Understanding about employing providers to ensure children are safe section (in organisations & employing providers yourself)

A safe environment is strongly supported by providers with the relevant, experience, qualifications, specialist skills, personal qualities. Providers who value and demonstrate the importance of a safe environment being provided for all children.

Having the ‘right’ workers begin with their selection to the job. Employers use a combination of methods and indicators as part of their employment screening to assess a person’s suitability to work with or care for children and find the right people.

Particularly if you are engaging an independent contractor, you need to also feel confident about their suitability. Thus it is entirely appropriate to follow some or all the same processes and procedures that are used within an organisational setting.

Remember these are not fool proof methods but they provide another protective layer to promote your child’s safety.


What are the main methods and processes used?

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You need to be aware that there are relevant laws and requirements that provide guidance to employers and parents.

  • In Victoria a Working with Children Check is a legal requirement for everyone doing paid or voluntary child-related work (this includes those providing counselling, support services cultural or recreational services). The Working with Children Check is a rigorous assessment of an applicant’s criminal records and any reports about professional conduct, preventing those who pose an unjustifiable risk to children from working with or caring for them. This provides one part of employment screening.

[More information about Working with Children’s Checks can be found at:]



  • A Police Check (or criminal history check) is frequently a requirement in many work places. This check consists of a list of offences that can be disclosed from a person’s national criminal records. There is no assessment or investigation made of the offences. It provides information on some criminal convictions and therefore does not provide a fool proof indication of safety. It is seen as a good starting point and may act as a deterrent to some applicants. For more information: http://www.police.vic.gov.au/
  • Other frequent methods include viewing evidence of the provider’s background experience, their qualifications, and contacting referees (previous employers).


What questions you can ask an organisation to find out more about this area include:

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  • How do you recruit staff and volunteers?
  • What type of background checks, qualifications do the staff/providers working here have?
  • Do you conduct Working with Children and police checks with all staff who work with children including those who may not have direct contact with children as part of their employment?
  • Do you undertake reference checks?
  • How do you ensure that all staff, even those who do not have direct contact with children are suitable?
  • How do you check/screen if their qualifications are genuine?
  • Do you also conduct checks and screening of volunteers?
  • What information would rule out someone from working with children?
  • Do you utilise a number of methods for example formal checks, viewing evidence of background experience, qualifications, contacting referees (previous employees).
  • How frequently do you use casual staff and what checks do you use with them?

What questions you can ask an independent contractor to assess their suitability include:

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Remember if you are engaging an independent contractor it is entirely appropriate to follow these same processes and ask them about and/or request a copy of:

  • A person’s curriculum vitae (CV). Sometimes these are also called resumes and usually consist of a summary of someone’s qualifications and training, work and volunteer history and sometimes their interests. It is usual to ask questions about any aspect e.g. if there are gaps in the person’s work history what is their explanation for this?
  • Their professional qualifications (what courses have they completed, are they members of their professional association?).
  • Their Working with Children and police check. If they don’t have these it is reasonable to ask them to apply for one.
  • Two forms of identity, including one with a photo – this is called an identity check and proves that the person is who they say that they are.

Details of recent referees (people who have worked with or can provide details about the person’s experience and character) and contacting them. This is called conducting a referee check and it is a normal practice in organisations because talking to others about their experiences and opinion about a provider can assist you in making your decision. Usually checks are made by phone. The questions you ask will be influenced by what you think is important to find out about someone who will be working with your child. It can be useful therefore to think about what areas and qualities you think are important and include them in your questions.

  • You may request that a friend or another parent also participate in the interview to provide you with an objective response to the person’s suitability.
  • Conducting an interview with a prospective provider can include:
    • Presenting specific scenarios to them for example describing a particular situation/scenario related to an important area (e.g. use of physical force, restraints) and ask them how they have responded in the past and whether they would use them.
    • Use a more open questioning style for some areas e.g. “can you tell me about your experience with working with children with disabilities ….? You might also ask what are called attitudinal questions: “what are your thoughts about…. How would you deal with this situation?”
    • Asking questions which explore the person’s reasons for wanting to work with children
  • Some parents invite the provider to spend time with their child and observe their interactions and/or visit the organisation/provider at different times during the day to observe the care and service being provided.

Of course an important source of information is your child and checking in with them on a regular basis about how they are feeling in their interactions with the provider/in this setting – what are the good things that happened today, were there any things that happened that made them (or anyone else) sad, scared, angry worried (you would use the words that make sense for your child and use the medium that enables their communication e.g. books, cards, games, photos, specialist communication tools.)