Safe and sound: Exploring the safety of young people in residential care

Dr Tim Moore, Professor Morag McArthur, Steven Roche, Dr Jodi Death and Professor Clare Tilbury

December 2016

ISBN 978-1-925289-99-2

Executive summary

Since 2012, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (the Royal Commission) has uncovered evidence of significant rates of child sexual abuse within Australian residential care facilities. Although much of this evidence is historical and relates to residential facilities that were run quite differently to the ways that residential care is provided in contemporary times, child sexual abuse remains a risk for many young people in care. In addition to child sexual abuse perpetrated by adults within residential care settings, greater attention has recently focused on problematic sexual behaviour amongst young people, and the exploitation of young people by adults outside the residential care setting (Hallett, 2015; Timmerman & Schreuder, 2014).  

In 2014, the Royal Commission commissioned the Institute of Child Protection Studies at the Australian Catholic University, with partners from Griffith University and Queensland University of Technology, to develop an understanding of how children perceive safety and consider it within institutional contexts. Specifically, this study explores the following research questions:

  1. What does safety to mean to children and young people in the context of residential care?

  • How do children and young people perceive safety within residential care and what do they need to feel and be safe?

  • What are the safety concerns of children and young people in residential care?

  • What do children and young people consider is being done to prevent harm (by staff, other adults and peers) in residential care?

  • What do children and young people consider should be done to respond to safety issues in residential care?

This report provides an overview of the major themes emerging from interviews with 27 children and young people with lived experience of residential care in Australia.