Report on Child Protection in Australia
What the report is about
The report on Child Protection in Australia explores the situation in the 2016 – 2017 time period. This report is the 21st edition of this comprehensive report.
It includes detailed statistical information about Australian state and territory child protection and support services and identifies some of the shared characteristics of children who are receiving child protection services.
Child protection is a responsibility of each state and territory for the children in their areas. The role of statutory child protection bodies is to assist vulnerable children who have harmed or are at risk of harm due to abuse, neglect or other cause of harm or who’s parents are no longer able to provide adequate care or protection for them.
There are a number of key findings that will be of interest to anyone who is concerned about the well being of young people in our country.
Of these 379,459 notifications 177,056 (47%) were assessed as requiring further investigation while the rest were dealt with by other means such as referral to a support service.
This data is not consistent around Australia due to the way different jurisdictions collect and record data and treat notifications due to different state and territory legislation and organisations.
40% of the notifications came from either police (21%) or schools (19%)
In 2016 – 2017 168,352 children had an investigation, care and protection order and/or were placed in out of home care.
This is equal to 1 in every 32 children in Australia.
74% of these children were repeat clients who had come to the attention of child protection more than once.
These numbers are not reports. They relate only to the number of reported concerns that result in a child protection agency recording a Child Protection Notification.
In 2016 – 2017 49,160 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children received child protection services, a rate of 164.3 per 1,000 children, compared with 22.3 per 1,000 for non-Indigenous children.
Indigenous children were 7 times as likely as non-Indigenous children to have received child protection services.
The rate of increase in the number of children per 1,000 has increased for all children since the 2012-13 benchmark year. The increase was from 18.5 to 22.3 for non-indigenous children and 126.9 to 164.9 per 1,000 for indigenous children.
The report identifies some of the research into why this is likely to be the case.
It appears that children in Very Remote areas are 4 times as likely as those in Major Cities to be the subject of a substantiation.
Substantiation means that there is considered to be sufficient reason, after an investigation, to believe that the child has been or is likely to be abused, neglected or harmed.
There has been a continued increase in rates of interventions. The report compares rates of key interventions between 2012 – 2013 and 2016 – 2017.
- There was an increase in the rate of reports that were substantiated from 8.2 to 9.9 per 1,000
- There was an increase in the number of children on Care and Protection Orders from 8.2 to 9.9 per 1,000
- There was an increase in out-of-home care from 7.7 to 8.7 per 1,000
In 2016-2107 the national recurrent expenditure on child protection and out-of-home care services were $4.3 billion, a real increase of 8% from 2015 – 2016.
Of the substantiated reports of abuse or neglect reported a “primary” or most severe in the sort term type of abuse or neglect was recorded.
Nationally, emotional abuse was the most common primary type of abuse or neglect substantiated for children (48%), followed by neglect (24%), physical abuse (16%), and sexual abuse (12%). However, there was some variation between jurisdictions (Figure 3.3).
About 32,600 children have been in out of home care for 2 years or more.
62% were wards of the state with 24% living with a carer who had long term legal responsibility for them.
Preventative Early Intervention Strategies
As mediators we are most interested in what the report says about early intervention. The best way to manage child protection is to remove the risks to them by supporting families to be functional and supportive of their children.
The report identifies that in August 2017 the Community Services Ministers from the federal, state and territory governments agreed on two key focus areas.
- To provide stability for children in child protection
- To ensure that the right services are available to prevent children entering child protection.
We hope that means work towards eliminating the need for child protection although the report identifies only initiatives that focus on strategies to make out of home care more stable. For example removing legal rights from parents and placing them with the state or long term care givers.