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 (a type of non-guardianship 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.

The main findings of this report include:

  • At 30 June 1995 there were 13,078 children under care and protection orders, of whom 8,998 (69%) were under guardianship orders and 4,080 (31%) were under non­guardianship orders for care and protection. This represents  a rate of 2.8 per 1,000 children aged 0-17 years for Australia. Tasmania (4.2) had the highest rate, and Western Australia (1.5) the lowest.
  • The majority of children under care and protection orders were placed in foster care (6,903 or 53%) or were living with parents or relatives (3,477 or 27%).
  • Of those under guardianship orders, most were in foster care (63%); the majority of children under non-guardianship orders were living with parents or relatives (56%).
  • There were slightly more boys (6,678) than girls (6,400) under care and protection orders in Australia.
  • 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 under orders and placed in foster care were more likely to be under guardianship orders and older.
  • The rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children under guardianship orders was 9.7 per 1,000 and under non-guardianship orders 5.0 per 1,000. Both rates are approximately 6 times those for other children aged 0-17 years (1.7 and 0.8 respectively).
  • There has been little change over recent years in the number of children under care and protection orders, the number at 30 June 1995 being only 3% higher than at 30 June 1991 (13,078 compared  with 12,680). In some States and Territories, however, orders have varied considerably over this period, with the largest changes being in New South Wales (increased by 40% or 1,230 orders), Victoria (decreased by 18% or 703 orders), and the Northern Territory (increased by 43% or 41 orders).