Article Title

Realist Review of Programs, Policies, and Interventions to Enhance the Social, Emotional, and Spiritual Well-Being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Young People Living in Out-of-Home Care


The child protection system in Australia includes out-of-home care (OoHC) for children and young people at risk of harm and neglect. In Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people are 9 times more likely to be placed in care than non-Aboriginal young people (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2015). Australia’s history of colonization and subsequent policies have caused trauma to individuals, families, and communities and resulted in poor physical and mental health and mistrust of services. This review was undertaken to identify programs and policies currently in place that aim to improve the mental health and well-being of this vulnerable population. It provides an analysis of both the strengths of the current system as well as what has been inadequately addressed based on literature in the area.By incorporating an Aboriginal perspective, this review focuses on social, emotional, and spiritual well-being (SESWB) and the aspects of a child’s life and community that promote this. A realist review of the academic and grey literature was conducted in 2014. It included an extensive search of government and non-government (NGO) publications. The review identified nine programs or policies that are designed to improve the SESWB of Aboriginal young people in OoHC in local and international settings. These are the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle, cultural support plans, Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCOs), family group decision-making, therapeutic care, and Panyappi Mentoring Program. Given that culturally competent service provision is important to SESWB, the review concludes that an increase in monitoring and evaluation is necessary to determine the effectiveness of programs and ensure their implementation and sustainability when warranted. Policy and research work is needed to adapt and devise programs promoting the SESWB of Aboriginal young people (at both the individual and system levels), determine their effectiveness, and ensure they are sustained when warranted.


Mr Peter Lewis and Ms Connie Salomone at the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency, and the Aboriginal Reference Group for the Ripple Study provided support for the research

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

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