The Sentencing Advisory Council has today released its second Cross Over Kids Report. 1,938 children who received a sentence or diversion order through the Children’s Court were known to DHHS child protection before, or at the time of offending.
83% of these children had been the subject of a child protection report about physical harm, and 71% were on a child protection order.
Crossover kids first sentenced or diverted aged 10–13 are a particularly vulnerable group. They are more likely to be Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, to have been the subject of at least one child protection report alleging physical harm, to have experienced out-of-home or residential care and to have experienced more carers.
The overwhelming majority (82%) of children from out-of-home care backgrounds who entered the youth justice system had multiple carers, with one in four experiencing 10 or more different carers (23%). One child had 50 care placements with 36 different carers.
Of the 525 children who experienced residential care- over half didn’t commit their first offence until during or after their first residential care placement.
Children sentenced in regional areas of Victoria were more likely than children in the Melbourne metropolitan area to be known to child protection and to be aged 10–13 at first sentence.
Crossover kids who were sentenced in regional areas were more likely than crossover kids in the Melbourne metropolitan area to be Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. This difference can’t be fully explained by the varying populations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons in metropolitan and regional areas.
We need to work together to make sure our service system meets the needs of children who have experienced abuse and trauma. Crime prevention means funding programs that intervene early to address a child’s underlying trauma and to support children when they enter into our out of home are system. We need a greater focus on evidence based programs that intervene early to give children and families the support they need when they need it.
We call on the Victorian Government to amend current legislation so that courts take into account a child’s trauma and child protection background when making sentencing decisions.
The framework to reduce criminalisation of children in residential care provides the opportunity for police, child protection and service providers to work together to reduce the number of children in residential care who end up in our criminal justice system.