Parents with disabilities and child abuse and neglect

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See more resources on Parents with disabilities and child abuse and neglect in the AIFS library catalogue

'She was there if I needed to talk or to try and get my point across' : specialist advocacy for parents with intellectual disability in the Australian child protection system.

Collings S, Spencer M, Dew A and Dowse L
Australian Journal of Human Rights v. 24 no. 2 2018: 162-181
Specialist advocates can help parents with intellectual disability navigate the child protection system and participate fully in proceedings. This article explores the impact of a specialist advocacy service on parents' experiences with the child protection and court systems, drawing on interviews with parents with intellectual disability in New South Wales.

Intersectional disadvantage : exploring differences between Aboriginal and non-aboriginal parents with intellectual disability in the New South Wales child protection system.

Collings S, Dew A, Spencer M and Dowse L
Journal of Public Child Welfare v. 12 no. 2 2018: 170-189
Parents with either an intellectual disability or Indigenous background are overrepresented in the child protection system, but what about parents who face both risk factors? This article reviews the case files of 45 parents with intellectual disability involved with the New South Wales child protection system, comparing the personal and case characteristics of the 14 Aboriginal and 31 non-Aboriginal parents. The findings of this small study show that Aboriginal parents are significantly younger, more likely to be investigated over concerns about parenting capacity, and more likely to have children removed than non-Aboriginal parents are. The findings have implications for child welfare practice.

Support for new parents and babies in New South Wales

Conolly K
Sydney, N.S.W. : Parliament of New South Wales, 2018.
This inquiry investigates current services and supports for parents of infants in New South Wales, and how they can be improved. Research highlights the benefits and cost-effectiveness of early intervention and support for parents during their children's early years, so this inquiry was established to examine the adequacy of current services and structures, especially for vulnerable parents, and consider the changes to current services and structures that could improve physical health, mental health and child protection outcomes, models of support provided in other jurisdictions, and the opportunities for new and emerging technology to enhance support. This report presents the findings and recommendations of the inquiry, beginning with the need for better coordinated and integrated universal child and family health services. Topics include home visiting services and services targeting fathers, perinatal mental health, parents with disability, Indigenous families, parents from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, and young homeless parents.

Maternal mental health and risk of child protection involvement : mental health diagnoses associated with increased risk.

O'Donnell M, Maclean M, Sims S, Morgan V, Leonard H and Stanley F
Journal of Epidemiology of Community Health v. 69 no. 12 Dec 2015: 1175-1183
This article adds to what is known about mental illness in mothers as a risk factor for child maltreatment. Using population-level data for children born in Western Australia between 1990 and 2005, it quantifies the relationship between different categories of mental illness and child maltreatment allegations and substantiations. Almost half the children with a maltreatment allegation in this cohort had a mother with a mental health contact, in particular mothers with an intellectual disability.

Rebuilding the village: supporting families where a parent has a disability : report 2 : child protection

Carter B
Carlton, Vic. : Office of the Public Advocate, 2015.
This is the second report of the Victorian Public Advocate concerning families where the parent has a disability. The first report, from 2013, entitled 'Whatever happened to the village?: the removal of children from parents with a disability', explored issues relating to the Australian family law system. This second report examines issues within the child protection system in Victoria and makes recommendations for reform. It discusses data collection, pre-birth notifications, changes in Victorian child protection since 2000, risk assessment and best interests, contact and access between families and children, sibling separation, case management, guardianship and parental responsibility, family violence, power imbalance, stigmatisation, Children's Court processes, and "too much assessment, not enough support."

Whatever happened to the village?: the removal of children from parents with a disability : report 1 : family law - the hidden issues

Carter B
Melbourne, Vic. : Office of the Public Advocate, 2013.
As a signatory to both the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2006 and the Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 (CRC), Australia has a duty to support the rights of parents with a disability to raise their children. This paper reviews issues in Australian family law and child protection policy that conflict with these duties and rights and sets out recommendations for reform.

