Why are so many Victorian kids running away from residential care during COVID-19?
Originally published on ABC News
COVID-19 stay at home rules have led to a sharp increase in the number of vulnerable children deciding to run away from their residential care homes.
Victoria Police has received 190 reports of children missing from out-of-home care during April, a 30 per cent increase on the same month last year.
Commissioner for Children and Young People, Liana Buchanan said children in care were running away during the COVID-19 pandemic for a range of reasons.
"Residential care can be a pretty unsafe and unsettling place to live," she said.
"Now if you put on top of that a requirement that you've got to stay in your residential care unit 24/7 — you can't get out to school, you can't get out to see your friends, you can't have the normal contact hours visits with your parents — the reality of residential care has become even harder."
An inquiry into why hundreds of children go missing from the state's residential care system each year will now be expanded to look specifically at the consequences of COVID-19.
"I was already worried about the number of kids who go missing from residential care," Ms Buchanan said.
"We know that when kids go missing for extended periods they are highly likely to be caught up in some kind of crime, either as a victim most often, or maybe some offending.
"We know that some kids get caught up in sex exploitation so we were already worried about the high levels of kids going missing."
There are between 430 and 450 children living in statutory out-of-home care at any one time in Victoria because they are unable to live safely in their family home.
The children are typically placed in four bedroom residential units staffed by shift workers.
"Now they are faced with all of the kids in that unit being at home all of the time, with all of the behaviours, all of the issues, all of the dynamics in that house that play out," Ms Buchanan said.
"You can only imagine the situation has become worse for those children."
Ms Buchanan said since COVID-19 children have been unable to have face-to-face visits with their families and case managers.
"And I can imagine for some young people, their drive to see a parent or a sibling will be so strong that that might prompt them to leave their unit."
- In April there were 190 reports of children who went missing from out-of-home care
- Children are running away from residential care due to the consequences of stay at home rules
- A Victorian inquiry into missing children will be expanded to consider effects of COVID-19
To read the full article, visit https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-05-11/kids-running-away-from-residential-care-during-covid-19/12233442