Children and youth reported missing from out-of-home care in Australia

A review of the literature and analysis of Australian police data
Foster care Missing persons Out-of-home care Children Youth Residential care Australia

The aim of this project was to aid insight into the incidence of missing person reports received by police, so as to allow the National Missing Persons Coordination Centre (NMPCC) to determine and implement prevention strategies with State and Territory police to safeguard at-risk youth. Particular attention was to be directed to youth (aged 13- 17 years inclusive) in out-of-home care (OOHC).

This report provides an analysis of the data provided by police in all Australian jurisdictions (with one exception), regarding children and youth (0-18 years of age) who were reported missing during a 30- day period in 2019. Particular attention was paid to youth (aged 13-17 inclusive) reported missing from OOHC.

Report overview:

  • Part 1 presents the results of the analysis of data supplied by Australian State and Territory police services regarding 1171 individuals and 3009 episodes involving children and young people reported missing during a 30-day period in 2019.
  • Part 2 outlines some of the individual characteristics of children and young people who were reported missing in the 30-day data collection period. These include age, gender, race/ethnicity or cultural identity and Indigeneity, sexual identity, disability, mental health and substance use.
  • Part 3 examines a particular challenge for police services and carers: youth aged 13-17 years who repeatedly go missing from OOHC.
  • Part 4 discusses the push and pull factors that lead to young people go missing from OOHC. It presents a thematic analysis of the reasons for going missing that were attributed to young people reported missing from OOHC in the 30-day data collection period.
  • Part 5 describes the factors specific to the OOHC environment that lead young people to go missing from care.
  • Part 6 presents a thematic analysis of the pattern of missing episodes identified in the Australian police data. This includes how youth went missing, the length of missing episodes, the number of missing episodes, and how and where missing youth were located.
  • Part 7 discusses the risks of going missing and young people’s experiences while missing. This analysis is presented alongside a review of international and domestic academic and grey literature which provide further insight into the incidence, motivations, and experiences of children and young people who go missing from OOHC.
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