Families with multiple and complex needs: best interests case practice model : specialist practice resource

Bromfield L, Sutherland K and Parker R
Melbourne : Dept of Human Services, c2012.
This resource, for child protection and family services in Victoria, provides guidance for working with families facing numerous, chronic and inter-related problems. Part 1 is an introduction to the issues, including the development of multiple needs, the impact on parenting, and Aboriginal and culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) families. Part 2 is a practice tool on strategies for working with families experiencing multiple and complex needs. It discusses adopting a child-focused and family-centred approach, information gathering, engaging parents, undertaking a comprehensive family assessment, risk assessment, assessing parenting capacity, planning an intervention, undertaking interventions, and reviewing outcomes. The resource also includes appendices on the impact of certain parental issues on parenting, including substance use, intimate partner violence, mental illness, learning difficulties, and acquired brain injury.

Safety of subsequent children: international literature review

Kerslake Hendricks A and Stevens K
Wellington, N.Z. : Families Commission, 2012.
This literature review investigates issues regarding parents who lose custody of children through a care and protection intervention who then have additional children who may be at risk. The review focuses on how to assist families overcome their complex issues so that subsequent children are not at risk, and what can be done to prevent subsequent children coming into families. It discusses the research from New Zealand and overseas on: characteristics of families where subsequent children may be at risk, referral pathways and assessment, family-focused interventions, family planning education and coerced contraception, and legislation and policy.

An innovative support group for parents with intellectual disabilities whose children have been removed.

Mayes R, Tozer R and Elder M
Developing Practice: The Child, Youth and Family Work Journal no. 29 Spring 2011: 58-67
The Parents on the Outside program is an eight-week program offering bereavement support for parents with intellectually disabilities who have had their children removed by child protection services. It was developed by the Womens Activities and Self Help House in Western Sydney, New South Wales. This article describes the purpose of the program and the support needs of participants, evaluates the benefits of the pilot program from the perspectives of facilitators and participants, and makes recommendations for practice.

Women with cognitive impairment and unplanned or unwanted pregnancy : a 2-year audit of women contacting the Pregnancy Advisory Service

Australian Social Work 0312-407X (print) 1447-0748 (online) v. 63 no. 1 Mar 2010: 18-34
Burgen, Brenda
This study aimed to learn more about the experience of women with cognitive impairments and unplanned or unwanted pregnancies. An audit was conducted of 2 years' of records from the Pregnancy Advisory Service at the Royal Women's Hospital in Melbourne, Victoria. Record for 20 women with cognitive impairments, who had contacted PAS for support with an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy, were identified, revealing issues of significant barriers to reproductive choices, including needing help to contact support services, seeking help significantly late in their pregnancy, and current involvement with child protection services. The findings for proactive social work and support are discussed.

Intensive family support programs: keeping children with a disability safely in their families

Breckenridge J and Huppert S
Sydney : Centre for Gender-Related Violence Studies UNSW, 2010.
This research study was commissioned to examine the development and effectiveness of Intensive Family Support programs funded by the Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care and provided by The Spastic Centre of NSW, Northcott Disability Services and UnitingCare Burnside. The main aim is determine whether client families experienced an increase in confidence and competence and if the programs contribute significantly to maintaining child safety within the family. The study examined team formation and development, referral and exit processes, the effectiveness of the range of support options offered, and the effectiveness of programs for different client groups, in particular culturally and linguistically diverse families, Indigenous families, and families with parental intellectual disability. This final report focuses on the impact on families, the key learnings and the factors for success, and follows on from an interim report submitted in 2008.

Parental intellectual disability and child protection : key issues

Lamont A and Bromfield L
Melbourne, Vic. : Australian Institute of Family Studies, 2009.
A high proportion of families with a parent with an intellectual disability will come to the attention of child protection and support agencies due to allegations that a child has been or is at risk of abuse or neglect. However, prejudice and lack of understanding have contributed to these heightened rates. In this paper, the authors examine parental intellectual disability and the common risk factors associated with child abuse and neglect to understand if and why parents with intellectual disability are at heightened risk of abusing or neglecting their children.

