Research shows that children and young people who have experienced abuse or neglect are more likely to commit offences than those who were not abused or neglected, and a high proportion of those in youth justice supervision have a history of abuse or neglect. Understanding the characteristics of children and young people who are both in the child protection system and under youth justice supervision would assist support staff, case workers and policy makers to achieve optimal outcomes for children and young people, and for their families.
Currently, there are no national data on children and young people who are both in the child protection system and under youth justice supervision. An earlier Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) project (AIHW 2012a) found that linking child protection and youth justice supervision data was both feasible and beneficial. With the introduction of a national unit-record child protection data collection, this is now possible. This report describes how these data collections can be linked and how the relationships between child protection and youth justice supervision can be explored.
Linking data on child protection and youth justice supervision
Because the child protection and youth justice supervision data collections do not contain full names or common person identifiers, the collections need to be integrated using key- based linkage. Key-based linkage allows existing data collections to be linked while protecting individual privacy. A multi-step process will increase the possibility of linking records belonging to the same person, while at the same time decreasing the possibility of linking records belonging to different people. This method allows records with missing data (such as unknown date of birth) and alternative information (such as alias names) to be linked.
Exploring the relationships between child protection and youth justice supervision
A linked data collection will enable the relationships between child protection and youth justice supervision to be explored in two ways.
The first involves analysing the characteristics and pattern of events for children and young people who are involved in both child protection and youth justice supervision in a given financial year. This requires data from both collections for the same financial year for young people aged 10-17 (as youth justice supervision is not possible before the age of 10). This analysis is possible with the data currently available.
The second involves analysing the pathways that children and young people take through the two systems. With the data currently available, it is possible to analyse partial pathways. As data accumulate over time, more comprehensive longitudinal analyses will be possible.