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

If you wish to report a child protection matter, contact the department responsible for child protection in your state or territory.

Overview

In 2015–16, 162,175 children received child protection services (investigation, care and protection order and/or in out-of-home care)—this was a rate of 30.2 per 1,000 children.

Of children receiving child protection services in 2015–16, 115,024 were the subject of an investigation (21.4 per 1,000), 61,723 were on a care and protection order (11.5 per 1,000) and 55,614 were in out-of-home care (10.4 per 1,000) (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Children receiving child protection services in Australia during 2015–16

Source: Child protection Australia 2015–16 Figure 2.1.

Children may receive a combination of child protection services meaning there are links and overlaps exist between the data collections for notification, investigation and substantiation; care and protection orders; and out-of-home care.

Three-fifths (60%) of children receiving child protection services during 2015–16 were subject only to an investigation (that is, they were not subsequently placed on an order or in out-of-home care) and 9% of children were involved in all 3 components of the system (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Children receiving child protection services by components of service received, 2015–16

Source: Child protection Australia 2015–16 Figure 2.2, Table S1.

New and repeat clients

Examining client data provides some insight into whether child protection services are primarily received by new children or those with a prior involvement with child protection, and whether this differs across the system components.

In 2015–16, almost three-quarters (73%) of children receiving child protection services were repeat clients (Figure 3). However, the proportion of repeat clients was substantially higher for those on an order or in out-of-home care (95% and 94% respectively) compared with those who were the subject of investigations (62%).

Figure 3: Children receiving child protection services by new and repeat client status, 2015–16

Source: Child protection Australia 2015–16 Figure 2.3, Table S2.

Indigenous children

Indigenous children are over-represented across the child protection system compared with non-Indigenous children (Figure 4). In 2015–16, Indigenous children were:

  • around 7 times as likely as non-Indigenous children to be receiving child protection services in general or to be the subject of substantiated abuse or neglect;
  • 10 times as likely to be on a care and protection order and
  • around 10 times as likely to be in out-of-home care.

Figure 4: Children in different components of the child protection system by Indigenous status (rate), 2015–16

Source: Child protection Australia 2015–16 Tables 3.5, 4.4, 5.2, S3.

Trends in rates of children in the child protection system

Over the 5 year period between 2011–12 and 2015–16, the rate of children in substantiations, on care and protection orders and in out-of-home care have all increased steadily (Figure 5).

The rate for children on care and protection orders increased from 7.9 per 1,000 children in 2011–12 to 9.6 per 1,000 in 2015–16—a slightly larger increase than for children in substantiations or in out-of-home care.

Figure 5: Children in the child protection system in Australia 2011–12 to 2015–16

Source: Child protection Australia 2015–16 Table S52.

Children in substantiated abuse or neglect cases

In 2015–16 there were 45,714 children in substantiated abuse or neglect cases. This was a rate of 8.5 per 1,000 children aged 0–17 years.

Children aged under 1 were most likely to be the subject of a substantiation (16.1 per 1,000 children) and those aged 15–17 were least likely (3.9 per 1,000 children).

Emotional abuse was the most common substantiated abuse type (45%), followed by neglect (25%) and physical abuse (18%). Sexual abuse was more common among girls; other types of abuse were slightly more common among boys (Figure 6).

Figure 6: Children who were the subjects of substantiations of notifications received during 2015–16, by type of abuse or neglect and sex

Source: Child protection Australia 2015–16 Figure 3.4, Table S8.

Remoteness and Socioeconomic areas

Overall, children from Very remote areas were 4 times as likely as those from Major cities to be the subject of a substantiation (23.5 per 1,000 compared with 6.2 per 1,000) (Figure 7).

Figure 7: Children who were the subjects of substantiations, by remoteness area, Australia, 2015–16

major-cities
Major cities
inner-regional
Inner regional
outer-regional
Outer regional
remote
Remote
very-remote
Very remote
Number per 1,000 6.2 9.4 8.9 16.2 23.5

Source: Child protection Australia 2015–16 Figure 3.5, Table S10.

