The Royal Commission has published 55 submissions received from service providers, peak bodies, advocacy groups, statutory bodies, government agencies and academics in response to its consultation paper on out-of-home care.
The consultation paper, which was released in March this year, sought input into ways to better prevent, report and respond to child sexual abuse in out-of-home care.
Out-of-home care includes children living with foster, relative and kinship carers and in residential care homes.
Royal Commission CEO Philip Reed said that information from over 4,000 private sessions conducted by Commissioners with survivors of child sexual abuse indicated that children who grew up in a care setting, both historical and current, comprised the largest category of institutions identified as places where abuse took place.
“Over 40 per cent of individuals who attended private sessions said they were sexually abused as a child in out-of-home care, such as in former children’s homes and in foster care”, he said.
Mr Reed said that of the 43,000 children currently in out-of-home care across Australia, many have had prior exposure to significant trauma, domestic violence, abuse and neglect and as such, are a particularly vulnerable group.
“Children in care have a right to live in a safe and nurturing environment. We are concerned that the current out-of-home care system does not adequately protect children from sexual abuse, nor consistently respond as well as it should when abuse occurs.”
The paper sought views on the adequacy of screening checks, assessment and training of carers as well as feedback on data collection, information sharing, prevention and support services.
Mr Reed noted that submissions confirm a need for clearer policy and practice guidelines to educate carers and practitioners about the prevention of sexual abuse and to better support children who have been abused.
He also said that submissions to the paper support many of the Royal Commission’s preliminary views regarding areas in which reforms should be focused.
“It was also encouraging to see that a lot of improvements are being made to the child protection sector,” he said.
“For example, some states are in the process of adopting reportable conduct schemes and child-safe standards that will work towards minimising the risks of all forms of child abuse,” Mr Reed said.
The Royal Commission will consider these submissions alongside information from relevant case studies, private sessions and its broader policy and research work.
Together, this material will inform recommendations the Royal Commission may make in order to better protect children in out-of-home care from child sexual abuse.
You can read the submissions here.