A child is deemed to be in need of care and protection if the child is being or is likely to be abused or neglected, if the child is abandoned, if adequate provision is not being made for the child's care, or if there is an irretrievable breakdown in the relationship between the child and  his or her parent(s).

A guardianship order  is usually issued when the family has not provided, or is unable to provide, adequate care and/ or protection and  the child is found to be in danger of abuse  or serious neglect.  Guardianship orders may also be issued  because  of irreconcilable differences between the parent(s) and  the child, the child being abandoned or due  to a breach  of a supervision order.

Non-guardianship orders give the welfare  department responsibility for a child's care (usually as a result of a family crisis) or protection (e.g. from abuse  or neglect).  These orders generally result in children being placed  under  the short-term supervision of the welfare department, and  may result  in their placement away from their family until circumstances permit their  return. The types of orders under this heading vary across the States and Territories.

  • At 30 June 1994 there  were 12,750 children under care and  protection orders, of which 8,794 (69%) were  under guardianship orders and 3,956 (31%) were  under other  orders for care and  protection. This represents a rate of 2.8 per 1,000 children aged  0-17 years for Australia. Tasmania (4.9) had  the highest rate, and  Western Australia (1.4) and  the Australian Capital Territory (1.4) the lowest.
  • There were slightly more boys (6,557) than  girls (6,193) under care and  protection orders in Australia, and  this was  the case in all States but not in the Territories.
  • The majority of children under care and protection orders were  placed  in foster care (6,690 or 52%) or were living  with  parents or relatives (3,315 or 26%). Of those  under guardianship orders most were in foster care (62%), while the majority of children under non-guardianship orders were living with parents or relatives (52%).
  • Children under orders and living with parents or relatives were more likely to be under non-guardianship orders and of a young age. In contrast, children placed in foster care were  more likely to be under guardianship orders and older.
  • The rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children under  guardianship orders was 10.8  per 1,000 and  under non-guardianship orders 4.4 per 1,000. Both rates  are approximately five times  those for all children aged  0-17 years.
  • While fluctuations occur from year to year, there has been little change  in the number of children under care and protection orders, the number being only 0.6% higher  than at 30 June 1991. Orders for some States  and Territories have varied considerably over  this period with  the largest  changes being in New South  Wales (up 21% or 803 orders) and Victoria  (down 18% or 677 orders).