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Children in residential care feel unsafe

AAP logoAAP 19/12/2016

Most children living in residential care in Australia feel unsafe due to bullying, harassment and violence, research shows.

They want a safe place that feels like a home, where life is better than when they lived with their families or in foster care, a report for the child abuse royal commission found.

The research included interviews with 27 children and young people living in residential care units, most of whom said they did not feel safe.

Most talked about bullying, harassment and violence as an ongoing issue, the report released on Monday said.

"Even when they were not directly assaulted, many reported living in fear and having to hide from other young people for extended periods of time," it said.

Young people also said they were very aware of and concerned by the threat of sexual harassment and assault.

The participants in the study felt that because residential care was often unsafe, most children and young people should be placed in alternate forms of accommodation.

For those who could not be given more appropriate placements, residential care should be seen as a permanent solution and the number of moves from one unit to another limited, they said.

They want better matching of peers to reduce the likelihood of violent interactions and some say in where and with whom they were placed, the report said.

It noted many of the older youths described their time in the out-of-home care system as chaotic and unstable, moving from one arrangement to another due to placement breakdown that was often a result of physical, emotional or sexual abuse.

About 2400 children live in residential care, or one in 20 of the total number of children in out-of-home care in Australia.

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