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1 in 35 children in Australia need protection

March 17, 2019

Rate of child protection services continues to rise, with 1 in 35 children in Australia receiving services

The rate of children receiving child protection services in Australia continues to rise, according to a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Child protection Australia 2017–18, presents statistics on state and territory child protection and family support services. It shows that around 158,600—or 1 in 35—children received child protection services in 2017–18. Over half (56%) of these children were investigated but not subsequently placed on a care and protection order or in out-of-home care.

Between 2013–14 and 2017–18, the rate of children who were the subjects of substantiations rose from 7.2 to 8.5 per 1,000 children. The rate of children on care and protection orders also rose, from 8.7 to 10.1 per 1,000 children, and the rate for children in out-of-home care rose from 8.1 to 8.2 per 1,000 children.

‘Nearly three quarters, or 72%, of children who received child protection services were repeat clients. That is, these children had previously been the subject of an investigation or discharged from a care and protection order or out-of-home care placement,’ AIHW spokesperson Mr David Braddock said.

Children who received these services were those who were the subject of an investigation (following a notification to a child protection agency); on a care and protection order; and/or in out-of-home care (such as foster care). A notification is considered ‘substantiated’ when, after an investigation, it is concluded that there is sufficient reason to believe the child has been, is being, or is likely to be abused, neglected, or otherwise harmed.

Mr Braddock noted that some groups of children were more likely to receive child protection services than others.

‘Children from very remote areas were 4 times as likely as children from major cities to be the subject of a substantiation,’ he said.

Indigenous children were 8 times as likely to receive child protection services as non-Indigenous children, and 6 times as likely to be the subject of a substantiation. The rate for Indigenous children receiving child protection services rose from 140 to 164 per 1,000 children between 2013–14 and 2017–18.

‘A range of factors could be contributing to the rising rate of children receiving protection services among both Indigenous and non-Indigenous children. Increased public awareness and reporting, legislative changes and inquiries into the child protection processes all play a part, as well as potential rises in the rate of child abuse and neglect,’ Mr Braddock said.

A second report, also released today, seeks to better understand children’s experiences in out-of-home care, using survey data from a sample of children aged 8–17.

The report, The views of children and young people in out-of-home care, overview of indicator results from the second national survey, 2018, found 2 in 3 children in care (66%) reported that they usually get a say in what happens to them, and people usually listen to what they say.

‘This survey provides important insights into how children in out-of-home care are faring, and helps governments, policymakers and service providers better understand what matters to them and what changes can be made to improve their experiences in out-of-home care,’ Mr Braddock said.

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