Child protection investigations

Your family may be investigated by the Department of Communities (sometimes called ‘Child Protection’ or 'the Department’) because of reports about the safety or wellbeing of your children.

There can be many different reasons why someone might be worried about your children's welfare, including worries about your children being abused, living in an unsafe home environment, being left unsupervised, or being at risk because of mental health issues. The Department can receive information about children from anyone in the community, including family members, neighbours, teachers, doctors, and health workers, or even the children themselves. Maybe you are worried about the safety or wellbeing of a child and want to make a report.

After the Department has investigated the worries, it will decide what steps, if any, it needs to take to improve the safety and care of your children. Where possible, the Department will try to work with you and your family to meet the needs of your children. 

You don’t have to talk to the Department during an investigation but telling your story may show them that they have nothing to worry about. It may also get things sorted out faster. For example, if there are worries about school attendance, you may be able to show that absences were because of your child being ill. For other worries, you may also be able to show that you have already taken steps to make things safe for your child.

This page has information to help you understand what sort of worries lead to investigations and what action the Department can take while investigating worries about a child’s safety or wellbeing. 

What types of worries does the Department investigate?

The Department investigates all kinds of worries, including allegations of children and young people being:

  • exposed to family violence, this includes hearing or seeing it or its effects
  • exposed to drug use
  • left unsupervised
  • at risk because of mental health issues.

If you are a parent and a report has been made about your child, the Department may investigate. The Department will want to work with you to fix any worries.

Child Protection may also work with you during your pregnancy if they have worries about the safety of your unborn child after the birth.

When is a child or young person in need of ‘protection’?

The Children and Community Services Act 2004 (WA) (‘the law’), says a child needs protection if they have suffered, or are likely to suffer:

  • physical, sexual, or emotional abuse which includes:
    • psychological abuse 
    • being exposed to family violence
  • neglect, and
  • the child’s parents have not protected or can’t protect them from that harm.

The law also considers a child in need of protection if:

  • they have been abandoned and the parents cannot be found, or
  • the parents have died or are not willing or able to care for their child and no suitable adult family members can be found who are willing or able to care for the child.

How does the Department investigate worries?

The Department officers may interview the child and other family members. Sometimes, the Department may contact professionals who have been involved with the child such as teachers at school, and doctors.

Can the Department talk to my child without me being there?

Yes. If the Department is concerned that your child might need protection, a Department officer can talk to your child without you being there. The Department does not have to tell you that they are going to speak to your child.

Will the Department tell me if they have talked to my child?

In most cases the Department must tell you if they have talked to your child. However, they may not tell you in some situations, including if:

  • telling you may interfere with a criminal police investigation
  • the Department believes telling you may put your child in danger, or
  • your child has asked the Department not to tell you and they believe it is in your child's best interests not to tell you.

What does ‘taken into care’ mean?

‘Taken into care’ is a phrase used to describe the legal process of the Department removing a child from the care of a parent or parents.

After investigating, the Department may take a child into provisional (temporary) protection and care if they believe the child needs protection.

If your child is taken into care, this usually means the Department will organise for them to live with someone else, at least temporarily. The Department will also have the power to make the day-to-day decisions for your child.

What happens after the Department takes my child into care?

After the Department has taken your child into care, it will decide whether the child needs ongoing protection.

The Department may decide to do one or more of the following:

  • take no more action and return your child to your care
  • provide you and your child with family support services
  • carry out more investigations, or
  • start a protection case in the Children’s Court - if the Department thinks that your child needs protection and shouldn’t be returned to your care until it is safe enough, or can be returned to your care under supervision by the Department, it may make an application to the Children's Court for a protection order.  

If you and the other parent are separated, sometimes the Department may place your child with the other parent if that is a safe option. In this situation a case may be started by that parent in the Family Court.

More information

Department of Communities


Legal Aid WA

Blurred Borders Keep em Safe fact sheets


Reviewed: 24 October 2023



The information displayed on this page is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should see a lawyer. Legal Aid Western Australia aims to provide information that is accurate, however does not accept responsibility for any errors or omissions in the information provided on this page or incorporated into it by reference.