Published Australian data and research relating to the health and developmental status of children in out-of-home care and how the health needs of this group compare with the general child population is very limited. There have been numerous reports/studies which have highlighted the need for further Australian research and data in this area. 21, 22, 23 The shortage of research in each area means that there is a limited Australian evidence base for sound policy and practice decisions.24
The Australian Research Alliance for Children & Youth (ARACY) has, however, begun work on a small project to explore options for benchmarking social and emotional wellbeing indicators for children and young people across OECD countries. ARACY will work closely with UNICEF and experts in the field from within Australia and internationally. This project is a first critical step for achieving the ultimate aim, shared by many researchers, of achieving international comparability in order to better inform – and track the success of – policy and practice that aims to improve outcomes for Australian children and young people. ARACY has called for Expressions of Interest for papers that will address:
- What is meant by social and emotional wellbeing for children (those aged 0–12 years and 13-25)? Clarity is required on the conceptualisation and construction of social and emotional wellbeing and the theory and any sub-constructs, bearing in mind that they may change over the life of the child, particularly into adolescence. Identification of possible key national measures/indicators based on these constructs is an important component of the conceptualisation.
- What are the policy and practice implications of analysing and reporting on such data, assuming it was to become available? The challenge is not just collecting national and internationally comparable data but how it is subsequently used and interpreted in policy and practice terms.
Under the first 3-year implementation plan of the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009-2020, the major priority in data collection will be to enhance knowledge of children’s interactions with the child protection system in order to inform future policy and service provision. Work under this priority is likely to include:
- review and improvement of data collections relating to child protection to improve national reporting
- review of existing data definitions to support unit record data collection in the child protection system
- state and territory participation in data collection and commitment to improve data sets
- developmental work on specific indicators to enable regular reporting. 25
21 Nathanson, D & Tzioumi, (2007), Health need of Australian children in out-of -home care. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health 43 665-669
22 Royal Australasian College of Physicians (2006) Health of Children in “Out-Of-Home” Care - Paediatric Policy
23 Australian Children and Young people in Care Report Card on Health (2006) Create Foundation
24 Bromfield, L and Osborn, A (2007) ‘Getting the big picture’: A synopsis and critique of Australian out of-home care research. Child Abuse Prevention Issues No 26 2007 Australian Institute of Family Studies.
25 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2010) Child protection Australia 2008-09. Child Welfare Series no. 47. Cat. No. CWS. Canberra: AIHW