Inadequate placement matching causing fear among children and young people in care

An overwhelmed system continues to see some children and young people removed from their families but placed in care environments where they are still at significant risk of harm.

The 2018-19 Guardian for Children and Young People’s Annual Report has highlighted concerns about deficiencies in placement allocation and matching for children and young people in care, particularly those living in residential care.

The availability of family-based care falls drastically short of the number of children and young people coming into care. As a result, too many children are being put into temporary and long-term residential and commercial care without adequate planning and/or appropriate matching with other residents, and with inadequate consultation of the children and young people affected.

This results in some children and young people being subject to serious physical and sexual abuse, perpetrated by their co-residents. In other cases, children and young people have sustained emotional and psychological harm from co-resident intimidation, bullying, verbal taunts and threats, and witnessing critical incidents of physical violence and property damage.

“In consideration of the extensive trauma that many of these young people have already experienced, ongoing exposure to trauma and abuse in care creates a significant risk of harm – both immediate and cumulative,” Guardian Penny Wright said in the report.

Data from enquiries received by our office noted that the majority of children and young people who directly initiated contact with us were living in residential care and commercial care arrangements, with the primary presenting issues being safety and stability in care.

A lack of disability-specific therapeutic placements to cater for the needs of children and young people with disabilities and trauma-related behaviours, was also a cause for concern.

Furthermore, the annual report highlighted that some children and young people in care who have been detained at the Adelaide Youth Training Centre (known as ‘dual involved’) have elected to remain there because of feeling fearful and unsafe in their primary place of residents in residential or commercial care.

In other instances, young people are being unnecessarily detained for longer periods in the AYTC than would otherwise be the case, due to lack of placement availability and/or challenges in communication across the child protection and youth justice systems.

The additional concerns of these ‘dual involved’ children and young people are a focus for our office, and we are currently preparing a report due to be released next month addressing the issues that these children and young people face.


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