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2.1.1 Children who are at risk of being abducted or removed or are missing

Last Modified: 22-Mar-2022 Review Date: 01-Sep-2021

 ‭(Hidden)‬ Legislation

Overview

Where a Child Safety Investigation (CSI) identifies that a child may be at risk of abduction or removal by a parent, relative or other person, the Department of Communities (the Department) must develop a safety plan to minimise the risk.  Department staff, the child's parents and other significant persons attend a safety planning meeting to discuss and agree on a plan to prevent the child being abducted or removed, or from going missing. 

The safety plan must set out who is in the child's safety network, include the danger statement, the safety goals, and the rules for the safety plan.  It must also set out what will happen if the rules are broken. All parties must be aware of what needs to happen should situations change.

At this meeting, Department officers must inform the child's family about the Department's statutory role and authority, if this has not already been explained at an earlier Signs of Safety meeting.   

Note: CEO refers to the Chief Executive Officer of the Department.

Rules
    

If a child in the CEO's care is abducted or removed without permission by a parent, relative or another person, you must make every effort to locate the child. 

  • You must inform the child's parents if a relative or other person has removed a child.

  • If a child in the CEO’s care goes missing from their care arrangement, you and the carer must make every effort to locate the child.

  • If the child cannot be located, you and/or the carer must make a ‘missing persons report’ to the local police office.  A report must be made immediately if there are circumstances of high risk (refer to procedures below). 

  • If a child goes missing from a Department residential group home or secure care, staff must follow the procedures set out in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) Processes When a Child in the CEO's Care Absconds from a CPFS Residential Care Facility or Secure Care (in related resources).

Process Maps

Flowchart - Summary of Actions - CPFS

Information and Instructions

  • Child is assessed as being at risk of abduction or removal from the CEO's care without permission
  • If a child in the CEO's care is abducted or removed without permission
  • Informing the child’s carers and/or parents
  • Recording the alert in Assist
  • A child in the CEO's care goes missing
  • High risk cases
  • Where a child is missing from a Department residential group home or secure care
  • Seeking assistance from the public to locate a missing child
  • When the child is located
  • Child is assessed as being at risk of abduction or removal from the CEO's care without permission

    Where the CSI identifies that a child may be at risk of abduction or removal by a parent, relative or other person, consult with your team leader (TL) and develop a safety plan to minimise the risk.

    You must consult with your TL and obtain approval to place an alert in Assist and notify Western Australia Policy (WA Police).  Refer to Assist User Guides - Adding, Extending and Completing an Alert (Also in related resources).

    Arrange a safety planning meeting with the parents and other significant persons to discuss and agree on the safety plan. The safety plan must include informatin on who is in the child's safety network, the danger statement and safety goals, the rules of the safety plan, and what will happen if the rules are broken. All parties must be aware of what needs to happen should situations change.

    At the meeting, inform the child’s family of the Department's statutory role and authority if this has not already been explained at an earlier Signs of Safety meeting. You must

    • explain to the family and significant others that while the child is in the CEO's care, it is against the law to remove them without permission.

    • notify the child’s school and other relevant services of the potential risk to the child

    • with the child, discuss the importance of keeping their care arrangement and school details confidential (where age and capacity permits), and   

    • remove identifying information from any material that you provide to the person who is of concern, such as the care plan. Identifying information includes:

      • where the child resides, and 
      • the name of the child’s school, agencies or services he or she attends (including child care and medical services).
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    If a child in the CEO's care is abducted or removed without permission

    If a child in the CEO’s care is abducted or removed without permission, advise your TL, and district director (DD), and make every effort to locate the child and return them to their care arrangement, if it is safe and practicable.

    When the child’s whereabouts may be known but there are serious safety concerns for you and/or the child, you must request WA Police assistance to locate and return the child to their care arrangement.

    If the child cannot be located, consult with your TL, and with thier approval, you must place an alert in Assist and notify the WA Police that the child has been taken unlawfully (telephone 131 444).

    WA Police will need specific information about the circumstances of the child’s abduction or unlawful removal from the CEO's care, and any high risk factors such as if:

    • the child is sick, injured or on medication

    • the child is young or otherwise particularly vulnerable

    • you suspect that the child may be forcibly removed to another state or overseas

    • the person who took the child has significant history of causing harm to the child or other children

    • the person has stated intent to harm the child

    • the person is under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, or 

    • the person is highly distressed.  


    If you suspect that the child may be taken interstate, request an Interstate Broadcast Alert through the Department's Interstate Liaison  Officer:  WAInterstateLiaison@communities.wa.gov.au

    Section 84 of the Children and Community Services Act 2004 (the Act) enables an authorised officer to require the handover of a child from a carer, parent or any other person who has the care or control of a child who is the subject of a placement arrangement. Non-compliance with such a requirement carries a penalty of $12,000 or imprisonment for one year.