Parental intellectual disability/learning difficulties vulnerability

New South Wales. Dept. of Community Services.
Ashfield, N.S.W. : NSW Dept. of Community Services, 2007.
Some of the parents participating in the NSW Department of Community Services' (DoCS') Brighter Futures program have an intellectual disability. This guide provides information for social workers about intellectually disabled parents and the child protection system, relevant legislation, characteristics of vulnerable families, assisting intellectually disabled parents to improve their parenting capacity, the impact of parental intellectual disability on the child, evidence-based practice principles for working with vulnerable families, and a list of endorsed research and resources.

The Children's Court and child and youth poverty.

Hansen P
In: CROCCS International Conference, 'Overcoming violence and poverty', August 2007. Mackay, Qld: Mackay Centre for Research on Community and Children's Services, 2007, 28p, Online (MS PowerPoint 142KB)
This paper reports on the early stages of a study in three states (NSW, QLD and WA) that aims to develop a demographic profile of parents involved in Children's Court proceedings. Of special interest is their economic and social status especially in regard to intellectual disability and /or mental health factors and how these factors influence court decision making. The study is supported by a network of social workers, lawyers and others who seek to examine Children's Court decision making in child protection cases and the orders that place children in long term state care. The named study team have a preliminary encouragement grant from the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY).

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the need for its incorporation into a Bill of Rights.

Nicholson A
Family Court Review v. 44 no. 1 Jan 2006 5-30
Australia increasingly stands alone in not providing any of its citizens with the protection of a Bill of Rights. In this article, the author demonstrates that Australians need the protection of a Bill of Rights. He focuses particularly on the absence of a Bill of Rights protecting children in Australia. The author also discusses judicial approaches to international law and compares the situation in countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand. He suggests that even in those countries that do have a Bill of Rights, it is not oriented toward children, and therefore does not properly recognise their rights.

Intellectual disability and parenting.

Mildon R, Wade C and Matthews J
Every Child v. 12 no. 1 2006 12-13
Parents with an intellectual disability are over represented in child protection services and care proceedings. This article discusses three factors that may contribute to this trend: assumptions people have about disability; high levels of disadvantage faced by these families; and gaps in effective services, support and resources for these families. The article considers the benefits of providing parent skills education in conjunction with other family focused support.

Early Intervention Parenting Project.

Jenkin C and Jewell P
9-11 February 2005
The Early Intervention Parenting Project (EIPP) planned to demonstrate a model for the delivery of a comprehensive service to parents of young children throughout Victoria. The project is based on the national Program for Parents, which demonstrated, through an external evaluation, a reduction in risk factors for youth suicide The EIPP model focuses on the universal needs of families with young children, as well as the specific needs of parents with an intellectual disability, parents of children with disabilities and Aboriginal parents. The key philosophy and beliefs informing EIPP are based on those identified in the Planning Happy Families program (Jenkin 1988, 1993). The project emphasizes the importance on improving parent/child relationships and gaining a better understanding of child development and building hope and optimism in the family. The project also focuses on increasing confidence in parenting through teaching better communication practices and approaches. The project places emphasis on the benefits of shared experiences and caring for others in order to build community capacity and overcome the sense of isolation that many parents may experience. The process involved: extensive community consultation; training professionals in the early childhood field; external evaluation of training and parent groups; feedback process from facilitators and a final report on findings. This paper will share outcomes and results and the direction of the project for the next three years.

Mothering capacity and social milieu.

Llewellyn G
In: Esdaile, Susan A. and Olson, Judith A. eds. Mothering occupations: challenge, agency, and particpation. Philadelphia, PA USA: F A Davis, 2004, p174-192, tables
Mothering is a learned occupation, a function of the social milieu in which it occurs, this chapter argues. The chapter discusses: factors involved with mothering capacity; child protection practice; decisions made in child protection processes; and mothers with intellectual disability learning mothering. The chapter presents three case studies to illustrate the diversity of mothers' social environments. It then discusses research findings that demonstrate how mothering occupations are influenced by, and influence, mothers' social milieu. The studies focus on mothers with intellectual disability who live alone with their children in the community, mothers living in a parent or parent figure's household, and mothers living with partners.

TRACC Strengthening Families Program.

