Most children and young people are adequately protected and cared for within their own family. Only when parents or caregivers are unwilling or unable to protect their children from significant harm does the protection of children and young people become a state responsibility.
Under Victorian (Australia) child welfare law, a child is any person under 17 years of age. The use of the term Child in these pages includes adolescents.
The Department of Human Services has primary responsibility for investigating child abuse and neglect. Departmental protective workers are authorized to accept notifications of suspected child abuse and neglect, carry out investigations, and take action in the Children's Court.
Protective workers are also responsible for supervising children placed under the custody or guardianship of the Secretary or on an order requiring statutory supervision.
Children's Court intervention is necessary when a protective worker decides that a child cannot be cared for safely by parents or caregivers. The child is placed on a Protection Application and a magistrate of the Family Division of the Children's Court is required to make a decision about the child's circumstances.
During hearings at the Children's Court, the magistrate receives a report from the protective workers and in some cases form other professionals who know the child and family.