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Prue Holzer, Australian Institute of Family Studies

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  1. The comparability of Australian statutory child protection activity data: Making sense of differences across Australian states and territories Prue Holzer, Australian Institute of Family Studies

  2. Presentation overview • Based on NCPASS Comparability of Child Protection Data Project • National child protection data trends (2000/01-2005/06) • Trends within each jurisdiction over time (2000/01-2005/06) • Differences across jurisdictions at a point in time (2005/06) • Project conducted by AIFS in conjunction with AIHW and the NCPASS Data Group

  3. Some background… • 8 different child protection systems, each of which provide data according to the same units of measurement • NCPASS project examined the headline indicators: • Notifications • Investigations • Substantiations • Children on orders • Children in out-of-home care

  4. Notifications… • The term notification refers to the process whereby a professional or member of the community lodges a report with the appropriate government department to signify that they have reason to believe that a child is in need of protection. Some extra details…

  5. Investigations… • The term investigation refers to the process whereby state and territory child protection services obtain more detailed information about a child who is the subject of a notification and make an assessment about the harm or degree of harm to the child and the child’s protective needs. Some extra details…

  6. Substantiations… • A substantiation is an outcome of an investigation. To substantiate means that reasonable cause was found to believe that a child had been, was being or was likely to be abused, neglected or otherwise harmed. Some extra details…

  7. Children on orders… • An order is a court order entered into for the purpose of protecting a child, or to provide for continued departmental involvement with a child and his or her family where it is determined that such involvement is necessary. Orders can vary in scope from supervision orders to extended placement orders. Some extra details…

  8. Children in out-of-home care… • Children in out-of-home care refers to children who have been placed in alternative care settings in circumstances where they are unable to live with their parent(s) or primary carer(s). An out-of-home care placement can encompass a placement with kin, or in other home-based care settings (e.g., foster care), as well as residential care-based care settings. Some extra details…

  9. Comparability of Child Protection Data Project • Aims: • Examine the rates of total notifications, investigations and substantiations, and the rates of children on orders and in out-of-home care for the 5-year period 2000/01-2005/06: • at a national level; and • within each jurisdiction over time. • Analyse differences in rates across jurisdictions at a point in time (2005/06).

  10. Method • Examined rates per 1000 children: • Rates are not intended to be an indicator of the incidence of child maltreatment across jurisdictions • Rates allow for comparisons across jurisdictions controlling for differences in the size of the population • Examined principal changes in rates within jurisdictions by calculating percentage changes year over year. • Examined differences across jurisdictions by plotting rates in 2005/06. • Analysis extended to headline indicators only: total notifications, investigations & substantiations, and children on orders and in OOHC.

  11. Differences across jurisdictions 2005/06 “…overall statutory child protection activity was found to have increased over the past five years; however, there were considerable differences across jurisdictions in rates of total notifications, investigations and substantiations, and minor differences in rates of children on orders and in out-of-home care.”

  12. Explaining differences: Total notifications 2005/06 • Whether notifications are caller-defined or agency-defined • Differences in the application of the national counting rule for notifications • Differences in the availability of diversionary and family support services • Differences in whether jurisdictions employ centralised intake or local area intake services • Differences in mandatory reporting requirements • Differences in whether extra-familial matters are included in the count • Threshold differences

  13. Explaining differences: Total investigations 2005/06 • Differences in volume of clients entering the child protection stream of the service system • Differences in the application of the national counting rule for investigations • Differences in the availability of diversionary and family support services • Threshold differences

  14. Explaining differences: Total substantiations 2005/06 • Differences in workforce capacity • Differences in the availability of diversionary and family support services • Differences in what is substantiated • Threshold differences

  15. Explaining differences: Children on orders at 30 June 2006 • Differences in the types of orders available across jurisdictions • Variation in the data provided for national reporting purposes • Differences in whether children in out-of-home care are on an order • Threshold differences

  16. Explaining differences: Children in OOHC at 30 June 2006 • Differences in family service sector capacity to provide intensive family support to prevent placement • Variation in the capacity of the out-of-home care sector across jurisdictions • Data extraction issues • Threshold differences

  17. How do these patterns compare to 2006/07? • Similar observations can be made about 2006/07 data • Some interesting changes: • All indicators increased in WA in 2006/07 • Data remained largely unchanged in Victoria in 2006/07 • All indicators increased (some fairly substantially) in NSW in 2006/07

  18. Further information… Prue HolzerNational Child Protection ClearinghouseAustralian Institute of Family Studies Prue.Holzer@aifs.gov.au (03) 9214 7888