Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2021) Young people in out-of-home care, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 27 November 2022.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2021). Young people in out-of-home care. Retrieved from https://pp.aihw.gov.au/reports/children-youth/young-people
Young people in out-of-home care. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 25 June 2021, https://pp.aihw.gov.au/reports/children-youth/young-people
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Young people in out-of-home care [Internet]. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2021 [cited 2022 Nov. 27]. Available from: https://pp.aihw.gov.au/reports/children-youth/young-people
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2021, Young people in out-of-home care, viewed 27 November 2022, https://pp.aihw.gov.au/reports/children-youth/young-people
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While the vast majority of young people aged 12–17 live with 1 or both parents, some parents are unable to care adequately for their children.
Some children are placed in out-of-home care because they are the subject of a substantiation of abuse or neglect and need a more protective environment (that is, an investigation concluded there was reasonable cause to believe the child has been, was being, or is likely to be harmed—see also Technical notes).
Child abuse and neglect can have a wide range of substantial adverse impacts on a child’s development and later outcomes, including but not limited to:
Children and young people who have been abused or neglected are at greater risk of engaging in criminal activity and of entering the youth justice system. Based on data for 7 jurisdictions (New South Wales was excluded), of the 7,904 young people who had been under youth justice supervision during 2018–19, more than half (54% or 4,243) had also received a child protection service in the 5 years from 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2019 (AIHW 2020c).
Young people may also be placed in out-of-home care when:
Out-of-home care is considered an intervention of last resort. The current priority is to keep children safely at home with their families wherever possible (AIHW 2020a).
The goal of providing out-of-home care is to provide a stable, safe environment for the child. Efforts are focused on maintaining the stability of their placement and/or reuniting the child with their family if appropriate (AIHW 2020a).
A nationally consistent definition for out-of-home care was implemented in 2018–19 (see Box 1).
Data in this section were drawn from 1) the Child Protection National Minimum Data Set (CP NMDS) and 2) the 2018 second national survey on the views of children in out-of-home care.
1) The CP NMDS has been implemented for reporting from 2012–13. The collection includes children aged under 18 and, for some states and territories, unborn children. The CP NMDS consists of several unit record (child-level) files from all states and territories—except New South Wales (for which aggregate counts are supplied).
Unless otherwise stated, out-of-home care data presented here are for all young people in out-of-home care on a snapshot day (30 June), including those who have been in out-of-home care as at 30 June for multiple years. This approach provides a consistent method for reporting change over time nationally using available data. Other analysis approaches can be used to provide insight on the journey of young people through the child protection system, including the number of clients entering the out-of-home care system for the first time each year.
2) For the 2018 second national survey on the views of children in out-of-home care, states and territories collected data from children as part of their local case management processes between 1 January and 30 June 2018.
Young people in scope for the survey were those aged 8–17 living in out-of-home care whose care arrangements had been ordered by the relevant Children’s Court and for whom parental responsibility had been transferred to the relevant minister or chief executive, and who had been on a relevant court order for 3 months or more. Out-of-home care arrangements included foster care, relative/kinship care, family group homes, residential care and independent living.
Young people answered the questions themselves; however, departmental staff or other support people provided assistance where requested or needed.
Out-of-home care is overnight care for children aged under 18 who are unable to live with their families due to child safety concerns. This includes placements approved by the department responsible for child protection for which there is ongoing case management and financial payment (including where a financial payment has been offered but declined by the carer). Out-of-home care also includes legal (court‑ordered) and voluntary placements, as well as placements made to provide respite for parents and/or carers.
Out-of-home care excludes:
This nationally consistent definition was implemented in 2018–19 (see Child protection Australia 2018–19 for more information on the revised scope for out-of-home care reporting).
Data based on this definition may not match those used for state and territory figures published elsewhere and should not be compared with data published in editions of Child protection Australia before 2018–19, or with the data in the section Children in non-parental care in Australia’s children.
In 2019–20, 50,800 young people aged 12–17 received child protection services, a rate of 28 per 1,000. These services can include:
Of young people aged 12–17 receiving child protection services, just over a third (35% or 18,000) were involved in out-of-home care. See Technical notes for definitions of some child protection service types and Child protection Australia 2019–20 for more information on child protection services.
As at 30 June 2020, among young people aged 12–17:
During 2019–20, nationally:
When a national definition of out-of-home care was implemented in 2018–19, children on third party parental responsibility orders were excluded from out-of-home care as the minister or executive no longer has guardianship of children on these orders (see Technical notes for more details). Children on third party parental responsibility orders are considered to have achieved a more permanent arrangement (AIHW 2021).
As at 30 June 2020:
Between 30 June 2017 and 30 June 2020, and based on the nationally consistent definition implemented in 2018–19, among young people aged 12-17 in out-of-home care:
It should be noted that these data cover all young people in out-of-home care on a snapshot day (30 June), including those who are in out-of-home care as at 30 June for multiple years.
