Employing providers – what is involved

Finding a provider who can provide a safe environment means ensuring the people working with your child have the right experience, qualifications, specialist skills and personal qualities.

Having the ‘right’ workers begin with their selection to the job. Employers use different methods and indicators as part of their employment screening to assess a person’s suitability to work with children.

If you are engaging an independent contractor, you need to feel confident about their suitability. You can use the same processes and procedures that organisations do.

Remember these are not fool proof methods but they provide another protective layer to promote your child’s safety.


Working with Children Checks

In Victoria a Working with Children Check is a legal requirement for everyone doing paid or voluntary child-related work.  This includes people who provide counselling, support services and cultural or recreational services.

The Working with Children Check is a rigorous assessment of an applicant’s criminal records. It examines any reports about professional conduct. It aims to prevent people who pose an unjustifiable risk to children from working with or caring for them.

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Police checks

Many workplaces require a police check (or criminal history check).  A police check provides a list of offences that can be disclosed from a person’s national criminal records.

The police check doesn’t make any assessment or investigation of the offences. Thus it is not a comprehensive indication of safety. However it is a good starting point, and may act as a deterrent to some applicants.

For more information: http://www.police.vic.gov.au/

Background Checks

Other common methods for checking a provider’s background include sighting evidence of their  qualifications, and contacting their referees including previous employers.

Finding out more about an organisation:

If the provider is an organisation, you can find out more by asking:

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  • How do you recruit staff and volunteers?
  • What type of background checks, qualifications do the staff/providers working here have?
  • Do you conduct Working with Children and police checks with all staff who work with children including those who may not have direct contact with children as part of their employment?
  • Do you undertake reference checks?
  • How do you ensure that all staff, even those who do not have direct contact with children are suitable?
  • How do you check their qualifications are genuine?
  • Do you also conduct checks and screening of volunteers?
  • What information would rule out someone from working with children?
  • Do you use a number of methods such as formal checks, viewing evidence of background experience, qualifications and contacting referees (previous employees).
  • How often do you use casual staff and what checks do you use with them?

Finding out more about an independent contractor

When engaging an independent contractor it is entirely appropriate to follow these same processes as mentioned above. You can:

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  • Ask them for their curriculum vitae (CV). Sometimes this is also called a resume. It usually consists of a summary of the person’s qualifications and training, work and volunteer history. It is ok to ask questions about any aspect of their CV such as asking why there are gaps in the person’s work history?
  • Ask to see their professional qualifications. This includes what courses they have completed and  memberships of their professional association.
  • Ask them for Working with Children and police check. If they don’t have these, it is reasonable to ask them to apply for one.
  • Ask to see two forms of identity, including one with a photo – this is called an identity check and proves that the person is who they say that they are.


Conducting a referee check

You can ask the provider for contact details of recent referees. These are people who have worked with them or who can provide evidence about their experience and character.

When you contact a person’s referee check, this is called conducting a referee check. It is completely normal and common practice. Talking to others about a provider can  help you make your decision.

Usually checks are made by phone. The questions you ask will be influenced by what you think is important to find out about someone who will be working with your child.

Think about the areas and qualities that are important to you, and include them in your questions.

Interviewing potential providers

Interviewing potential providers is another way to find out about their suitability.

You can ask a friend or another parent to be present at the interview to give you with an objective view of the person’s suitability.

Things you can ask in an interview include:

  • You can ask them to respond to specific scenarios. For example how they have acted in a situation involving the use of physical force or restraints.
  • You can use open questions for some areas e.g. “can you tell me about your experience with working with children with disabilities ….?
  • You can also ask questions designed to find out about the provider’s attitudes and beliefs. These questions could be: “what are your thoughts about… How would you deal with this situation?”
  • You can ask questions that explore the person’s reasons for wanting to work with children
Observing the provider’s interactions with your child

Some parents invite the provider to spend time with their child, and observe their interactions.

This might also include visiting the organisation orprovider at different times during the day to observe the care and service being provided.

Talking to your child

You child is a vital source of information about the provider. Check in with them regularly about how they feel about the provider and the environment. You could ask:

  • What are the good things that happened today,
  • Were there any things that happened that made them (or anyone else) feel sad, scared, angry or worried?

Of course you would use the words that make sense for your child and choose a method that best suits them such as books, cards, games, photos or specialist communication tools.