Knowledge and Resource Hub
04 September 2018

'Care-criminalisation': The involvement of children in out of home care in the NSW criminal justice system

This research investigated the relationship between the child welfare and criminal justice systems experienced by a cohort of children in the NSW Children's Court criminal jurisdiction to identify: the rates of appearance of children in out of home care (OOHC) before the NSW Children's Court on criminal charges; whether this appearance rate was disproportionate; and if so, what factors were leading to that over-representation. Compared to their non-care peers, children in OOHC were over-represented in the criminal justice system. Children in OOHC first came into contact with the criminal justice system earlier, and experienced their first charge at a younger age than children who had not been in care; with males in OOHC particularly affected. Children in OOHC were also more likely to be remanded for bail breaches and spent longer in custody than their non-care peers. The processes and policies of the NSW child welfare system were shown to be inexorably linked to the manufacturing of delinquency and children's involvement in the criminal justice system. The author argued that this criminalisation of children in OOHC has significant public policy and practice implications particularly as young people’s criminalisation arose as a direct result of poor practice, policy and philosophies of both non-government and statutory child protection and OOHC agencies and the intersection with criminal justice bodies. She further suggested that solutions are urgently needed to overcome the institutional neglect of children in care.