This report provides national data for the 1996-97 financial year on the following three areas of child protection services:
- child abuse and neglect notifications, investigations and substantiations;
- children on care and protection orders; and
- children in supported out of home overnight care.
These data were collected by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare from the community services departments in each State and Territory. The three collections have been incorporated into one report for the first time. They were brought together to provide better information at the national level on the children who come into contact with community services departments for protective reasons. There are some limited data on the movement of children between the three areas.
There are no Australian totals for child abuse and neglect in 1996-97 because New South Wales and Queensland could not provide data for the full financial year. New South Wales could only provide data for a three-month period and the Queensland data are for the 1996 calendar year.
The main points of interest in the report are outlined below.
- The number of notifications of child abuse and neglect in 1996-97 was higher than in 1995-96 in Victoria, Queensland and South Australia.
- A large majority of notifications in 1996-97 were subject to an investigation. While the outcomes of investigations varied across States and Territories, in all jurisdictions a large proportion of investigations were not substantiated, that is there was no reasonable cause to believe that the child was being, or was likely to be, abused or neglected. For example, 63% of finalised investigations in South Australia and 55% in New South Wales were not substantiated.
- The number of substantiations did not vary significantly from the previous year. There was a slight increase in the number of substantiations in Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania, and a slight decrease in the number of substantiations in Western Australia, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory.
- Rates of children who were the subject of a substantiation of abuse and neglect ranged from 1.9 per 1,000 in Tasmania to 6.2 per 1,000 in South Australia and Victoria.
- Indigenous children were over-represented in substantiations of child abuse and neglect. For example, the rate of Indigenous children who were the subject of a substantiation was 25.9 in South Australia compared with 5.6 for other children, and in Queensland the rate for Indigenous children was 12.6 compared with 3.7 for other children.
- At 30 June 1997, there were 15,718 children on care and protection orders in Australia. Of these children, 75% were on finalised guardianship or finalised custody orders, 14% on finalised supervisory and other finalised orders, 7% on interim and temporary orders and 3% were subject to administrative and voluntary arrangements.
- There were 3.3 children per 1,000 on care and protection orders in Australia at 30 June 1997. The rate of children on care and protection orders varied across States and Territories from 1.7 in Western Australia to 4.0 in Tasmania.
- Indigenous children were much more likely to be placed on a care and protection order than other children. The rate of Indigenous children on care and protection orders was 14.9 compared with 2.9 for other children.
- There were 14,078 children in out of home care in Australia at 30 June 1997. Most of these children (89%) were in home-based care, with the remaining 11% in facility-based care.
- The majority of children in out of home care were also on a care and protection order. The rate of children in out of home care at 30 June 1997 was 3.0 per 1,000. This rate varied from 1.9 in the Northern Territory to 3.7 in Tasmania.
- Indigenous children were also over-represented among children in out of home care. The rate of Indigenous children in out of home care at 30 June 1997 was 16.3 compared with 2.5 for other children.