The term ‘out-of-home care’ refers to children and young people who are placed in statutory care because they are in need of care and protection for their safety and wellbeing. Children and young people in care have most often received a court order about who takes care of them, and who can make decisions for and about them in the interest of their welfare. Children and young people enter the care system through no fault of their own, and have often experienced high levels of harm and trauma.
Children and young people in out-of-home care are placed with either relatives (kinship care), foster carers, adoptive parents (adoption), or they are placed in residential care or independent living arrangements. Children and young people stay in care until they can safely return home or until they turn 18 years.
From 2018–19, all states and territories have adopted a national definition for out-of-home care. The most significant difference this has had in terms of reporting is that all jurisdictions no longer include data for children on third-party parental responsibility orders (of which there were 9160 children at 30 June 2019) and are now consistently regarded as not being in out-of-home care.
CREATE represents the voices of children and young people currently in out of home care, and those who have transitioned from care up to the age of 25. By ensuring the voices of children and young people are heard and reflected in advocating for change, CREATE aims to make a better life for children and young people in the care system, and achieve better outcomes as they transition to independence.
The demand for out-of-home care is rapidly growing with the number of children and young people in care doubling in the last decade and continues to increase every year across all States and Territories in Australia.
Statutory child protection services are the responsibility of State and Territory governments that often work in partnership with non-government organisations to provide the direct care services to vulnerable children and young people who are suspected of being abused, neglected or harmed, or whose parents are unable to provide adequate care or protection. Across Australia, more and more out-of-home care services are delivered by government-funded community organisations.
CREATE believes children and young people in out-of-home care have the best insight into how the child protection system works and their experiences within the care system provide the best source of information for improving the system.
CREATE consults and engages with children and young people to campaign with governments and service providers to address their concerns. This includes:
· Ensuring their participation in individual and systemic decision-making;
· Delivering resources to assist their transition from care journey;
· Informing policy decisions;
· Providing evidence to Royal Commissions and other state and national Inquiries; and
· Engaging government and non-government agencies in hearing and responding to the voices of children and young people.
Children and young people in out-of-home care have the right to be safe from harm; they need to have their care and developmental needs met and to be provided with the same life opportunities as other children and young people. Children and young people also need safe, stable and supportive living environments whilst child protection agencies work to support their return home. Young people nearing adulthood often require support to stay engaged in education and employment, connect with family and community, and prepare for the transition to independent living.
(Statistics from) Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2020). Child protection Australia 2018-19. Child Welfare series no. 72. Cat. no. CWS 74. AIHW.