Of children who were the subject of a substantiation, 36% were from the lowest socioeconomic areas (Figure 8). Indigenous children were far more likely to be from the lowest socioeconomic areas—47% compared with 32% for non-Indigenous children.

Figure 8: Children who were the subjects of substantiations, by socioeconomic area at notification, 2015–16

Source: Child protection Australia 2015–16 Figure 3.6, Table S11.

Children on care and protection orders

Across Australia, 61,723 children were on a care and protection order during 2015–16 (approximately 1 in 87 children aged 0–17).

At 30 June 2016, 51,972 (approximately 1 in 104) children aged 0–17 were on a care and protection order. Of these children, almost two-thirds (64%; or 33,212) were on finalised guardianship or custody orders.

For further information about children on care and protection orders in 2015–16 who also received specialist homelessness services, see Specialist homelessness services 2015–16: Children on care and protection orders.

Children admitted to, and discharged from orders

Over 13,400 children were admitted to orders in 2015–16. Among this group, three-quarters (76%) were admitted to an order for the first time. Children may be admitted (or re-admitted) to a care and protection order for a number of reasons, including substantiated abuse; irretrievable breakdown in the relationship between the child and their parents; or where parents were unwilling and/or unable to adequately care for the child.

Just under 11,000 children were discharged from care and protection orders in 2015–16.

Of these children, 37% had been continuously on an order for less than 12 months; 24% had spent 1 to less than 2 years on an order and 11% had spent 8 years or more (Figure 9).

Figure 9: Children discharged from care and protection orders, by length of time on order, 2015–16

Source:Child protection Australia 2015–16 Figure 4.3, Table S22.

Children in out-of-home care

Nationally 55,614 children were in out-of-home care during 2015–16 (approximately 1 in 96 children aged 0–17).

At 30 June 2016, almost 46,500 children were in out-of-home care in Australia. Of these children, 49% were in relative/kinship care, 39% were in foster care, 5% were in third-party parental care and 5% were in residential care (Figure 10).

Almost 31,000 (67%) of the 46,500 children in out-of-home care at 30 June 2016 had been long-term care, that is, for 2 or more years. Most (83%) children who had been in care for 2 or more years were also on a long-term care and protection order.

Figure 10: Children in out-of-home care, by living arrangement, 30 June 2016

Source: Child protection Australia 2015–16 Figure 5.3, Table S35.

Remoteness area

Over half (53%) of the children in out-of-home care at 30 June 2016 lived in Major cities and two-fifths (43%) lived in Inner and Outer regional areas (Figure 11). Children living in Remote or Very remote areas were twice as likely as those in Major cities to be in out-of-home care.

Indigenous children living in Major cities were 14 times as likely as non-Indigenous children to be in out-of-home at 30 June—67.4 per 1,000 children, and 4.8 per 1,000 respectively, while Indigenous children living in Remote and Very remote areas were 9 times as likely to be in out-of-home care (see Figure 11).

Figure 11: Children in out-of-home care by remoteness of living arrangement, and Indigenous status, 30 June 2016 (number per 1,000)

major-cities
Major cities
inner-regionalouter-regional
Inner and Outer regional
remotevery-remote
Remote and Very remote
Indigenous 67.4 58.6 30.8
Non-Indigenous 4.8 8.4 3.4

Source: Child protection Australia 2015–16 Figure 5.4, Table S40b.

Children admitted to, and discharged from out-of-home care

During 2015–16, more than 12,800 children were admitted to out-of-home care; of these 46% were under 5, 25% were aged between 5 and 9, and 21% were between 10 and 14. Children aged 15–17 represented 8% of all children admitted to out-of-home care.

The age distribution of children discharged from out-of-home care was older than that of children admitted to out-of-home care—32% of children discharged were aged 15–17, compared with 8% admitted to out-of-home care (Figure 12). This reflects children being admitted to out-of-home care at a younger age and remaining there for longer, as well as many children leaving out-of-home care once they turn 18.

Figure 12: Children admitted to, and discharged from, out-of-home care, by age group, 2015–16

Source: Child protection Australia 2015–16 Figure 5.1, Tables S33 and S34.