The likelihood of being admitted to out-of-home care, such as foster care or relative or kinship care, is greater for infants and Indigenous children, according to a new report released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
In 2015–16, Indigenous children were nine times as likely as non-Indigenous children to be admitted to care.
National trends between 2011–12 and 2015–16 are explored, as are the experiences of a group of children who entered care during 2014–15.
The report shows that the rate of children entering care remained stable overall between 2011–12 and 2015–16, at about two children per 1,000. But for infants (aged less than one year) and Indigenous children, rates increased.
In 2011–12, seven in every 1,000 infants were admitted to care, but this rose to eight in 2015–16.
Over the same period, the rate for Indigenous children was greater, and rose more steeply, from 13 to 15 per 1,000 children.
Of the almost 8,200 children admitted to care during 2014–15, slightly more than half (55%) were still in care at 30 June 2016. Of these children, more than a quarter (28%) were on long-term legal orders by 30 June 2016, up from 6% at the time of admission.
There is a current focus in Australia on reducing the number of children entering care, preserving family units wherever possible, and providing children with permanent care arrangements.
The increased number of children with long-term legal arrangements is a likely reflection of attempts to achieve permanency.
When looking at children who had been discharged from out-of-home care by 30 June 2016, the report found that most (82%) left care less than 12 months after being admitted.
Although it is not yet possible to determine whether discharged children were reunified with their family, nor whether these children later return to care, over half of the children discharged had not returned to care in the year following their discharge.