In the last available figures, over 10 per cent of children and young people in state care were in residential care.1 Residential care in South Australia has expanded as the demand for places for children and young people in state care has exceeded the supply of foster and kinship carers.
- At 30 June 2017, there were 132 residential care houses of which 107 were able to accommodate three or more residents.
- That number does not include the variety of other temporary arrangements that are made for the approximately160 young people in what is known as ‘commercial’ or ‘emergency care’.
- The number of residential care houses remained constant at around 60 in previous years, crept up to 71 by the end of 2015-16 and then increased to the current level when the government instituted a planned expansion in 2016-17.
- About half of the residential care houses are managed by the Department for Child Protection and the others by a range of non-government organisations such as Aboriginal Family Support Services, Anglican Community Care, Junction Australia and Uniting Care Wesley Country SA.
- Most houses are of a small scale with room to accommodate three young people although some are larger to provide for family groups.
- Five of the properties are large scale units, designed to accommodate between eight and twelve children and young people. The Guardian’s monitoring, has shown these larger units to be unsuitable for most residents and the Guardian has recommended their closure.
- One in five houses is located outside the metropolitan area with concentrations being in Mount Gambier (six) and Whyalla (five) and three each in Murray Bridge, Port Augusta and Port Lincoln.
Children and young people placed in residential care continue to be among the most vulnerable. The Guardian’s Office is re-examining how it will monitor their well-being in 2017-18 to take account of the increased numbers.
1 The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2008) defines residential care as the ‘co-location of residents in a community setting staffed by paid residential care workers. This is distinct from home-based care arrangements where a child or young person lives in a carer’s home as in foster or kinship care.