CRG 22/16-17: Children in out-of-home care and the criminal justice system: A mixed-method study

Report to the Criminology Research Advisory Council

Focused on the Children’s Court of New South Wales, the current study examines the factors underlying the criminalisation of children in out-of-home care. Using a mixed-method approach—court observations, file reviews and qualitative interviews—we found evidence of how histories of trauma and situational factors relating to the care environment interact to criminalise care-experienced children. Our findings from this unique methodology echo previous research on the criminalisation of children in care. These consistencies in research demonstrate the systemic nature of criminalisation and galvanise arguments for a cultural shift in our response to those with care experience. Care-experienced children have complex needs which require recognition and additional support at all stages in the care and criminal justice systems. Innovations observed in our United Kingdom based case study offer potential pathways to reduce criminalisation. However, any strategy needs to privilege Indigenous voices and take into account the contemporary impact of colonisation.