This increase follows a longer term trend between 2013 and 2017 of increasing numbers and rates of all children and young people in out-of-home care observed in state/territory data that used a number of different definitions and are not directly comparable (AIHW 2018).
Note: While the number of young people reported in out-of-home care is increasing over time, the numbers presented here cannot reflect that some young people are entering the system at younger ages and being put on orders earlier, and so staying in the system longer.
Source: AIHW Child Protection data collection 2019–20.
The rate of young people in out-of-home care increased with remoteness.
As at 30 June 2020, over half of young people aged 12–17 living in out-of-home care were in Major cities (54% or 8,300) compared with 42% (6,500) in Inner and outer regional areas and 3.5% (530) in Remote and very remote areas.
However, based on a comparison of rates per 1,000 young people, as at 30 June 2020, the rate was lowest in Major cities (6.7 per 1,000 young people), compared with that for:
For the jurisdictions with available data (disability status data were not available for South Australia), it was estimated that 20% of young people aged 12–17 living in out-of-home care had disability. This proportion is higher than that for young people with disability in the general population, at 9.3% (AIHW 2020b). However, the disability status of 37% of young people was unknown (see also Technical notes).
Work is currently underway to better identify children with disability in the Child Protection National Minimum Data Set.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people are over-represented among those in out-of-home care. At 30 June 2020, about 8,600 Indigenous children aged 10–17 were in out of home care. For those aged 10–14 the rate was 63 per 1,000 Indigenous children—11 times the rate for non-Indigenous children. For those aged 15–17, it was 52 per 1000 Indigenous children—9.3 times the rate for non-Indigenous children. For more information, see AIHW 2021.
A target under the National Agreement on Closing the Gap is by 2031, to reduce the rate of over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care by 45 per cent.
A child can be placed in 5 main types of out-of-home care: home-based care, residential care, independent living, family group homes, and other. As at 30 June 2020, of young people aged 12–17 in out-of-home care:
Source: AIHW Child Protection data collection 2019–20.
Among young people living in home-based care:
The 2018 second national survey of the views of young people aged 8–17 in out-of-home care asked those aged 15–17 about their perceptions of the adequacy of the assistance they were receiving to prepare them for adult life.
Young people were asked 9 questions. These included 8 life domains to be considered in transitioning planning under the Transitioning from out-of-home care to independence: a nationally consistent approach to planning (the National Approach).
Among young people aged 15–17:
Source: AIHW 2019.
Between 2015 (the first national survey) and 2018, among those aged 15–17:
These finding are based on data from a relatively small number of respondents so should be interpreted with caution, as results may be subject to higher levels of sampling variability (AIHW 2019).
Young people who have been in out-of-home care face greater vulnerability and a higher risk of experiencing poor outcomes in a range of areas important to their wellbeing. However, there is limited national data that provide insights on the transition from out-of-home care to independence. AIHW has been working with Australian federal, state and territory governments in building a national linked data asset that brings together Australian government (Centrelink) data with state and territory out-of-home care administrative data. This study has provided new insights on income support receipt for young people who have been in out-of-home care, which provides an indication of their broader life circumstances leading up to and after leaving care. It can indicate, for example, those who require support while pursuing higher education, who are looking for work or are unable to work due to disability or caring responsibilities, or are experiencing personal crises such as family violence or contact with the justice system. Such information can be used to inform better policy, practice and support services for young people as they transition from care to independence. For more information, see Income support receipt for young people transitioning from out-of-home care.
For information on Indigenous young people and out-of-home care, see:
For information on children and out-of-home care, see:
For more detailed information on young people and child protection services, see:
ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2019. Personal safety, Australia, 2016: characteristics and outcomes of childhood abuse. ABS cat. no. 4906.0. Canberra: ABS. Viewed 25 June 2019.
AIFS (Australian Institute of Family Studies) 2014. Effects of child abuse and neglect for children and adolescents. Melbourne: AIFS. Viewed 22 May 2019.
AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) 2018. Child protection Australia: 2016–17. Child welfare series no. 68. Cat. no. CWS 63. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed 30 April 2021.
AIHW 2019. The views of children and young people in out-of-home care: overview of indicator results from the second national survey 2018. Cat. no. CWS 68. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed 30 April 2021.
AIHW 2020a. Child protection Australia 2018–19. Child welfare series no. 72. Cat. no. CWS 74. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed 30 April 2021.
AIHW 2020b. People with disability in Australia. Cat. no. DIS 72. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed 16 April 2021.
AIHW 2020c. Young people under youth justice supervision and in child protection 2018–19. Data linkage series no. 26. Cat. no. CSI 28. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed 30 April 2021.
AIHW 2021. Child protection Australia 2019–20. Cat. no. CWS 78. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed 18 May 2021.
FaHCSIA 2011. Transitioning from out-of-home care to independence: a nationally consistent approach to planning. Canberra: FaHCSIA.
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