Care-criminalisation: the involvement of children in out of home care in the NSW criminal justice system

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Copyright: McFarlane, Katherine
This thesis investigates the relationship between the child welfare and criminal justice systems (termed 'care-criminalisation') as experienced by a cohort of children in the NSW Children's Court criminal jurisdiction to identify: 1. the rates of appearance of children in out of home care (OOHC) before the NSW Children’s Court on criminal charges; 2. whether this appearance rate is disproportionate; and if so, 3. what factors are leading to that over-representation. A sequential mixed methods methodology was adopted, comprising the collection of qualitative data and analysis followed by quantitative data analysis. The qualitative methods involved a literature review of leading academic papers in the area, an assessment of over 200 years of Royal Commissions, government reports, previously unpublished primary source documents and agency material, an examination of contemporary media commentary (such as newspaper articles, radio and television broadcasts) and analysis of 25 years of NSW Parliamentary Hansard. The quantitative methods assessment involved analysis of 180 NSW Children’s Court files from 2009-2010, observational research of cases and analysis of the transcripts of individual Children’s Court matters. This thesis identified that children in OOHC are over-represented in the criminal justice system (CJS) compared to their non-care peers. Further analysis revealed that the OOHC cohort had a different experience of CJS compared to other children. There was a statistically significant difference between the two cohorts across several key measures. Children in OOHC first came into contact with the CJS earlier and incurred their first charge at a younger age than children who had not been in care. Males in OOHC were particularly affected. Children in OOHC in this study were also more likely to be remanded for bail breaches and spent longer in custody than their non-care peers. There are complex and interconnected reasons for the care-crime nexus. Through an exploration of the processes and policies of the NSW child welfare system, this thesis has shown it is inexorably linked to the manufacturing of delinquency and children’s involvement in the criminal justice system.
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McFarlane, Katherine
Baldry, Eileen
Stubbs, Julie
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PhD Doctorate
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