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Case study 2: Improving outcomes for vulnerable children

Our challenge

Improving national reporting on child protection

In Australia, state and territory departments responsible for child protection assist vulnerable children who are suspected of being abused, neglected or harmed, or whose parents are unable to provide adequate care or protection.

Following an investigation by authorities, children who received these services may be on a care or protection order and/or in out-of-home care (such as foster care).

Children may move in and out of the child protection system, or receive different types of, or combinations of, services at different points in time.

Our response

Better understanding child abuse and neglect

Building on earlier work relating to child abuse and neglect, we established national reporting on the child protection system, publishing Child protection Australia 1996–97 over 20 years ago. The report outlined the extent to which child protection services are used at the national level, while also presenting differences between jurisdictions and particular groups of children.

Since then, the report has been an annual feature of our publication schedule, along with a range of specialised reports covering particular aspects of the child protection system and other children affected. This reporting includes analysis to better understand the relationship between child abuse and neglect and other issues such as youth crime, problematic alcohol and drug use, and homelessness.

Our results

Adding value to social policy

Continuous reporting and better data equip governments and policymakers with the evidence they need to drive real change in the lives of vulnerable children. Strong data and evidence can also help build greater community awareness of important issues. In the case of child welfare, this awareness has the potential to increase people’s likelihood of reporting suspected child abuse and neglect to authorities.

This increased awareness (to which we have strongly contributed)—both in the community and among governments and policymakers—is clearly demonstrated by the establishment in 2009 of Australia's first-ever national plan endorsed by COAG to tackle child abuse and neglect and to enhance children’s wellbeing.

The National Framework for Protecting Australia's Children 2009–2020 is underpinned by growing evidence, and the AIHW will continue to report on these issues to support better outcomes for vulnerable children and young people.

[The AIHW] has worked tirelessly to improve data quality and to ensure that new data collection supports and informs policy directions to better meet the needs of children and young people.

Dr Brian Babington, CEO, Families Australia