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 The number of notifications of child abuse or neglect to child welfare departments continued to fall in 2010–11, although the number and rate of children in substantiated cases remained stable, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Child protection Australia 2010–11, shows a 13% fall in the number of children subject to notifications of possible child abuse or neglect compared with the previous year. During the same period, the number of children in substantiated cases was stable—rising by less than 1%.

‘After investigation, a notification to a department is considered to be ‘substantiated’ when it is concluded that the child has been, is being, or is likely to be abused, neglected, or otherwise harmed,’ said AIHW spokesperson Tim Beard.

In 2010–11, there were 237,273 notifications of potential child abuse or neglect involving 163,767 children. Of these notifications, over half were investigated and just over a third were substantiated.

There were 31,527 children involved in substantiated cases during 2010–11, or 6.1 for every 1,000 Australian children aged 0–17. This is the same rate that was reported in 2009–10.  

‘Children aged under 12 months were most likely to be the subject of a substantiation of child abuse or neglect,’ Mr Beard said. ‘However, over the past five years we have seen a large fall in reported rates of abuse and neglect for those under 12 months of age, from 17 to 12 per 1,000 children.’

‘Age is one of the factors child protection workers take into consideration when responding to a notification, because younger children are regarded to be the most vulnerable, and most jurisdictions have specific policies and procedures in place to protect younger children.’

The number of children on care and protection orders at 30 June 2011 rose by 4% from the previous year and the number of children in out-of-home care at 30 June 2011 rose by 5%. While the total number of children on care and protection orders and in out-of-home care has increased, the number of new admissions into out-of-home care per year has fallen, suggesting that children on existing orders may be staying longer in out-of-home care.

As seen in previous years, the vast majority of children in out-of-home care lived in home-based care, primarily in foster care (45%) or with relative/kinship carers (46%).

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children continue to be over-represented within the child protection system. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were 7.6 times as likely as non-Indigenous children to be the subject of a child protection substantiation, and 10 times as likely to be in out-of-home care.

The most common type of substantiated abuse for Indigenous children was neglect, which made up 38% of all substantiated cases, compared with 23% for non-Indigenous children.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 20 January 2012

Further information: Mr Tim Beard, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1270, mob. 0418 271 395

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer 02 6244 1032

 Full report: Child protection Australia 2010–11