Substantiations within the child protection system remain stable

Content warning: This media release contains information some readers may find distressing as it refers to data about child maltreatment.

The rate of substantiations within the child protection system has remained stable at around 8 per 1,000 children between 2017–18 and 2021–22, with around 45,500 children found to have been maltreated in 2021–22.

The latest Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report, Child protection Australia 2021–22 Insights, presents information on children aged 0–17 years who have come into contact with the child protection system.

Around 178,000 Australian children came into contact with the child protection system in 2021–22, a slight decrease from 179,000 in 2020–21.

‘Children who came into contact with the child protection system include those who were the subject of an investigation; on a care and protection order; and/or in out-of-home care (such as foster care or kinship care),’ said AIHW spokesperson Dr. Gabrielle Phillips.

A substantiation is when, after an investigation, it is concluded that there is reasonable cause to believe the child has been, is being, or is likely to be maltreated,’ said Dr Phillips.

Around 101,000 children had a finalised investigation in 2021–22. Of these children, 45% were substantiated and 55% were not.

Emotional abuse (57%) was the most common type of substantiated maltreatment, followed by neglect (21%).

Children who have been seriously harmed, being at risk or significant risk of harm or have no other care options, may be placed on care and protection orders. These are legal orders that give child protection departments some responsibility for a child’s welfare.

The rate of children on care and protection orders remained steady at around 1011 per 1,000 children between 30 June 2018 and 30 June 2022.

‘Children who experience maltreatment, or are unable to live with their families due to safety concerns, may be placed in out-of-home care,’ said Dr Phillips.

The rate of children in out-of-home care has remained relatively stable at around 8 per 1,000 children between 30 June 2018 and 30 June 2022.

Over the next 12 months, the AIHW will be releasing quarterly updates to include content specifically focusing on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the child protection system, the safety of children in care and pathways from out-of-home care.

Help and support

If you believe a child is in immediate danger or in a life-threatening situation, call 000.

For non-emergency situations that still require a timely response, contact your local police station or call 131 444.

If you wish to report a child protection matter, directly contact the agency responsible for child protection in your state or territory:

Media enquiries: [email protected]

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