Children Under Protection Orders Seeking Homelessness Assistance
9 February 2017 at 3:53 pm
New figures reveal a high proportion of children and teenagers who are under state care and protection orders, have sought help from homelessness agencies citing family violence as the main reason.
Almost 9,000 children and young people on a state care and protection order (CPO) sought assistance from homelessness agencies in 2016 with more than half of them aged under 10.
The new figures by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare revealed that the under-18 age group equalled 3 per cent of all those requesting assistance from specialist homelessness agencies across Australia in 2015/16.
The figures showed that 58 per cent of clients on a CPO were children under the age of 10.
Males were more likely than females to be in this age range (62 per cent compared with 55 per cent) and domestic and family violence was identified as the main reason for seeking assistance for over one-quarter (28 per cent) of clients on a CPO.
CPOs are legal orders or arrangements that place some responsibility for a child’s welfare with child protection authorities. They set up arrangements to provide support and assistance to vulnerable children and young people to protect them from abuse, neglect or other harm, or where their parents are unable to provide adequate care or protection.
According to the government’s Australian Law Reform Commission some orders in care and protection proceedings require that children remain at home with their families under the supervision of the relevant family services department or with appropriate undertakings.
The report said however there was some good news for these children and young people with specialist homelessness service agencies being successful in improving the housing outcomes for many of these clients.
“The largest improvement in housing situation was for CPO clients into public or community housing. Sixteen per cent were in public or community housing at the start of support and this increased to 31 per cent by the end of support,” the report said.
Australian Human Rights Commission Children’s Commissioner Megan Mitchell told Pro Bono News in a statement that the new figures “appear to indicate that we are failing to provide stable homes for children who are in the care of the state”.
“Children who become homeless have interrupted or incomplete educations, limited and tenuous social connections and are at significant risk of exploitation and abuse,” Mitchell said.
“Children on care and protection orders deserve the very best care we can provide for them. This should be with families and carers who have the skills, motivation and support to stay the course and form lasting loving relationships with the children in their care.”
Australian Association of Social Workers president Professor Karen Healy AM said she was not surprised by the high figures. She said while Australia had a young child protection system it really let down teenagers.
“The report reflects a policy gap that has been ignored for too long and that gap is the plight of teenagers in out of home care,” Healy said.
“In Australia, in all states and territories, we really have not seen those young people as children. We don’t then think of them as being in the child protection system and so all of our solutions in child protection are connected to young children when really the large proportion of people in out of home care are teenagers.”
“We should learn from [the report] where the gaps are in our out of home care system and we need to urgently look at some quality research on the pathways of young people in our system and we need to develop solutions that work for that group instead of the very young children.”