Early Childhood Australia (ECA) is working to inform the Victorian early childhood education and care sector about the Child Information Sharing Scheme (CISS)—to promote the wellbeing and safety of children. This blog explains the CISS and how services—known as Information Sharing Entities (ISEs)—can utilise the scheme, and why sharing information matters. It also includes a case study and recommended resources.
Why information sharing matters
Since 19 April 2021, centre-based early childhood education and care services (including long day care, kindergarten and before and after school hours care services) have been prescribed Information Sharing Entities (ISEs) under the Victorian Government’s Child Information Sharing Scheme (CISS). CISS expands the circumstances in which ISEs can share information to promote the wellbeing or safety of children. For example, ISEs can request information from other ISEs (such as schools, maternal and child health services, community-based child and family services, Child Protection and Victoria Police) or proactively share information with them. ISEs are also required to respond to requests for information from other ISEs.
CISS promotes the wellbeing and safety of children by promoting early identification of needs or issues enabling earlier support and engagement with services and supporting a collaborative approach across the service sector. It also empowers early childhood professionals to make informed decisions about the needs of the children in their care, in collaboration with a broad range of other services and professionals.
In the Victorian early childhood education and care sector, professionals understanding of children’s wellbeing is informed by the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework and the Child Safe Standards. Wellbeing and safety should also be understood in a human rights framework which protects a child right to develop to their full potential, access services to support their health and education, participate in their communities and be protected from harm. While child wellbeing is not defined by the schemes, early childhood professionals should use their judgement and contextualised understanding of child wellbeing indicators within their setting to inform their practice.
Working with children and families
CISS complements and builds on the existing frameworks designed to keep children safe, including the Child Safe Standards, Mandatory Reporting, Reportable Conduct, privacy law and duty of care. However, CISS differs in a significant way: it authorises ISEs to collaborate and share confidential information without consent when sharing the information will assist another ISE to promote a child’s wellbeing or safety.
In this way, CISS assists early childhood professionals to respond earlier and more effectively to the wellbeing and safety needs of children in their care.
Under CISS, consent is not required to share information but ISEs should seek and take into account the views of a child or their family before sharing information if it is safe, reasonable and appropriate to do so. This helps to:
- develop and maintain trusting and positive relationships with families
- improve and maintain engagement with families, including those at risk of disengaging
- empower children and their families
- increase or protect the safety of children and their families.
It also recognises that a child and their family are likely to have a unique understanding of what will promote their wellbeing and safety, particularly for children with diverse identities, backgrounds and circumstances.
Provided it is safe, reasonable and appropriate, including a child and their family in decisions about sharing information can empower them to contribute to the child’s wellbeing and safety. A child’s age, maturity and circumstances can help determine if it is appropriate to seek their views and wishes. Early childhood professionals can support children to share their views by tailoring communication to their age and stage of development, such as using pictures or simple language.
There will be times when it may not be safe, reasonable or appropriate to seek the views of a child or their family before sharing information under CISS.
For example, it may not be safe to seek the views and wishes of a child or their family if it would increase risk to the child or another person or if there is an immediate risk to someone. It may be unreasonable if it is not possible to contact a family member or if they don’t have a current service relationship.
Sasha, who was recently diagnosed with ADHD, has moved to a new early education and care service. The director of Sasha’s previous service, Isla, felt that it would be helpful, and in support of Sasha’s transition, to share information using CISS with Sasha’s new service. This would include information about her diagnosis and supportive strategies and tools that had effectively enabled Sasha’s engagement with their program.
Isla discussed with Sasha’s parents how sharing information would help Sasha engage effectively with the new service and while they were cautious about openly discussing Sasha’s diagnosis, they understood how sharing could provide for a smoother transition into her new program and help the early childhood educators provide a supportive environment based on her needs.
The Department of Education and Training has developed tailored guidance and training on CISS for education workforces.