- There were about 46,200 children in out-of-home care at 30 June 2021.
- About 11,500 children were admitted to out-of-home care in 2020–21.
- About 11,400 children were discharged from out-of-home care in 2020–21.
- Around 31,400 children had been in out-of-home care for 2 years or more at 30 June 2021.
- About 1 in 17 (19,500) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were in out-of-home care at 30 June 2021, at a rate of 58 per 1,000.
Departments responsible for child protection provide a range of services to support children and young people in the child protection system so that they may have stable long-term care arrangements. This includes the provision of out-of-home care placements (see Box 5.1).
Some children are placed in out-of-home care when:
- they are the subject of a substantiation and need a more protective environment
- parents are incapable of providing adequate care
- alternative accommodation is needed during times of conflict
- parents or carers need respite.
What is out-of-home care?
A nationally consistent definition for out-of-home care was implemented in 2018–19 and is presented in Box 5.1.
Box 5.1: National definition of out-of-home care
Out-of-home care is overnight care for children aged under 18 who are unable to live with their families due to child safety concerns. This includes placements approved by the department responsible for child protection for which there is ongoing case management and financial payment (including where a financial payment has been offered but has been declined by the carer).
Out-of-home care includes legal (court-ordered) and voluntary placements, as well as
placements made for the purpose of providing respite for parents and/or carers.
Out-of-home care excludes:
- placements for children on third-party parental responsibility orders (see Table 4.1 for more information on order types)
- placements for children on immigration orders
- supported placements for children aged 18 or over
- pre-adoptive placements and placements for children whose adoptive parents receive ongoing funding due to the support needs of the child
- placements to which a child enters and exits on the same day
- placements solely funded by disability services, psychiatric services, specialist homelessness services, juvenile justice facilities, or overnight childcare services
- cases in which a child self-places without approval by the department.
Children in out-of-home care are generally on care and protection orders that confer most or all legal responsibility for their welfare to a child protection department (Figure 5.1). These children receive ongoing case management with a view to achieving a permanent placement or reunification where appropriate.
Figure 5.1: Children on orders in scope for out-of-home care
The national definition for out-of-home care excludes children on third-party parental responsibility orders as the minister or executive no longer has guardianship of children on these orders. However, all states and territories continue to fund carers of children on third-party parental responsibility orders and some (New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory) continue to provide some level of case management.
As at 30 June 2021, there were about 9,900 children on third-party parental responsibility orders (Supplementary table T3). Children on third-party parental responsibility orders are considered to have achieved a more permanent arrangement and some data are reported in the Permanency outcomes section.
Box 5.2 outlines data considerations for reporting on children in out-of-home care.
Box 5.2: Data limitations for children in out-of-home care
A number of considerations with data related to children in out-of-home care need to be taken into account; some notable issues are listed below:
- In 2018–19, all states and territories adopted a national definition for out-of-home care. For details on how the scope of out-of-home care changed in 2018–19, refer to Child protection Australia 2018–19.
- Out-of-home care trend data in this report has been back cast to 2016–17 with the national definition for out-of-home care adopted in 2018–19.
- Out-of-home care data for 2016–17 and 2017–18 may differ from those published elsewhere due to back casting.
- Out-of-home care data in this report should not be compared with data published in Child protection Australia prior to 2018–19 when the reporting of out-of-home care was not nationally consistent.