child protection or to refer the child to a Child FIRST service, you may find the following information helpful.

Information for professionals working with vulnerable children

Professionals involved with vulnerable children, young people aged 0 to 17 years and their families, including families with an unborn child, may from time to time consider they should report or refer a concern to either child protection or the Child FIRST intake service.

Child FIRST teams provide a consolidated intake service to family services within sub regional catchments. These arrangements reflect the provisions in the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005.

A key objective of the legislation is to create an integrated service system that provides improved supports to vulnerable children, young people and their families. The legislation also introduces a range of new reporting and referral arrangements that will replace what is currently known as a child protection notification.

What circumstances and factors should determine whether to refer to Child FIRST?

There may be many factors, or combinations of factors, within family life that adversely impact upon children's safety, stability and development. You may already have considered these factors and the following lists are intended to provide some further basic guidance on how to decide whether to refer a matter to Child FIRST or make a report to child protection.

A referral to Child FIRST

A referral to Child FIRST may be the best way of connecting children, young people and their families to the services they need, where families exhibit any of the following factors that may impact upon a child's safety, stability or development:

  • significant parenting problems that may be affecting the child's development
  • family conflict, including family breakdown
  • families under pressure due to a family member's physical or mental illness, substance abuse, disability or bereavement
  • young, isolated and/or unsupported families
  • significant social or economic disadvantage that may adversely impact on a child's care or development

Many cases will not neatly fit into these categories, and it may be harder to determine whether the level and the nature of any risk is such that the child is in need of protection. The following questions may help resolve the best course of action in such cases:

Factors for consideration

What specifically has happened to the child that has caused your concerns and what is the impact on their safety, stability, health, wellbeing and development?

  • How vulnerable is the child?
  • Is there a history or pattern of significant concerns with this child or other children in the family?
  • Are the parents aware of the concerns, capable and willing to take action to ensure the child's safety and stability, and promote their health, wellbeing, and development?
  • Are the parents able and willing to use support services to promote the child's safety, stability, wellbeing and development?

A referral to Child FIRST should be considered if, after consideration of the available information you are, on balance, more inclined to form a view that the concerns currently have a low to moderate impact on the child, where the immediate safety of the child is not compromised.

On receiving a referral from a professional or community member the Child FIRST team will conduct further assessment of the family and may consult an experienced community-based child protection worker who is based in each Child FIRST team. This assessment may lead to the involvement of a local family services organisation. In most circumstances Child FIRST will inform you of the outcome of your referral.

Where a Child FIRST team or a registered Family Services organisation forms a view that a child or young person is in need of protection they must report the matter to child protection.

Still unsure?

  • If you are still unsure who to report or refer to you should contact either child protection or Child FIRST for further advice.
  • For more information read the fact sheets and supporting documents in Related Resources.
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