Number of children receiving child protection services grew by 18,200 in 5 years

Around 170,200 young Australians received child protection services in 2018–19, according to a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Child protection Australia 2018–19, presents information on state and territory child protection services and the characteristics of children who received these services.

‘The services provided included investigations into notifications, intensive family support services and other actions to ensure child safety,’ said AIHW spokesperson Dr. Indrani Pieris-Caldwell.

‘Between 2014–15 and 2018–19, the number of children receiving child protection services rose by about 12% from 152,000 to 170,200, however the rate remained stable at around 30 per 1,000 children.

‘In 2018–19, there were 47,500 children with substantiated cases of abuse or neglect, a rate of 9 per 1,000, which has also been stable over the last 5 years.’

Following substantiation, some children will continue to live with their family if it is determined to be safe for them. In other cases, the child may be placed in out-of-home care.

As at 30 June 2019, there were approximately 44,900 children in out-of-home care across Australia, and 30,300 of them (67%) had been in care for more than 2 years.

The rate of children in out-of-home care in 2018–19 was 8 per 1,000 which is a slight reduction over the past 5 years. This is based on a recently agreed nationally consistent definition that excludes children on third party parental responsibility orders. If the children in out-of-home care and those on third party parental responsibility orders are both considered, the number and rates of children not living with parents for child protection reasons has continued to rise since 2014–15.

Indigenous children continue to be overrepresented with 1 in 6 Indigenous children receiving child protection services. The rate for Indigenous children receiving child protection services rose from 134 to 156 per 1,000 children between 2014–15 and 2018–19.

‘A range of factors could be contributing to the rising rate of children receiving protection services among both Indigenous and non-Indigenous children,’ Dr. Pieris-Caldwell said.

‘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.’

For the first time, the report includes information about children exiting out-of-home care to more stable and permanent arrangements.

In 2018–19, over 3,700 children were reunified with their family and a further 680 left out-of-home care to a more permanent living arrangement in the form of a third party parental responsibility order.

‘Children who are removed from their families and experience multiple placements can experience profound trauma and distress that can affect their long-term outcomes in education, employment, health and relationships so it is important to provide them with stable living arrangements,’ Dr. Pieris-Caldwell said.

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