This is a common complaint that we hear at our support groups, both mums and dads.
“My child is in danger. I’ve been stopped from seeing them and I feel helpless to stop whats going on. It’s driving me insane with worry. Why are child protection ignoring my report!”
We decided to look at why this happens and learned something quite interesting. Thank you to an unnamed but trusted ‘insider’ who helped us understand what goes on and how this works.
The first and most important thing to appreciate is that the perception of the dad (mum) that child protective services are ideologically against him (her) because they are a dad (mum) may not be whats going on. In fact, now we’ve spoken to an insider, we’re pretty confident that it’s very rarely that at all.
Usually, it’s something far simpler which is easy to understand once you know how things work.
So, what exactly happens when you make a report? It usually goes something like this.
- Someone in child protective services speaks to you and they ask a range of questions.
- The answers you provide allow them to rate the urgency and seriousness of the report.
- That rating is often referred to as the ROSH or IROSH rating. That stands for (Immediate) Risk Of Significant Harm.
- If the rating falls below their threshold, it is rejected.
- Even if the rating meets their threshold, but they have too many other higher rated / more extreme cases, it might still be rejected and pushed into a queue for later action.
- Importantly, if your report is rejected it does not mean that the case will not get looked at. It usually means you need to take it to the more appropriate local body that deals with non-exreme cases.
- For the most part, taking it to the local agencies for non-extreme cases is solely down to you – which you may not realise!
What seems an immediate rejection based on ideological aversion to helping a dad (mum) might just be that your case doesn’t fit their criteria of the ‘X’% of most extreme cases that they are funded to handle.
It’s curious to us how rarely it seems that this is explained to the reporting parent by Child Protective Services. Often it seems, the highly distressed reporting parent is left thinking that that’s it, nothing can and will be done. That no one cares about their child’s situation, which is not true at all.
However, the fact remains that if Child Protective Services reject your case then it’s down to you to identify and approach local social services that are funded, able and willing to take on your type and category of case.
Part of the problem comes from we the public seeing child protective services as one large all-enveloping service that handles everything from ‘very serious’ to ‘not serious’ cases. That’s just not how it works and it’s multilayered and varies from location to location based on both need and resources so it can be hard to get your head around.
If you have a concern relating to your child, you can, by all means, report it to the Child Protective Services for your region (listed below) but do not think that their rejection means that no one cares or that you’re being discriminated against because you’re a dad (mum).
Local social services (often operating as subcontracted individual social workers or private firms) can and will happily investigate your report, work with parents to correct matters directly and where the issue can’t be addressed that way, provide advice and evidence to a family court.
In terms of finding those local social services, outside of the search function within the Australian Association of Social Workers, we’re not aware of any other central listing so you might also benefit from a web search along the lines of ‘family social workers near me’ or ‘children’s social workers near me’.
We spoke with a social worker in NSW to check this out and she confirmed that in the course of her work she is occasionally called by separated dads (mums) with a concern about the other parent and yes, she usually intervenes directly and even writes reports for family courts.
What surprised her was why so few people contacted them given how often people complain online that their cases were rejected. Its seems much of this is down to little more than not understanding how the system works.
Here’s a listing of the state and territory Child Protective Services – these handle the extreme cases:
- ACT, CYPS, Call. 1300 556 729 (24 hrs)
- NSW, FACS, Call. 13 21 11 (24 hrs)
- NT, Territory Families, Call. 1800 700 250 (24 hrs)
- QLD, DOCS, Call. 1800 811 810 (office hours), Call. 1800 177 135 (non-office hours)
- TAS, DOCT, Call. 1800 000 123 (24 hrs)
- VIC, DHHS, Call. 1300 650 172 (office hours), Call. 13 12 78 (non-office hours)
- WA, DOCCPS, Call. 1800 273 889 (office hours), Call. 1800 199 008 (non-office hours)