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Substantiated child abuse and neglect has risen in Australia, with very young children most likely to be the subject of a substantiation, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

'A notification to a department is considered "substantiated" when, after an investigation, it is concluded that there is sufficient reason to believe the child has been, is being, or is likely to be abused, neglected, or otherwise harmed,' said AIHW spokesperson Tim Beard.

The report, Child protection Australia 2011-12, shows that over the past 12 months, the number of children who were the subject of substantiated abuse increased from 31,500 to 37,800-a rate of 7.4 per 1,000 children.

In 2011-12, children aged under one year were most likely to be the subject of a substantiation, with a rate of 13.2 per 1,000 children in this age group, up from 12 per 1,000 in 2010-11.

'In contrast, older children, aged 15-17, were least likely to be the subject of a substantiation, with a rate of 3.2 per 1,000 children in 2011-12,' Mr Beard said.

At 30 June 2012, there were nearly 40,000 children in out-of-home care. Most (90%) were on care and protection orders.

The time a child has spent in out-of-home care varied-while 38% of children in out-of-home care had been in a continuous placement for five or more years, a further 19% had been in their current placement for less than 12 months.  

Across Australia, the vast majority (93%) of children in out-of-home care were placed in home-based care such as with foster carers or relatives/kin. This follows a similar pattern to that observed in previous years.

'Our report shows that many of these carers take on responsibility for multiple children. At June 30 2012, around half of all foster carer households had multiple foster children, with 4% of all households having five or more foster children,' Mr Beard said.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were almost 8 times as likely to be the subject of substantiated child abuse and neglect as non-Indigenous children in 2011-12, and 10 times as likely to be in out-of-home care at 30 June 2012.

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, 8 March 2013

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

Full publication: Child protection Australia 2011-12