Protection orders for children double in decade: welfare report
The number of children on care and protection orders has doubled over the past ten years.
THE number of children on care and protection orders has doubled over the past 10 years, according to a report into health and welfare of Australian young people.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has found that 28,200 children aged 0-12 were on care and protection orders in 2011, almost twice as many as in 2000.
Cases of abuse and neglect have risen from 4.8 children per 1000 in 1999-2000 to 6.9 per 1000 in 2011, representing 25,400 children aged 0-12. But they have dropped from the peak of 8.1 per 1000 in 2004-05.
There are 32,000 children in out-of-home care, a figure that has doubled since 2000.
Dr Fadwa Al-Yaman, group head of the Social and Indigenous Group at the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, said child protection and indigenous welfare were identified as areas of need.
''It's mostly a positive report card, but there are areas which need attention,'' she said.
''The number of children in out-of-home care is rising, so that is a trend which is not really favourable.''
She said the figures may not reflect a genuine rise in the number of vulnerable children, but may also be due to greater awareness and reporting of neglect and abuse.
''In the past, maybe people were less likely to act when they suspected a child was at risk, but that is less the case now,'' she said. ''There may also be a real increase in the number of children who are at risk. But we can't say it's a rise in the cases of neglect. It is a mix of all those factors.''
Save the Children's child protection expert Karen Flanagan said the figures showed there should be greater emphasis on early intervention.
''Families are doing it tough and that increases the risk of abuse and neglect,'' she said. ''These people should be able to get help before things get so bad.''
Professor Fiona Arney, director of the Australian Centre for Child Protection at the University of South Australia, said children in care were staying there for longer periods.
Oral health and poor nutrition were also flagged as problem areas with 45 per cent of six-year-olds and 49 per cent of 12-year-olds experiencing dental decay, and one in five children overweight or obese.
But death rates for infants aged under 12 months and children aged 1-14 have more than halved between 1986 and 2010.
Child deaths from injuries also halved between 1997-2010, largely due to a decrease in transport accidents.
Injuries are still the leading cause of child death (34 per cent), followed by cancer (17 per cent) and diseases of the nervous system (11 per cent).
Road deaths have dropped by close to 75 per cent over the past two decades and accidental drownings almost halved from 1997 to 2010.
Child mortality rates in remote areas were three times higher than for major cities. Mortality rates among children in the poorest parts of Australia were greater than in the wealthiest areas.