How many children are abused in care?
In 2020–21, 1,312 children were the subject of a substantiation of abuse in care.
Among these children:
- 41% were aged 10–14 at the time of substantiation, followed by those aged 5–9 (29%) and 15 and over (20%).
- More were girls (52%) than boys (48%).
- 44% were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
Figure 1: Children who were the subject of a substantiation of abuse in care, by age and sex, 2020–21
Source: Supplementary Table 6.
Type of abuse
The type of abuse presented here is that considered most likely to place the child at risk or be most severe in the short term – this is known as the ‘primary’ type of abuse.
In 2020–21, emotional (29%) and physical (29%) abuse were the most common primary types of abuse in care, followed by neglect (21%) and sexual abuse (15%).
Among boys, physical and emotional abuse were most common (32% and 31% of boys, respectively). Similarly for girls, emotional (28%) and physical (26%) abuse were most common.
Figure 2: Children who were the subject of a substantiation of abuse in care, by type of abuse and sex, 2020–21
Source: Supplementary Table 5.
There was some variation based on age and Indigenous status.
Among those aged 10–14 and 15 and over at the time of substantiation, physical abuse was most common (30% of both age groups), whereas emotional abuse was most common among under 5’s and 5–9 year olds (34% and 33%, respectively).
Figure 3: Children who were the subject of a substantiation of abuse in care, by type of abuse and age, 2020–21
Source: Supplementary Table 4.
Physical and emotional abuse were the most common types of abuse among Indigenous children (32% and 28%, respectively). Emotional and physical abuse were the most common types of abuse among non-Indigenous children (30% and 27%, respectively). Sexual abuse was similar among Indigenous children (16%) and non-Indigenous children (15%).
Figure 4: Children who were the subject of a substantiation of abuse in care, by type of abuse and Indigenous status, 2020–21
Source: Supplementary Table 3.
Rate of abuse among all children in care
Currently, it is not possible to estimate the rate of abuse among all children in care because:
- Data are based on the date of substantiation (not date of abuse) so may include historical cases of children who were in care at the time the abuse occurred, but subsequently exited care before the date of the substantiation. This may mean it is not possible to identify a directly comparable numerator and denominator for use in rate calculations. It may only be feasible to identify a ‘best estimate’ of all children in the in-care population to use as a denominator.
- Abuse in care substantiations data include children in out-of-home care, and children on selected types of court orders who may be in other (non-out-of-home care) living arrangements. Currently, there are no readily available data on this population. Data are readily available for the out-of-home care population; however, this is a narrower scope than the abuse in care substantiations data (so any comparisons may overestimate the rate of abuse in care).
The following information provides some context for the key findings of this report, but should not be used to make direct comparisons:
- There were 1,312 children who were the subject of a substantiation in 2020–21 for abuse that occurred in care.
- 56,456 children were in out-of-home care at some time during 2019–20 (representing 1.0% of all children aged 0–17). This represents a narrower scope than the abuse in care substantiations data in this report, so any comparisons may overestimate the rate of abuse in care. Data for 2020–21 were not available at the time of writing.