Making a report to child protection

To make a report to child protection a person needs to have formed a reasonable belief that a child has suffered or is likely to suffer significant harm as a result of abuse or neglect, and their parent have not protected or is unlikely to protect the child from harm of that type. A reasonable belief does not require proof.

When to make a report

Child protection receive reports about children when there are concerns the child is in need of protection. A child in need of protection is a child who has suffered or is likely to suffer significant harm as a result of abuse or neglect, and their parent has not protected or is unlikely to protect the child from harm of that type.  

To make a report to child protection a person needs to have formed a reasonable belief that a child has suffered or is likely to suffer significant harm as a result of abuse or neglect, and that their parent has not protected or is unlikely to protect the child from harm of that type.

Information provided to child protection when a report is made needs to be sufficiently detailed for child protection to identify the child at risk of harm.  Where concerns relate to an alleged perpetrator of abuse, who may pose a risk more generally to all children, the concerns should be reported to Police.

A report to Child Protection should be made when the child’s parent has not protected or is unlikely to protect the child from harm of that type in any of the following circumstances:

  • Physical abuse of, or non-accidental or unexplained injury to, a child (mandatory reporters must report)
  • A disclosure of sexual abuse by a child or witness, or a combination of factors suggesting the likelihood of sexual abuse – the child exhibiting concerning behaviours e.g. after the child's mother takes on a new partner or where a known or suspected perpetrator has unsupervised contact with the child (mandatory reporters must make a report to child protection)
  • Emotional abuse and ill treatment of a child – impacting on the child's stability and healthy development
  • Significant neglect, poor care or lack of appropriate supervision – where there is a likelihood of significant harm to the child, or the child's stability and development
  • Significant family violence or parental substance misuse, psychiatric illness or intellectual disability – where there is a likelihood of significant harm to the child, or the child's stability and development
  • Where a child's actions or behaviour may place them at risk of significant harm and the parents are unwilling, or unable to protect the child
  • Where a child appears to have been abandoned, or where the child's parents are dead or incapacitated and no other person is caring properly for the child.

Many cases will not fit neatly into these categories, so the following questions may help you decide on 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 the child's health, wellbeing and development?

If you are worried about a child’s wellbeing, but don’t believe the child is in need of protection

If you have significant concern for the wellbeing of a child, but do not believe they are at risk of significant harm, and where the immediate safety of the child will not compromised, a referral to Child FIRST or The Orange Door may be appropriate.

Child FIRST, as the access point for family services, is progressively transitioning to The Orange Door. The Orange Door is the new access point for families who need assistance with the care and wellbeing of children, including those experiencing family violence, to contact the services they need to be safe and supported.

Referring to Child FIRST or The Orange Door would be appropriate where families:

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

Contact numbers to make a referral in each local government area are listed on the Services website. 

How to make a report

In Victoria, reports to child protection must be made to a protective intervener, or other appropriately delegated officer. Reports cannot be made via the department’s website or email, as staff who monitor the department’s website are not delegated officers. Almost all reports are made to child protection by phone. 

To make a report, you should contact the child protection intake service covering the local government area (LGA) where the child normally resides. 

Telephone numbers to make a report during business hours (8.45am -5.00pm), Monday to Friday, are listed below. 

  • North Division intake: 1300 664 977
  • South Division intake: 1300 655 795
  • East Division intake: 1300 360 391
  • West Division intake - metropolitan: 1300 664 977
  • West Division intake - rural and regional: 1800 075 599 

If you are not sure which number to call, see Child protection contacts on the Services website for details on the LGAs covered by each intake service.

To report concerns that are life threatening, call Victoria Police 000.

To report concerns about the immediate safety of a child outside of normal business hours, you should contact the After Hours Child Protection Emergency Service on 13 12 78.

What happens once a report is made?

Child protection will decide when follow up is required and how to classify the report. 

This may mean providing advice to the reporter, progressing the matter to an investigation, or referring the family to support services in the community, or taking no further action. 

Child protection may have access to other information that influences how they respond to a report about a child. They will consider information provided by the reporter, may make further enquiries and review information held by child protection (for example previous reports) to inform their assessment and determine how to respond to each family.

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.

For more information, see Criminal offences to improve responses to child sex abuse.