The number of children on care and protection orders in Australia has risen by 26% or more than 4,000 children over the last four years, according to a new report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
Child Protection Australia 2000-01 shows that 19,783 children were on care or protection orders in June 2001 compared with 15,718 children in 1997.
The report also shows that the number of children placed with relatives, or in foster or residential care has increased by nearly 30% over the same period.
Co-author of the report, Ms Helen Johnstone, said these figures indicated that there were 'growing numbers of children whose families are considered to be unable to provide adequate care or protection for them'.
The report also shows that while child protection notifications increased from 91,734 in 1995-96 to 115,471 in 2000-01 the overall number of child protection substantiations fell from 29,833 to 27,367 over the same period.
'Much of the decline in substantiations is attributable to changes that States and Territories have made to the way that they deal with child protection matters,' Ms Johnstone said.
'Many States and Territories, for example, have introduced options for dealing with some concerns about children through the provision of family support services, rather than through the formal child protection system.'
Overall, Indigenous children were over-represented in the child protection system.
'The rate of Indigenous children on care and protection orders was six times the rate for other Australian children,' Ms Johnstone said.
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