Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

National standards to improve the lives of children in care

The Australian Government today released draft national standards to safeguard the health, safety and wellbeing of children living in foster homes and other formal out-of-home care across Australia.

Protecting children and their right to a safe and healthy life is one of the most important responsibilities governments have.

These standards mean governments will work together to strengthen out-of-home care for children across Australia.

Currently, child protection systems vary markedly across the country with each state and territory having its own child protection policy, standards and legislation.

Out-of-home care standards will provide a national benchmark for the care of children who are no longer with their parents, no matter where they live.

Developed with the states and territories, the 14 draft national standards focus on key areas, including access to health, education and training, increased support for carers and enhancing transition planning for all young people.

Under the draft standards:

  • a comprehensive health assessment will be provided to children and young people entering care, with ongoing medical needs attended to in an appropriate and timely way, and children and young people will have their own written health record which moves with them if they change placements;
  • individual education plans will be developed, implemented, and reviewed regularly for children and young people in care;
  • carers will be assessed and will receive relevant ongoing training, development and support; and
  • young people will have a transition from care plan commencing at 15 years old and reviewed at least annually which details the support to be provided after leaving care, and involves children and young people in its preparation.

The development of national standards for out-of-home care is one of the key actions under the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009-2020.

The National Framework was delivered last year by the Australian Government, in partnership with the states and territories, to help protect vulnerable children.

This is the first time a national government has provided leadership in child protection.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s report, Child Protection Australia 2008-09, there were more than 34,000 children living in out-of-home care at 30 June 2009.

This is an increase of 9.3 per cent, compared with the number of children in out-of-home care in the previous year.

All governments must work to provide these children with every opportunity to achieve their potential.

The Australian Government commissioned KPMG to undertake extensive national consultations on the development of these standards with service providers, state and territory child protection authorities and young people who have lived in care.

Over the next month, state and territory governments and non-government organisations will conduct further consultations to ensure that the draft national standards focus on the key issues that impact on outcomes for children and young people in care.

The Australian Government today also announced $70,000 for the CREATE Foundation to support children in out-of-home care, particularly for improving support for young people leaving care.

CREATE will use $40,000 for their What’s the Plan? campaign. This program empowers and mobilises young people transitioning from out-of-home care and their carers to work with child protection case workers to develop and implement leaving care plans.

The CREATE Report Card indicates that 65 per cent of young people in out-of-home care who were surveyed in 2008 did not have a leaving care plan and were uncertain about plans for their future.

CREATE will invest $30,000 in bringing together their National Youth Advisory Council to provide advice to the Australian, and state and territory governments on practical solutions to assist young people transitioning from out-of-home care to gain full independence.

The final national standards and how they will be measured and monitored will be considered by Community Services Ministers in late 2010.

Implementation of the national standards will commence from July 2011 and states and territories will report on progress under the standards.

The national standards for out-of-home care working paper is available at

The KPMG National Standards for Out-of-Home Care Final Report is available at