Children In Care Report Card
28 February 2013 at 10:56 am
Victorian children living in out-of-home care are five times more likely to have emotional and behavioural issues and experience higher rates of bullying than other children, according to a new report card by Anglicare Victoria.
The Children in Care Report Card is described as the first of its kind in Victoria and compares the outcomes of children in care with their peers across 25 measures in the six key areas of physical health, mental health, learning, employment & independent living, socialising and leisure.
The study results for physical activity, obesity and healthy lifestyle were positive. However, it found a much higher proportion of children in care had emotional and behavioural problems and chronic health conditions compared to children who were not in care.
Education participation rates of children in care were similar to children in the community. However, children in care were less engaged in education and less likely to be reaching their learning potential. Older teenagers in care also had limited independent living skills and lacked access to important identity documents.
The study found that too many children in care were disconnected from birth fathers and peers. Children in care also had fewer opportunities than children who were not in care to participate in activities that would help them build community networks.
Report author, Dr Sarah Wise, says education is a key driver in turning around the life chances of children and young people in care.
“We can see very clearly in this report card that children and young people in care often start a couple of steps behind their peers due to the abuse or neglect they have suffered,” Dr Wise said.
“They are already playing catch-up yet are less likely to have early learning opportunities, are bullied and can fall further behind.”
The report card shows that by the time they are 15-17 years old, less than one in five young people in care have multiple skills useful for employment.
Dr Wise says Anglicare Victoria has implemented a bold new program, TEACHaR, which connects an education specialist with children in care to turn the trend around.
“We have designed this pilot program and sought funding from philanthropic organisations because we believe children in out-of-home care deserve to have the same opportunities as anyone else in the community.
“The program is now up and running in Melbourne’s Eastern and Southern regions with both children in foster care and those living in residential units.”
Anglicare has secured funding for a three-year pilot and says it hopes to prove the value of the program to government to secure ongoing funding.