The law says that a child or young person at risk of harm or neglect, as a result of a single incident or a number of ongoing incidents, must be protected. Child abuse includes:
- hurting or threatening to hurt a young person physically, sexually or emotionally
- exposing a child to the risk of significant physical, sexual or emotional harm, such as:
- being caught in the middle of family violence
- allowing people with a history of child sex offences to be in the home
- having care of a child while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs
- having care of a child whilst living with an untreated mental health issue
- neglecting a child, for example:
- not giving a child enough food, clothing, shelter or necessary medical care
- failing to provide proper supervision.
If the department is investigating a report
The Department of Human Services investigates all kinds of reports, including allegations of children being:
- exposed to family violence
- exposed to drug use
- exposed to poor mental health
- left unsupervised.
If you are a parent and a report has been made about one of your children, the Department of Human Services must investigate.
Child protection and separated parents
If separated parents cannot agree on arrangements for children, and child abuse is reported, the family law courts will look at these reports. The courts may ask the Department of Human Services to investigate further.
Any decision regarding the health and safety of children made by the family law courts must be based on whether it is in their best interests.
Going to court
If the Department of Human Services has applied for a protection application you will have to go to the Children’s Court for a child protection case.
Reporting child abuse
If you believe a child (even an unborn child) is at risk of being abused or neglected, or there is a real risk of this, you can:
- call the police on 000 if a child is in immediate danger
- report concerns to the Child Protection Crisis Line on 131 278 (24 hours, 7 days a week, toll free within Victoria)
- contact your local Department of Human Services Child FIRST office.
Reporting child abuse or neglect is confidential.
If you believe that the safety of your children is threatened by a family member you can get a family violence intervention order.
You may need urgent legal help if:
- you or family members are being told to leave your home
- the Department of Human Services says your child will be removed
- you are unhappy with any other action the department is taking.
Find out how you can get help with your child protection matter.