The number of children under care and protection orders in Australia rose by 87% 1997 to 20078 and is now over 31,000.

There were 3,011 children in care in Western Australia at 30 June 2008. The number is increasing quickly as child protection laws are strengthened and as a result of greater attention being paid to abuse in Aboriginal communities.

While many of these children go on to lead very successful and productive lives, a big number do not.

We know that in Victoria children leaving care cost the government on average an extra $738,741 each in services costs, over their lifetimes2. This figure does not include the cost in human suffering and damaged lives.

If people – even hard-nosed economic rationalists – knew the full, long term economic and human cost of the current neglect of children in care, we believe they would insist on immediate, dramatic action to turn the situation around.

In Western Australia this could easily be a tripling of resources actually spent on children in care.

Maybe it would be less. Maybe it would be more. The point is, we don't know. There has never been a comprehensive study to determine what a child in care needs to restore their life to outcomes equivalent to children who have not been traumatised.

As the Wood report1 noted (page 138, point 4.4):

The Inquiry found generally that literature reviews and research often conclude that knowledge in the area is significantly limited due to methodological flaws, small sample sizes, over reliance on qualitative studies, poor applicability and the inability to make meaningful comparisons across jurisdictions. More research is required and more evaluations need to be done.'