ACT News

Teenagers in child protection more likely to enter justice system in same year

Teenagers under child protection are far more likely than the general population to enter the youth justice system that same year, Australian researchers report.

A new "linked" study, authored by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, is the first that combined the two different groups of data.

Normally, the Institute reported on youth justice and child protection separately.

Teenagers aged 10 to 17 in child protection were up to 23 times more likely than the general population to be in the youth justice system within that year, the report found.

More than one quarter of teenagers in detention were also in child protection that year.

Spokesman Mark Cooper-Stanbury said the report highlights and confirms previous research that suggests neglected or abused children are at greater risk of offending.


The report also found the younger someone was at their first youth justice supervision, the more likely they were to also be in child protection that same year.

One-third of children aged 10 in their first youth justice encounter were also in child protection in 2013-14, for example. That's compared with 10 per cent of 17-year-olds.

Youth justice "supervision" refers to either detention or community-based supervision.

The report's authors say a better understanding of those pathways can help case workers and policy makers target interventions.

The report pulled in data from Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT. Its focus was teenagers aged between 10 and 17, in the year 2013-14.

The results were still limited, using information from just four Australian jurisdictions.

In the future, the institute hoped to build a fuller, national picture, and include people who have been in either system over a number of years, Mr Cooper-Stanbury said.

"We hope to build a better picture of what happens to these children and young people over time as years of data accumulate," Mr Cooper-Stanbury said.

Young people subject to a care and protection order were 23 times as likely to be under youth justice supervision in the same year as the general population.

Of the young people who were the subject of an "investigated notification" of abuse or neglect, 4 per cent were also under youth justice supervision that year.

That figure is 13 times the rate of youth justice supervision for the general population

For Indigenous boys, that number jumped to 9 per cent, dropping to around 5 per cent for non-Indigenous boys and Indigenous girls, for example.

The figure for non-Indigenous girls was about 1 per cent.

A spokesman for the ACT government said it was aware of the poor life outcomes for children and young people in child protection face.

"This link between children's experience of trauma and neglect and later offending behaviour lead the ACT government designing the first fully integrated child protection and youth justice services – Child and Youth Protection Services," he said.

"The Child and Youth Protection Services will work to intervene early in children's lives to prevent escalation to anti social behaviour and offending."

Young people subject to a care and protection order were almost twice as likely than those under an "investigated notification" to be under youth justice supervision.

Of the 8,180 young people aged 10 to 17 subject to a care and protection order, 7 per cent were also under youth justice supervision in 2013-14.

The Institute says about 100,000 children aged between 0 and 17 are investigated each year after being reported as being abused or neglected.

About 13,000 aged 10 to 17 are under community supervision or in youth detention.

The Institute said data for more states and territories will be available in future years.