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).