Making a referral to Child FIRST

Working with vulnerable children, young people and their families may at times involve considering if you should refer a concern to the Child FIRST intake service.

When to make a referral

A referral to Child FIRST should be considered if, after examining the available information, you believe the concerns currently have a low to moderate impact on the child, where the immediate safety of the child is not compromised.

Referring to Child FIRST should be considered where any of the following factors are involved:

  • 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 fit neatly into these categories, so the following questions may help decide the best course of action.

Other factors to consider

  • 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?

If you are still unsure who to report or refer to, you should contact either Child Protection or Child FIRST for further advice.

What happens once a referral has been made?

On receiving a referral from a professional or community member, the Child FIRST team will conduct further assessment of the family.

They 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.

More information for professionals working with vulnerable children

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 that commenced in April 2007.

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.