The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has released a new research report examining carer recruitment, training and support policies and processes in place across Australia that aim to enhance the safety of children in out-of-home care and prevent sexual abuse.
The report, A national comparison of carer screening, assessment, selection and training and support in foster care, kinship and residential care, was commissioned by the Royal Commission and prepared by Inca Consulting.
Children in out-of-home care, which includes foster care, kinship care and residential care settings, are particularly vulnerable to child sexual abuse due to a range of factors. These include previous sexual harm and other victimisation, social or economic deprivation, family trauma and dislocation from family.
The research found that significant attention is paid to the issue of child sexual abuse in out-of-home care.
“Through legislation and/or policy provisions for carer screening, assessment, training and support for carers, clear efforts are made to ensure that children and young people are safe from sexual abuse and that the trauma they have suffered due to prior abuse is addressed through the care they receive,” the report said.
However, difficulties in attracting and retaining foster carers, a limited pool of residential care workers and high staff turnover were found to be barriers to providing high quality out-of-home care that helps to prevent child sexual abuse.
Another key issue highlighted by the research was the challenge of providing training and support to carers who live in rural and remote areas.
Other key findings from the research include:
Foster and kinship carers required more training on the sexual exploitation of young people in care.
The assessment of kinship carers (beyond basic probity checks) was generally less rigorous than for foster carers.
There was a lack of culturally appropriate training material addressing child sexual abuse for carers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
There was a lack of attention to the needs of kinship carers, including Aboriginal and Torres Islander kinship carers.
Royal Commission CEO, Philip Reed said out-of-home care is an area of high priority for the Royal Commission.
“Around 40 per cent of people who have come forward to the Royal Commission in a private session say they were sexually abused as a child in out-of-home care, such as in former children’s homes and foster care.
“As such, we have carried out substantial work relating to historical and contemporary out-of-home care. As well as private sessions, we have held public hearings and consultations, and commissioned a number of research projects into the topic.
“This report will add to our growing body of knowledge in this area. It will help inform our final recommendations on out-of-home care, and making institutions child-safe,” Mr Reed said.