The ‘Child protection and mothers in substance abuse treatment study’ was the first study to interview a relatively large sample of women in opioid pharmacological treatment in NSW about their children, parenting and child protection system involvement. 171 mothers were interviewed as part of the study and detailed information collected from them. The results showed that, rather than severity of substance use being associated with mothers’ involvement with the child protection system, other factors were of greater importance including having less parental support, a greater number of children, and being on medication for mental health problems.
Additional funding was obtained in 2011 to extract and analyse data from the child protection records relating to those mothers in the study who consented to being followed-up.
Our major aim was to (1) analyse predictors of child protection involvement amongst women on the NSW Opioid Treatment Program and their children, and (2) describe their child protection system involvement over a 12 month period.
Information on the involvement of consenting participants with child protection services in the twelve month period since their interview was extracted from NSW child protection service records. The same methods were used as in the main study to enter variables into a logistic regression model to examine predictors of child protection involvement at 12 months. The results did not produce any significant associations. This lack of reportable results is likely to have been because: firstly, there was a lack of power in the sample size and, secondly, there was significant non-randomness in the sample included in the follow-up study. The women followed up were significantly more likely to be involved with child protection services, and to display several of the characteristics associated with child protection involvement found in the main study analyses, making it more difficult to detect differences.
This follow-up study also permitted descriptive analyses to be undertaken examining the reasons for removal or restoration of children to their parents’ care, the reasons for any further child protection reports, whether any additional children were born, and the role of substance use in these decisions at 12 months.
The child protection records of 78 mothers on the NSW Opioid Treatment Program were included in this study. 47 women were involved with child protection services at the time of the 12 month follow-up, mostly with children in out-of-home care. Many of these children had been removed from their mother’s care at birth and had remained in care since birth. Many had been reported prenatally by health service providers for substance use. A small number of new babies were born over the 12 month period, all of whom were reported to child protection services. Most had their babies removed soon after birth.
A journal article from this study is in preparation.
Taplin, S., Grove, R. & Mattick, R.P. Twelve Month Follow-Up of Mothers from the ‘Child Protection and Mothers in Substance Abuse Treatment Study’. Paper presented at the Association of Child Welfare Agencies (ACWA) Conference. Sydney. 20 – 22 August 2012.
Results from this follow-up study builds on the important findings from the Child protection and mothers in substance abuse treatment study.