1. Determine eligibility for an ATSIFSS referral

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Family Support Services provide intensive family support including case management, practical in-home support, brokerage and links to specialist services. A mix of practical, personal development, therapeutic and enabling services are utilised as appropriate, for example:

  • practical services that address a specific need in the family, such as transport to medical appointments, establishing daily routines related to meals or getting to school or respite care
  • personal support and development including information and advice, parenting skills courses, budgeting and household skills development
  • clinical or therapeutic services including casework, counselling, emotional support, family mediation, anger management, domestic violence intervention programs, development of social supports
  • enabling services to link the family to other supports via referral and advocacy (e.g. assist with access to housing, child care and education, emergency relief payment, rental assistance) and case management to coordinate service delivery.

Referral pathways

There are a number of referral pathways into early intervention service delivery, these include referrals from:

  • Child Safety
  • Department of Education and Training, Queensland Police Service and Queensland Health
  • Aboriginal medical services/ community controlled health services
  • Family and Child Connect and intensive family support services
  • other government and non-government agencies
  • self-referrals.

Only Child Safety is able to make referrals for a family eligible through the statutory criteria.

The Child Protection Act 1999 enables particular prescribed entities (159M) to make referrals to intensive family support services, including ATSIFSS, without a family’s consent in order to ’offer help and support to a child or child’s family to stop the child becoming a child in need of protection’ (defined in section 159C (1) (b) (vi) of the Child Protection Act 1999). The exception to this is referrals related to unborn children.  A referral cannot be made in relation to a pregnant woman and her unborn child without her consent.

Particular prescribed entities (defined in section 159M of the Child Protection Act 1999)are:

  • the chief executive and an authorised officer under the Child Protection Act 1999
  • the chief executive of department’s with the main responsibility for the following, and their delegate:
    • adult corrective services
    • community services
    • disability services
    • education
    • housing services
    • public health
  • the chief executive officer of the Mater Misericordiae Health Services Brisbane Ltd (ACN 096 708 922), or their delegate
  • a health service chief executive within the meaning of the Hospital and Health Boards Act 2011, or their delegates
  • the police commissioner, or their delegate
  • the principal of a school that is accredited, or provisionally accredited, under the Education (Accreditation of Non-State Schools) Act 2001

Whilst the Child Protection Act 1999 allows referrals to Family and Child Connect and intensive family support services without consent, it is considered best practice to obtain consent wherever possible to share a child or family’s information.

ATSIFSS Referral Criteria

The referral criteria for both statutory (Child Safety referrals only) and early intervention is as follows:

  • the child or a parent identifies as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person
  • the child is 0-18 years of age or the pregnant woman has consented to the service when the concerns relate to an unborn child, and
  • the family would benefit from access to the ATSIFSS, and
  • the family has multiple and/or complex needs.

The family must also meet the following additional criteria for entry under early intervention (any referral pathway) or statutory (Child Safety referrals only).

Early Intervention Criteria

  • the child is not currently in need of protection, and
  • without support the child, young person and family are at risk of entering or re-entering the statutory child protection system.
  • With the exception of referrals relating to unborn children, particular prescribed entities (section 159M, CPA) are able to make direct referrals to ATSIFSS without the consent of the family (refer to Referrals without consent, above).  All other referrers must have the consent of the family, prior to making a referral.

Statutory Referral Criteria

Child Safety can also refer children and families who meet the following criteria:

  • the child is currently assessed as in need of protection or the unborn child is assessed as in need of protection after birth
  • one or both of the parents have consented to the referral or for an unborn child the mother has consented to the referral
  • the provision of the service may reduce the need for the child to enter out-of-home care or the child is in out-of home care and the goal of the case plan is reunification within 12 months

Other considerations

Defining a parent

When considering a referral to an ATSIFSS, a parent includes:

  • the child’s mother, father or someone else having or exercising parental responsibility for the child
  • a person who, under Aboriginal tradition, is regarded as a parent of the child or a person who, under Island custom, is regarded as a parent of the child.

A parent does not include a foster carer or specialist foster carer.  Kinship carers providing an out of home care placement should receive support in the first instance from a funded Foster and Kinship Care Service.  However generally, kin that are in a caring role for the child are eligible to receive support through ATSIFSS. This may include grandparents, aunts, uncles, adult siblings and cousins.

Multiple and/or complex needs

When assessing whether an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander family has multiple and/or complex needs, consider whether there is at least one family member presenting with behaviours or circumstances that are having negative consequences for the family, particularly children.  Consider if there is:

  • More than one issue impacting on the child or family’s wellbeing; or
  • There is a complex issue/s impacting on the child or family’s wellbeing.  This may be evidenced the presence of one or more of the following factors:
    • there have been multiple child concern reports or notifications in the previous 12 month period
    • there is previous child protection history in relation to older children that extends over a period of time, indicating possible cumulative harm
    • one or more children are vulnerable, due to the presence of disabilities, challenging behaviours or chronic health issues
    • parental or carer factors include substance misuse, mental health issues, domestic and family violence or relevant criminal history
    • there are social, environmental or contextual factors impacting negatively on the family.


When considering a referral:

  • discuss this with a team leader
  • discuss the referral with the recognised entity (note: prior to this discussion for an unborn child, the pregnant woman must have provided consent to contact the recognised entity).
  • consider discussing the referral with the ATSIFSS 

For further information about working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, refer to the practice paper Working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (PDF).