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Criminal Care? · 2 May 2018

Australian lessons on the criminalisation of children in residential care

England and Wales is not the only jurisdiction with issues around the criminalisation of children in residential care.

Last year I met with academics from Australia looking at the same topic and now the Howard Journal of Crime and Justice is publishing an article based on their research.

‘We don’t do Measure and Quotes’: How Agency Responses Criminalise and Endanger the Safety of Children Missing in Care in New South Wales, Australia is authored by Emma Colvin, Kath McFarlane, Alison Gerard and Andrew McGrath of Charles Sturt University, Australia.

The research finds that practices designed to protect children actually serve to conflate going missing with criminality

The article is based on qualitative data from interviews with 46 welfare and justice professionals, examining the criminalisation of children who go missing from care.

The research finds that practices designed to protect children actually serve to conflate going missing with criminality – accelerating children’s involvement in the justice system and ultimately endangering children’s safety.

We have heard similar concerns around agency responses to missing episodes in England and Wales. There remain real problems with data quality and collection in this area but experimental data from the Department for Education for 2016 did show high levels of missing or away from placement incidents of children who get into trouble with the police while living in children’s homes.

The full Howard Journal article is free to view online until the end of May. You can also watch Emma Colvin and Kath McFarlane explain more about their research in a video abstract.

Andrew Neilson

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