Are our child protection policies causing more harm to our most vulnerable children?
In Australia, there were 43 399 children in out-of-home care (OOHC) on 30 June 2015 (Box).1 Over the past 18 years, the rate at which Indigenous children have been placed in care has more than tripled and more than doubled for non-Indigenous children.1-3 This is disturbing, and particularly so for Indigenous children where one in 19 are in OOHC.1 A recent review of child maltreatment across various countries, including Australia, concluded that 40 years after contemporary child protection policies were introduced in the 1970s, there has been “no clear evidence for an overall decrease in child maltreatment”.4 Despite the call by this review for more evidence,4 there have been no studies planned to assess the effectiveness of our current OOHC policy in Australia.
- 1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Child protection Australia 2014–15 (AIHW Cat. No. CWS 57; Child Welfare Series No. 63). Canberra: AIHW, 2016. http://www.aihw.gov.au/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=60129554973 (accessed Nov 2016).
- 2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Child protection Australia 2006–07 (Cat. No. CWS 31; Child Welfare Series No. 43). Canberra: AIHW, 2008. http://www.aihw.gov.au/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=6442455311 (accessed Nov 2016).
- 3. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Child protection Australia 1997–98 (AIHW Cat. No. CWS 8)Canberra: AIHW, 1999. http://www.aihw.gov.au/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=6442455176 (accessed Nov 2016).
- 4. Gilbert R, Fluke J, O’Donnell M, et al. Child maltreatment: variation in trends and policies in six developed countries. Lancet 2012; 379: 758-762.
- 5. Child Family Community Australia. Children in care. CFCA resource sheet — October 2016. https://aifs.gov.au/cfca/publications/children-care (accessed Nov 2016).
- 6. Tarren-Sweeney M, Hazell P. Mental health of children in foster and kinship care in New South Wales, Australia. J Paediatr Child Health 2006; 42: 89-97.
- 7. Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists. Position statement 59. The mental health needs of children in foster care. March 2015. https://www.ranzcp.org/Files/Resources/Submissions/PS-59-PPC-The-Mental-Health-Care-Needs-of-Children.aspx (accessed Nov 2016).
- 8. NSW Department of Community Services. Mental health of children in out-of-home care in NSW, Australia. July 2007. http://www.community.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0019/321715/researchnotes_mentalhealth_oohc.pdf (accessed Nov 2016).
- 9. Child Family Community Australia. Child deaths from abuse and neglect. CFCA resource sheet — May 2016. https://aifs.gov.au/cfca/publications/child-deaths-abuse-and-neglect (accessed Apr 2017).
- 10. Osborn A, Bromfield L. Outcomes for children and young people in care. National Child Protection Clearing House Research Brief 2007; (3): 1-15.
- 11. Osborn A, Delfabbro PH. Research article 4: an analysis of the social background and placement history of children with complex and multiple needs in Australian out-of-home care. Communities, Children and Families Australia 2006; 1: 33-42.
- 12. Townsend S, Hignight A, Rubovits D. Factors affecting permanency outcomes for foster children before and after passage of the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997. Illinois Child Welfare 2008; 4: 59-73.
- 13. Fernandez E, Atwool N. Child protection and out of home care: policy, practice, and research connections Australia and New Zealand. Psychosocial Intervention 2013; 22: 175-184.
- 14. Population Statistics New Zealand. http://maps.stats.govt.nz/apps/StatsMaps324/index.html?webmap=map_config.txt&viewer=July2015_EstimatedResidentialPopulation.txt (accessed Nov 2016).
- 15. Walsh T, Douglas H. Lawyers, advocacy and child protection. Melbourne University Law Review 2011; 35: 621-649.
- 16. Parliament of Australia. Senate Community Affairs References Committee. Report: out of home care. 19 Aug 2015. http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Community_Affairs/Out_of_home_care/Report (accessed Oct 2016).
- 17. Australian Council of Social Service. Poverty in Australia in 2016. Sydney: ACOSS, 2016. http://www.acoss.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Poverty-in-Australia-2016.pdf (accessed Apr 2017).
- 18. Greenhalgh EM, Bayly M, Winstanley MH. 1.3 Prevalence of smoking — adults. In: Scollo MM, Winstanley MH, editors. Tobacco in Australia: facts and issues. Melbourne: Cancer Council Victoria, 2015. http://www.tobaccoinaustralia.org.au/chapter-1-prevalence/1-3-prevalence-of-smoking-adults (accessed Apr 2017).
- 19. Federal Office of Road Safety. The history of road fatalities in Australia. (Monograph 23, 1998). Canberra: FORS, 1998. https://www.tac.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/66407/History-of-Road-Fatalities-from-1925.pdf (accessed Apr 2017).
- 20. National Road Safety Strategy 2011–2020. Implementation status report. November 2015. http://roadsafety.gov.au/performance/files/NRSS_Implementation_report_Nov2015.pdf (accessed Oct 2016).
Publication of your online response is subject to the Medical Journal of Australia's editorial discretion. You will be notified by email within five working days should your response be accepted.