Placement stability for children in out of home care has been linked to a range of positive outcomes including lower levels of stress, fewer behavioural problems and fewer mental health issues. Placement instability, however, is widely recognised as compounding the harm experienced by already vulnerable children. Besides being associated with higher stress levels, more mental health issues and poorer educational outcomes, children who have experienced multiple placements have greater challenges transitioning to adulthood.
The importance of placement stability is recognised by its use as an effectiveness measure in national reporting on child protection services. The current national counting rules for placement stability, however mask the true extent of placement instability experienced by children in out of home care in Australia.
This presentation poses that the national counting rules need to be amended to provide a true understanding of the level of placement instability. The measure needs to count the number of placements experienced by children currently in the system, include counts for all children, not just those on orders, and be a continuous count of all placements a child has experienced across their lifetime of care, not just their last period of care.