Falling through the Cracks – The Care and Protection of Children and Young People at Risk

In Australia there is a rise in children and young people being subjected to abuse and neglect. According to the Australian Institute of Family Studies[1] for the year 2013-14, there were 198,966 Australian children suspected of being harmed or at risk of harm from abuse and/or neglect. This resulted in 304,097 notifications being issued by state and territory authorities (a rate of 37.8 notifications per 1,000 Australian children). On 30 June 2014 there were 43,009 children in out of home care, a rate of 8.1 per 1,000 Australian children. The national rate of Indigenous children in out of home care is approximately 10 times the rate of other children. As at 30 June 2014, there were 14,991 indigenous children in out of home care, a rate of 51.4 per 1,000 Indigenous children.

Children and young people who suffer abuse and neglect are afforded special protection under Australian law and according to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Despite this special protection they may experience multiple placements, abuse in care, detention, loss of culture, loss of identity, loss of family and loss of sibling relationships as they become subject to the care and protection system. These children and young people may find themselves enmeshed in a legal battle because their safety cannot otherwise be assured. Often they find themselves without a real voice and they are not made aware of their rights. It is imperative that we advocate for children and young people so that they can effectively participate in the legal system and have meaningful involvement in decisions about them.

To leave a child or young person at risk without proper protection from the State and without a voice is not in their best interest and ignores the intention of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Neisha Shepherd

[1]Australian Institute of Family Studies, CFCA Resource Sheet (July 2015), Commonwealth of Australia https://aifs.gov.au/cfca/publications/child-abuse-and-neglect-statistics

Photograph by AJS Photography Australia – ajsphotographyaustralia.com