    Section 87 of the Act enables an authorised officer or a police officer to apprehend a child without warrant if a person (including a carer) has failed to comply with the requirement under s.84 of the Act and there are reasonable grounds to suspect an immediate or substantial risk to the wellbeing of the child.​

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    Informing the child’s carers and/or parents

    If a child has been removed or abducted from the CEO's care, support the carers as required. If the carer is not aware of the situation, advise them as soon as practicable.

    If the child was removed or abducted by someone other than the parents inform them as soon as possible and advise them of the actions being taken to locate their child. If one parent removed or abducted the child, inform the other parent. 

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    Recording the alert in Assist

    Before recording an alert in Assist, discuss what information should be recorded and obtain your TL's approval. Enter the alert from the child's 360 degree view) where:

    • there is a risk that the child may be abducted or removed from the CEO's care without permission, and/or
    • the child has been abducted or removed from the CEO's care unlawfully.

    For information on alerts and recording, refer to Chapter 4.2: Case alerts and Assist User Guides: Adding, Extending and Completing an Alert.

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    A child in the CEO's care goes missing

    If a child is missing from their care arrangement, the carer (Department or non-government agency) must:

    • conduct an initial search for the child

    • report the child missing to the WA Police by filing a missing persons report at the local police station if the child cannot be located. If carers need assistance they should contact their district office or the Statewide Referral and Response Service (SRRS) if after hours.

    • contact the district office and inform the child's case worker of the child's absence. If the case worker is not available, inform the duty officer or if it is after hours, inform the SRRS on 9223 1111 or 1800 199 008 (country free call).

    The carer needs to provide the following information to WA Police:

    • A physical description of the child including distinguishable features.
    • A recent photograph of the child (if available).
    • Where and when the child was last seen or heard from
    • Places the child may visit.
    • A list of any medical problems or medications the child may need.
    • The names and contacts of friends associated with the child.

    If you can provide any additional relevant information to assist the police, do so.  The police may speak with you and/or the carer about what happened before  the child went missing, and check what the child was wearing.

    When you are advised that a child is missing:

    • check that a missing persons report has been made to the WA Police

    • advise the child’s parents where appropriate, enter an alert in Assist and record the movement to a placement type 'Unknown', and

    • liaise with police as required.

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    High risk cases

    In circumstances of high risk, you and the carer (Department or non-government agency) must lodge a missing persons report with the WA Police immediately.

    High risk factors include where the child:

    • is or may be suicidal or has a history of recent self-harming behaviour
    • is highly distressed and/or has mental health issues  
    • may be affected by alcohol and/or other drugs
    • is sick, injured or on medication
    • has stated intent to harm others
    • has stated the intent to commit a crime, cause damage or arson
    • is known to be in the company of someone of concern – for example, the person has a history of serious offending or inappropriate relationship with the child, or
    • is young or otherwise particularly vulnerable.
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    Where a child is missing from a Department residential group home or secure care

    Residential group home and Secure Care staff must follow the procedures set out in the MOU Processes When A Child in the Care of the CEO Absconds From a CPFS Residential Care Facility or Secure Care

    This MOU forms the basis for the response, including responsibilities and procedures to be undertaken by each agency when a child is missing from a Department residential group home or secure care.  The MOU includes a flowchart to summarise the actions that residential care or secure care workers must follow, and a template of the form At risk person assessment form CPFS Absconder Report.

    Residential group home and secure care staff must follow the procedures set out in the MOU.

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    Seeking assistance from the public to locate a missing child

    Seeking assistance from the public to locate a missing child must be approved by the relevant Executive Director (ED) or Regional Executive Director (RED) and the CEO.

    You must consult with your TL and DD before a request for approval is made to the ED, RED or CEO for approval.  After hours or on weekends, staff from the SRRS will make the request on behalf of the district. 

    Where seeking the assistance of the public to locate the missing child is approved by the relevant ED, RED, and the CEO, a media statement will be prepared to identify the child as being in the CEO's care. 

    Following approval (or concurrently), the DD needs to provide as much information about the child as possible to the Director Corporate Communications for a media statement to be prepared. This will include information about:

    • the child's name and age

    • when he or she was last seen

    • what the child was wearing, and

    • a physical description and a photograph (if possible).

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    When the child is located

    When the child is found and returned to their care arrangement, the carer must check if the child requires immediate medical attention. If the WA Police are not aware of the child’s return, the carer must notify them as soon as possible. The carer must also notify you or duty officer (or the SRRS if after hours) if the Department is not aware that the child has been located and returned.  

    When you are notified of the child's return: 

    • determine whether the child has suffered any injury or harm and take any immediate action to address the needs of the child

    • notify the child’s parents (if appropriate) or significant others of the child’s return

    • if there are no safety concerns, debrief the child about his/her absence (this may be on the next working day)

    • remove the alert in Assist and update the placement type, and 

    • place all records in the Objective case file.

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