Family and household characteristics - Child Safety Services, Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services (Queensland Government)

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Family and household characteristics

A range of risk factors for child abuse and neglect have been identified in Australian and international research. A profile of the families and households involved in the Queensland child protection system has been developed to provide a better understanding of the families Child Safety works with.

These family risk factors include domestic and family violence, substance misuse, intergenerational experience of abuse or neglect, mental illness, and criminal history.


 Prevalence of family risk factors in substantiated households, Queensland, 2012-13 to 2016-17

 Proportion of the number of risk factors in substantiated households, Queensland, 2016-17



FP.1: Prevalence of family risk factors in substantiated households, Queensland Excel (XLSX, 14 KB) Excel (CSV, 4 KB) n.a.
FP.2: Number of family risk factors in substantiated households, Queensland Excel (XLSX, 14 KB) Excel (CSV, 4 KB) n.a.
FP.3: Prevalence of family risk factors in all households, Queensland Excel (XLSX, 16 KB) Excel (CSV, 7 KB) n.a.
FP.4: Prevalence of family risk factors in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households, Queendland Excel (XLSX, 17 KB) Excel (CSV, 7 KB) n.a.
FP.5: Prevalence of all family risk factors in households with a child in need of protection, Queensland Excel (XLSX, 16 KB) Excel (CSV, 7 KB) n.a.
FP6: Households with four or more risk factors, Queensland Excel (XLSX, 15 KB) Excel (CSV, 7 KB) n.a.

What is the family risk evaluation?

Risk assessment is a fundamental component of the Child Safety investigation and assessment phase, and considers information about the child, their family, and the physical and social environment.

The purpose of the family risk evaluation is to provide an objective evaluation about the probability of further incidents of abuse or neglect by a parent in the family, which may result in harm to a child in the next 12 to 24 months, and help guide decision-making about the need for intervention with the family to reduce the likelihood of future harm.

The family risk evaluation is completed after all investigation and assessment information has been gathered, and prior to the determination of the investigation and assessment outcome. One family risk evaluation is completed per family.

Most questions relate to the parent who has primary responsibility for the care of the child, such as the parent who assumes most of the child care responsibility in the household, or the legal guardian of the child.

Why this topic is important

Family support services have been established across Queensland to provide vulnerable families and children with access to high-quality services at the right time to help them to maintain the family unit.

In response to the findings of the Queensland Child Protection Commission of Inquiry, the Queensland Government is expanding the statewide network of family support services to ensure there is greater mix of services tailored to support vulnerable children and families before their problems escalate to intervention by Child Safety.

Understanding the characteristics of families and households involved in the Queensland child protection system informs the development of policy and programs, from prevention and early intervention through to permanency planning.

Child Safety is increasingly working with more complex families. Over the five years to 2016-17, there has been an increase in the prevalence of risk factors within households where a child experienced significant harm and/or was at risk of significant harm.

In 2016-17:

  • In over two-thirds of households, a parent had a current or past drug/alcohol problem (compared to 58 per cent in 2012-13).
  • Over half of parents had a criminal history (45 per cent in 2012-13).
  • 53 per cent had a current or previously diagnosed mental illness (41 per cent in 2012-13).
  • 48 per cent had experienced domestic and family violence within the last year (43 per cent in 2012-13).
  • 45 per cent of parents had been abused as a child (39 per cent in 2012-13).

Three out of every four households (75 per cent) had more than one of these risk factors, compared to 67 per cent in 2012-13.

Prevalence of ICE in families of children entering care

The department conducted a study on all children entering ongoing intervention (either intervention with parental agreement or child protection order) from 1 July 2016 to 30 June 2017 in relation to the prevalence of methamphetamine use by the children's parents in the household. 

What did the study find?

  • For 1 in 3 children who came into care of the department for the 12 months to 30 June 2017, the department identified methamphetamine used by one or both parents.
  • In most cases (77 per cent) the type of methamphetamine was ICE.
  • In the majority of cases (60 per cent) where parental ICE use was recorded, it was reported to have occurred in the last 12 months, but not prior to that. This indicates most of these parents had recently begun using ICE.

Parent profile reports 2006-07

Characteristics of parents involved in the Queensland child protection system is a series of reports building a picture of the families we work with. 

Report 1: Demographic profile (PDF, 307 KB) details the types of households, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander as well as young parent households, the types of harm that occur and households where a child was assessed as being in need of protection.

Report 2: Parental risk factors for abuse and neglect (PDF, 465 KB) focuses on parental risk factors such as domestic violence, alcohol or drug problems and mental illness.

Report 3: History of contact with the Department (PDF, 384 KB) examines the characteristics of households that have previously been involved in ongoing departmental intervention.

Report 4: Households with high needs children (PDF, 538 KB) focuses on five child characteristics including: significant developmental or physical disability, medically fragile/failure to thrive, positive toxicology screen at birth, offending history and mental health/behavioural problem.

Report 5: Households by level of socio-economic disadvantage (PDF, 338 KB) uses the Australian Bureau of Statistics Index of Relative Socio-Economic Disadvantage , to analyse the characteristics and environment of households in the child protection system by level of socio-economic disadvantage.

Report 6: Summary of key findings (PDF, 71 KB) provides an overview of the key findings from the previous five reports and cross-analysis of the multiple risk factors facing children and families in the child protection system.

Download documents

Report 5: Households by level of socio-economic disadvantage

Report 6: Summary of key findings

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