Understanding how to respond to concerns.

You need to make sure providers have clear processes and procedures for responding to concerns, complaints and grievances about children’s safety and care.

This will also include a clear and simple way to make a formal complaint.

The provider’s complaints procedure needs to be publicly available, (for example on their website) and clearly outlined in documentation they give to prospective families.

Often, providers have a designated person you can speak to. The person will manage the complaints process.

If you are not clear about the provider’s complaints process, ask them about the reporting procedure for complaints and concerns and where you can access it.

Communicating with your child about concerns:
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  • It is likely that the way that you have found out that something is wrong is from your child.  You should always take your child (and your own intuition) seriously. This is particularly important if they tell you they have felt unsafe, or may have experienced harm or abuse. Or you have picked up that something is wrong.
  • Let your child know they did the right thing by telling you, and that you will do everything you can to make sure they are safe.
  • You need to ensure they are safe. Do not let them have further contact with the person who may have caused the harm to occur.
Responding to harm or sexual abuse:
  • How you react and what you do to respond will be determined by the nature of the harm and the urgency of the situation. If you are not sure it is important to ask someone for advice.
  • Child Protection Services can be very helpful. They can advise you what action needs to be taken. Call the Child Protection Crisis Line: 13 12 78.
  • You can contact the police. If it is an emergency, contact Triple Zero (000), or you can call or go to your local police station. Contact police in an emergency.
  • Allegations of child sexual abuse must be reported to police and/or Child Protection. Police are unlikely to be involved in other matters.
  • If your child has physical injuries, you may want to take your child to your doctor or the closest  hospital emergency department.
  • You need to inform the manager or contact person for the provider if you are worried about the standard of care being provided or if an incident has occurred.

Helplines to give you support and advice:

If you think your child has been harmed or sexually abused there are a number of helplines you can contact.

The helplines can give you immediate protection or counselling services, or they may refer you to other services that can help you.

Helplines and support in Victoria include:

    • Centre’s Against Sexual Assault (CASA’s) provide crisis response and services for people who are victims/survivors of sexual assault. They are also excellent in providing other resources e.g. recommended counsellors. Phone 1800 806 292 or email ahcasa@thewomens.org.au. Their website www.casa.org.au also provides useful information.
    • Counselling services for domestic and family violence and sexual assault | 1800RESPECT, Women’s Information Referral Exchange, WIRE on 1300 134 130, www.relationshipsvictoria.com.au, Lifeline 13 11 14
    • Child Wise (one of Australia’s leading not-for-profit child abuse prevention organizations. The Child Wise National Child Abuse Helplines is a toll-free number: 1800 99 10 99, Website: childwise.org.a
    • National Disability Abuse and Neglect Hotline is a telephone service for reporting cases of neglect and abuse of people with a disability. Phone 1800 880 052 (free call from land lines) or email hotline@workfocus.com Post PO Box Q687, Sydney NW 1230 Fax 02 8417 2697
    • Sexual Assault Crisis Line is a state-wide, confidential, telephone crisis counselling service for victim/survivors of both past and recent sexual assault. SACL operates between 5pm weeknights through to 9am the next day and throughout weekends and public holidays. Phone 1800 806 292 (free call from land lines)
    • Kids Helpline: a free, private and confidential, telephone and online counselling service especially for young people about a wide range of issues including child abuse. 1800 55 1800
    • Bravehearts provides specialist therapeutic services and support to children and young people, adults and non-offending family members affected by child sexual assault bravehearts.org.au

    In all these situations you may want someone to be there with you – a family member, friend, advocate, professional.

    You may want to write down notes that they could refer to when speaking with authorities.

How you might feel if you find out your child has been harmed:

If you find out your child has not been kept safe and free from harm, you will probably feel a range of emotions. You might feel:

  • angry,
  • distressed
  • frightened
  • ill-equipped to deal with the situation.

You might be afraid the issue won’t be taken seriously, or will make things worse for your child and your family if you bring the issue into the open. These concerns are common for all parents but are even more pronounced when it comes to children with disability.

These are understandable concerns, but it is also very important that your child is adequately protected.  This means addressing all issues. It does not help them, other children or you to remain silent.

For some parents hearing about their child’s experience can also raise issues and painful memories from their own childhood and background.

If this happens to you, or you feel distressed by what has occurred,  you may need to seek support and counselling for yourself. It is very important that you look after yourself and that you receive the support you need. There are resources and supports you can contact for support for yourself.

Contact one of the helplines above for referral to a service that will be able to help you or  please go to our Helpful Resources section to find suggestions for who you may want to contact to receive help.

What to do if providers do not meet their requirements:
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You may find that a provider you are involved with doesn’t meet the requirements of the Child Safe Standards and features of a safe environment.

You may decide that you are unwilling to use that provider. You may also decide that other factors outweigh the absence of these elements and decide to use the provider anyway.

Even if services don’t have policies in place, it is still your choice who you choose to become involved with.

This is your decision, but we strongly encourage you to make this decision carefully and to inform providers of the minimum standards them to meet, and the areas you want to see them working towards to ensure they are providing a safe environment for your child.