Although there has been some movement away from the legalistic mode of child protection favored in the 1980s and 1990s, there is still a focus on forensic investigation of child abuse, which does not allow for sufficient between high risk families and low risk families, decreasing the chances that truly at risk children will receive protection, as well as increasing the risk of intervention in functioning families. Currently, Australia is taking a public health approach to child protective services. "In most states child protection services are part of a broader department of human services" (Lamont & Bromfield, 2010).
The dramatic increase in services to children in danger has come with a very high price tag. "Nationally, approximately $2.8 billion was spent on child protection and out-of-home care services in 2010-11, which was an increase of $137.7 million from 2009-10. Of this expenditure, out-of-home care services accounted for the majority (64.9% or $1.8 billion). Since 2006-07, the national expenditure on child protection and out-of-home care services has shown an average annual increase of 10.2%, equating to an increase of $914.1 million. since 2006-2007" (Bromfield et al., 2012). This means that there is an average of $207 spent on every child in Australia for child protective services, though, obviously, not all children need or receive those services (Bromfield et al., 2012). "The average annual expenditure nationally has increased on average by 24.1% per year from $115.5 million in 2006-07 to $274.4 million in 2010-11" (Bromfield et al., 2012). Not only have these expenses traditionally been increasing, but one can expect them to continue to increase.
Furthermore, spending related to child abuse and at-risk children is not limited to spending on the provision of services. Instead, the territories spend a significant amount of money on prevention efforts. These efforts can occur in a wide variety of contexts, which makes calculating total expenditures a difficult proposition. "Some of the broad policy areas considered particularly relevant to child abuse prevention include: maternal and child health, parenting education and support, programs for people with a disability, domestic violence prevention, housing support, mental health and substance use programs, poverty alleviation and child care assistance" (Bromfield et al., 2012). As a result, it is impossible to determine how much the individual states and territories spend on child abuse prevention. At a national level, "estimated expenses for the whole of Program 1.1 "Family Support" was $250,368 million for 2010-11 and $249,107 million for 2011-12" (Bromfield et al., 2012).
Of course, it is critical to keep in mind that provision of services for child abuse does not end simply because a child is aging out of the system. In many ways, children who have been removed from their homes due to child abuse are far more vulnerable and less well prepared to deal with the challenges of adult life than children from non-abusive, intact homes. These children may suffer from unresolved anger issues, a history of unstable placements, failure to establish long-term goals, struggles with poverty, prior contact with the juvenile justice system, and a failure to have an established support network (Bromfield et al., 2012). At this time, there is not a sufficient after-care program, which means that many of these former at-risk children will, themselves, either reproduce and create children who are at greater risk of being abused or create other strains on the social system through criminal involvement or chronic poverty.
Bromfield, L. & Holzer, P. (2008). A national approach for child protection: Project report.
Retrieved March 26, 2013 from New South Wales Government website: http://www.community.nsw.gov.au/docswr/_assets/main/documents/childprotection_report.pdf
Bromfield, L., Holzer, P., Lamont, A., Kovaks, K., Richardson, N., & Scott, D. (2013). How
much does Australia spend on child protection? Retrieved March 27, 2013 from Australian Institute of Family Studies website: http://www.aifs.gov.au/cfca/pubs/factsheets/a142118/index.html
Lamont, A. & Bromfield, L. (2010). History of child protective services. Retrieved March 26,
2013 from Australian Institute of Family Studies website:
Liddell, M., Donegan, T., Goddard, C., & Tucci, J. (2007). The state of child protection:
Australian child welfare and child protection developments 2005. Retrieved March 27, 2013 from Australian Childhood Foundation website: http://www.childhood.org.au/Assets/Files/6f88319e-90c7-4b8d-b208-cbea46913648.pdf
Osborn, A., & Bromfield, L. (2007). Young people leaving care. Retrieved March 26, 2013
from Australian Institute of Family Studies website: http://www.aifs.gov.au/nch/pubs/brief/rb7/rb7.html