More children in care
Figures released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) on child protection paint a dark picture for our most vulnerable children, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Larry Anthony said.
“Although all Governments are working to improve the outcomes for children at risk of child abuse and neglect, the results of the AIHW report, Child Protection Australia 2001-02, indicate the situation for our most vulnerable kids has deteriorated over the last 12 months.
“Key findings of the report include:
- The number of child protection notifications increased from 107,134 in 1999-00 to 137,938 in 2001-02;
- The number of substantiations increased from 24,732 in 1999-00 to 30,473 in 2001-02;
- The number of children on care and protection orders increased from 15,718 at 30 June 1997 to 20,557 at 30 June 2002;
- The number of children placed in out-of-home care increased from 14,078 to 18,880 over the same period;
- 51 per cent of children in out-of-home care are in foster care;
- While the quality of the data on Indigenous status varies between States and Territories, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are over-represented in the child protection system; and,
- Across Australia, the rate of Indigenous children on care and protection orders and in out-of-home care was around six times the rate for other Australian children.
“The sheer number of children in out-of-home care is very alarming. To address the issue of better supporting foster carers and foster children, I convened a meeting with my State and Territory counterparts last year. The meeting agreed to the development of a National Action Plan for Foster Children and Carers that will initially focus on training, research, uniform data collection and support.
“The Commonwealth will also be leading the way in the development of a National Agenda for Early Childhood that aims to give every child the best possible start in life, especially children who are most vulnerable.
“At its last meeting, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) participants acknowledged that child abuse remained a major problem in the Australian community and noted the shared responsibility for Indigenous issues.
“As part of an increased national focus on Indigenous child protection issues to complement the COAG reconciliation framework, Commonwealth and State and Territory Governments are working together. The focus of the work is to find ways to enhance responsiveness to Indigenous families at risk and in crisis and improve outcomes for Indigenous children. The work also aims to address the causal factors behind abuse.
“Child protection is probably the toughest area the States and Territory Governments have to administer and have recently made some progress. However, the results of this report provide a timely reminder of the extent of the problem.
“Child protection is not an issue owned by Governments. We all have a responsibility to care and protect our children and young people. It is vital that Governments and communities work together to solve the problem,” Mr Anthony said.
Attachment – a summary of recent State and Territory Government action on child protection issues
State and Territory Government Child Protection funding and achievements
An extra $188 million has been committed over four years from 2002-03 for child protection and families ($148m for child protection). The four-year increase includes an additional $33.5 million for foster carers and incorporates a six per cent increase in allowances for foster carers of children and young people aged 11 years or over.
New South Wales
In December 2002 the NSW Government pledged an extra $1 billion over five years for the Department of Community Services (DoCS) to address child abuse and neglect. There is also a commitment of $117.5 million over four years for the Families First early intervention program.
During the recent Victorian election campaign the ALP (Government) announced an additional $16 million over four years to increase payments for foster families and committing to work with foster carers to improve services. A further $28 million has also been committed over 4 years for innovative approaches to family support, kinship care, innovative residential care and support arrangements for complex cases (14 -18 year olds) and mentoring assistance for those transiting to independent living.
In December 2002 the Western Australian Government announced an extra $67 million over four years to address child protection issues in Indigenous communities as part of its response to the Gordon Inquiry. In the 2002-03 budget, an additional $4.9 million was allocated to meet the needs of children who are in the care of the state. n addition, any deaths of children known to the Department for Community Development are to be independently reviewed.
As a part of its Tasmania Together strategy, by 2020 the Tasmanian Government aims to reduce child care protection orders by more than 90 per cent. In addition, the Commissioner for Children has made a submission to the Law Reform Institute which calls for the banning of physical punishment of children.
The report of the Review of Child Protection in South Australia entitled “Our Best Investment: A State Plan to Protect and Advance the Interests of Children” produced by Ms Robyn Layton QC, was released 26 March 2003. In response to one of the recommendations of the report, the South Australian Government is preparing legislation aimed at improving conviction rates in cases where young children and babies are seriously injured or killed by their parents or care-givers. The State Government will consider the other recommendations in detail.
Australian Capital Territory
In the 2002-03 Budget the Australian Capital Territory Government pledged more than $400 000 over the next four years to support families in crisis who need access to emergency short term child care. The National Action Plan for Foster Children and Carers is being developed collaboratively by all jurisdictions, with leadership being provided by the ACT.
The Northern Territory Government has developed the Family and Children’s Services Action Plan 2000-2005. This Plan aims to integrate programs to achieve better outcomes for families, children and communities throughout the Territory. The emphasis is on early intervention and prevention and the focus is on building individual and community capacity, timely support in crisis, child protection, responsive service delivery and improved inter-agency linkages and partnerships.