The majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care were living with relatives, kin or Indigenous caregivers in 2018–19, a new report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has found.
The report, The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle Indicators (ATSICPP) 2018–19: measuring progress, brings together the latest state and territory data on 5 ATSICPP indicators that measure and track the application of the Placement and Connection elements of the framework.
‘The ATSICPP is a framework designed to promote policy and practice that will reduce the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the child protection system,’ said AIHW spokesperson Ms. Louise York.
As at June 2019, nearly two-thirds (63% or about 11,300 out of 18,000) of Indigenous children in out-of-home care were living with Indigenous or non-Indigenous relatives or kin or other Indigenous caregivers. This proportion has been relatively stable since June 2017.
‘This is in accordance with the preferred placements of the placement hierarchy, which can be measured by determining the types of carers Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care have been living with, or their relationship to the child,’ Ms. York said.
The second element covered in the report, Connection, relates to support for Indigenous children in out-of-home care to maintain or re-establish connections to their family, community, culture and Country. This is especially relevant for those living with non-Indigenous carers.
Across 5 states and territories, about 8,100 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care were required to have cultural support plans as of June 2019.
‘More than 3 in 4 (77%) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care had current, documented and approved cultural support plans, which include details such as the child’s cultural background and actions taken to maintain their connection to culture,’ Ms. York said.
Almost 1 in 5 (19%) Indigenous children in out-of-home care, in 6 states and territories, were reunified with parents, family or former guardians in 2018–19, out of 4,700 children who were candidates for reunification.
‘Of the 820 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0–16 who were reunified with family during 2017–18, 82% did not return to out-of-home care in the following 12 months,’ Ms. York said.
However, the rates of Indigenous children receiving child protection services and in out-of-home care continue to rise, despite the acknowledgement of the importance of the ATSICPP framework.
In 2018–19, 51,500 Indigenous children received child protection services, a rate of 156 per 1,000 Indigenous children—an increase from 42,900 or 134 per 1,000 in 2014–15.
The number and rate of Indigenous children in out-of-home care also increased from 15,500 to 18,000, and from 48 to 54 per 1,000 Indigenous children.
‘It is important to understand the complex interconnectivity between the five elements: Placement, Connection, Prevention, Participation and Partnership,’ Ms. York said.
Indicators relating to the remaining 3 elements of the ATSICPP (Prevention, Participation and Partnership) are planned for reporting in future through data development.
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