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Experiencing out-of-home care in Australia: the views of children and young people

Foster care Out-of-home care Residential care Australia

This survey was designed to provide a reference point for how the out-of-home care system is faring in 2013 from the point of view of the children and young people living in it.

It covers all the life domains identified under the Looking After Children framework and those articulated by the Australian Government in the Outline of National Standards for Out-of-Home Care.

These include: Stability and security; participation; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues; planning; health needs; education; social/ recreational opportunities; connection with family; identity development; relationships with significant others; and preparation for transitioning to independence.

A 146-item survey, available online as a self-administered questionnaire (for older respondents) or through structured interviews conducted face-to-face or via telephone by CREATE staff, was constructed as an elaboration of CREATE’s BeHeard tool. This interview system was developed in consultation with children and young people and has been in use since 2005 in Queensland, as well as having been employed in Tasmania and Victoria.

The primary aim of the project was to give as many children and young people in care as possible the opportunity to participate in the survey. This required the cooperation of state and territory governments within Australia to provide population data from which appropriate random samples of potential participants could be drawn to maximise the representativeness of the findings. All governments with the exception of Western Australia supported the project.

Based on the de-identified population data supplied by governments, random samples stratified on age, culture, and placement type were prepared for each jurisdiction. The selected children and young people and their carers were informed by mail of the rationale for, and nature of, the project and invited to participate (an “opt-in” approach). Unfortunately, the initial response was poor, so some governments allowed CREATE staff to phone potential respondents from their departmental offices. However, to increase the numbers to a reasonable sample size, respondents also were drawn from the database maintained by CREATE of children and young people in care whose contact details were known. Ultimately, 1069 participants, aged from eight to 17 years, undertook the survey. Adequate representation was obtained from New South Wales (NSW), Queensland (QLD), South Australia (SA), Tasmania (TAS), and Victoria (VIC). Northern Territory’s (NT) numbers were lower and split between Foster Care and Residential placements; the response from the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) was disappointing.

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