While it is obvious that policy and law makers need regular data about the population to determine funding levels, objectives, strategies to be developed and implemented and policies and services required, this information is less sought and valued by those who work directly with children and families. Understanding the challenges faced by young people allows practitioners to be aware of and enquire about matters that have a powerful impact on children’s well-being. It may be that they are not raised directly due to shame or a sense that this is ‘just how life is’ so don’t bear mentioning. Understanding these parameters allows practitioners to enquire directly and have a better sense of how wider issues may be impacting an individual child and the problems with which they present.
The Child Development Council’s annual report for the 2022-23 financial year.
This annual report is prepared to meet the statutory reporting requirements of the Children and Young People (Oversight and Advocacy Bodies) Act of 2016 and those of Premier and Cabinet. While it has a responsibility to all young people, there is a focus on improving outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people. It provides data on the number of young people in the state, where they live, their socio-economic status and how many identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. It also explores how their lives are looking, the successes and challenges.
The Good News
The report concludes that while overall, children and young people under 18 years fared well, with most thriving, ‘many continued to face substantial challenges.’ Positive outcomes in the physical health domain include a high attendance to antenatal clinics by women in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy and a continued decline in smoking rates during this life phase. Infant mortality is low and child immunisation rates are high. Educationally there has been a ‘substantial improvement’ in the attainment of age-appropriate reading levels for Year 1 students in Government schools.
Room for Improvement
Less positive is the recognition that ‘23.8% of children were developmentally vulnerable in one or more of five domains of the Australian Early Development Census when they started school in 2021. While 38.9% of children lived in disadvantaged socio-economic circumstances nationally, in South Australia this figure is 53.6%, with 26% living in the ‘most disadvantaged’ conditions. Finally in June 2021, 11.8 per 1,000 children under 18 years were living in out-of-home care.
While it is important to celebrate the well-being of many of our young children and the encouraging changes identified, it is crucial that the less positive findings are not ignored. Attention to education and the value of practitioners working directly with schools and childcare facilities to support and improve young people’s success cannot be overemphasized. Equally we must remain vigilant to those children whose living circumstances are so difficult that simply surviving, let alone thriving, is a daily challenge.
Child Development Council Annual Report 2022-23