Thousands of children feel unsafe in out-of-home care: AIHW report reveals

A national survey has highlighted that unmet needs of more than 2,000 children in out-of-home care.

“It is concerning that over 40 per cent of those aged 15–17 who participated in the survey reported not getting as much help as they needed to make decisions about their future,” National Children’s Commissioner Megan Mitchell said.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) reported on a survey of 2,083 children aged 8–17 in out-of-home care, as part of the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children, a collaboration of Australian Federal, state and territory governments.

Nationally, there are about 43,000 children in out-of-home care, which includes foster care, residential care or kinship care, in which they live with extended family members.

A significant majority of children and young people surveyed (90.6 per cent) said they feel safe and settled, but 4 per cent of respondents feel neither safe nor settled in their current placement according to AIHW report, The Views of Children and Young People in Out-of-Home Care.

“This survey tells us the lives of children in out of home care are often complicated by their experiences of bullying and fighting, thinking their neighbourhood is unsafe, missing their family, and believing that the rules are unfair. It also tells us there are gaps in the system, that the rights of children are not always protected.”

“I look forward to future national surveys of this kind. We need to ensure the voices of children and young people routinely inform the development of service systems, policies and decisions that affect them.

Commissioner Mitchell urged governments and policymakers to continue to engage with vulnerable children and young people, in line with the obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“With 43,009 children and young people in care at the end of June 2014, the survey represents only a small sample of the actual population in out of home care.

The survey presents an overview of results from a 2015 national pilot data collection on the views of children in out-of-home care. Key findings include 91% of children reporting feeling both safe and settled in their current placement; 97% reporting that they had an adult who cares about what happens to them now and in the future; and 67% reporting that they usually get to have a say in what happens to them, and that people usually listen to what they say.

“While this is a good first start, further work needs to be done to capture larger samples of children, and understand and address issues associated with the level of take up, as well as the representativeness of survey respondents” Commissioner Mitchell said.