In Australia, the proportion of Aboriginal children in out-of-home care (placement of a child with alternate caregivers on a short or long-term basis) is up to 17 times that of non-Aboriginal children in states such as Western Australia (WA).

Data also suggest the rates for Aboriginal children are increasing, and that Aboriginal children are entering out-of-home care at earlier ages and staying for longer durations. Also, of concern, the number of Aboriginal children placed with kinship carers is declining.

A National Health and Medical Research Council funded project led by Prof Sandra Eades with the ACCP’s Associate Professor Melissa O’Donnell as a Chief Investigator, is providing detailed and contemporary and integrated data to estimate rates of Aboriginal children entering the child protection system and identifying the intergenerational health predictors of children and families before they enter the child protection system and health outcomes after they are in care. Importantly, the project is harnessing the views and perspectives from the Aboriginal community and Aboriginal primary care providers to understand ways to better support kinship carers and families at risk of having their children removed, to ensure that Aboriginal children in out-of-home care remain connected to their family and culture.

This project which is co-creating research knowledge through partnerships with Aboriginal communities is aiming to provide the urgently needed integrated data on rates of Aboriginal children in out-of-home care across different geographical regions, as well as detailed information around the health of and the contributing family risk for children in out-of-home care. It aims to present avenues for prevention to keep families united, or reunited quickly, in safe, supported environments. It will also provide Health Service Providers with knowledge to better tailor their services and programs for vulnerable Aboriginal children and families and potentially prevent children from being placed in out-of-home care, as well as provide better services for children in care. Importantly, listening to perspectives from the Aboriginal community is helping to identify the support systems required for kinship carers so that children going into out-of-home care can stay connected to their culture and community.