Smith S
Intensive Family Services 5th National Practice Symposium : In partnership with families - stepping off the roundabout. Rose Bay, NSW : Matrix On Board, 2004: 10p
The family strengthening approach taken by Anglicare Queensland's Strengthening Families Service in delivering support services to parents with an intellectual disability is explored in this paper. The paper first describes the Queensland context, in which the integration of people with disabilities has occurred more recently than in most other states. It then presents two case studies which are used to illustrate: issues common to parents with an intellectual disability; implications for intensive family based services to these parents; ways of exploring strengths and valued social roles; the value of brief interventions for parents with an intellectual disability.

When is it serious enough? The protection of children of parents with a mental health problem, tough decisions and avoiding a 'martyred' child.

Cousins C
Australian e-Journal for the Advancement of Mental Health (AeJAMH) 1446-7984 v. 3 no. 2 Aug 2004 8p
This paper outlines some of the very real emotional challenges and decisions faced by mental health workers with clients who, through no fault of their own, are failing to meet the needs of their children. In particular, it focuses on the effects of long term emotional abuse and neglect due to parental mental health issues and includes discussion of some difficult concepts such as 'good enough' parenting, and what constitutes harm. The paper proposes that it is very difficult for adult mental health workers to hold in tension the needs of the adult client and the needs of their children, when sometimes these are at odds with each other. It ultimately argues for a change in service culture where the ethical and moral nature of these decisions is discussed and debated, rather than what could be seen to be an emerging culture of fear, based on recent critical incidents and unwanted media attention.

Understanding and supporting parents with learning difficulties.

Mildon R, Matthews J and Gavidia-Payne S
Carlton, Vic : Victorian Parenting Centre, 2003
Increasing numbers of families in which a parent has a learning disorder are presenting for assistance. The authors present information that can aid in the design and implementation of supports to these parents. They review the current literature and identify factors contributing to an over representation of parents with learning disorders in the child protection system. They define the term learning difficulties, look at assessment assumptions and practices, methods and tools, and consider ways of developing knowledge and skills in parents with learning difficulties. Clinical strategies that have shown promise in assessment and skills development programs are discussed.

Parental drug use: the bigger picture: a review of the literature.

Patton N
St Kilda South, Vic : Mirabel Foundation, 2003
This report collates the current literature on children and families who have experienced parental illicit drug use. The author discusses the effects of prenatal exposure to illicit drug use on physical development, cognitive development and psychosocial development, and the effects of environmental factors at the same stages of development. She discusses child protection intervention, family preservation and the rights of the child. She also examines the commonalities between children affected by parental illicit drug use and other minority groups of children in the community, such as those whose parents have a disability or mental health issues.

Understanding and supporting parents with learning difficulties

Mildon R, Matthews J and Gavidia-Payne S
Carlton, Vic. : Victorian Parenting Centre, 2003

Confronting the challenge: the need for a different approach to families where the parent has an intellectual disability.

Sykes D
Strengthening every family - forum on supporting parents who have learning difficulties : proceedings of the Strengthening Every Family Forum. Melbourne, Vic. : Office of the Public Advocate, 2003: 35-67
Drawing on the experience of the Victorian Office of the Public Advocate, the author comments on key elements of promoting and protecting the rights of parents with disabilities, with a particular focus on child protection. He describes cases of child removal despite positive assessments of the parent's ability to care for the child, reflecting a tension between the goals of disability services and child protection services. He also debunks a set of myths commonly held about the capabilities of parents with intellectual disabilities. He calls for a whole of government approach to implement preventative strategies for the support of all vulnerable families, including parents with a disability, believing that current the framework discriminates against and further disadvantages parents with an intellectual disability.

Confronting the issues of supporting parents with a disability.

Scott D
Strengthening every family - forum on supporting parents who have learning difficulties : proceedings of the Strengthening Every Family Forum. Melbourne, Vic. : Office of the Public Advocate, 2003: 22-34
In this keynote address the author looks for evidence of support and collaboration between disability services and child protection services, as a fruitful and positive direction in dealing with issues surrounding parents with a disability and child welfare. She finds that at most points at which the two areas intersect, the primary focus is on child protection. While agreeing that the interests of the child should take priority, she argues that this could often be better achieved through a focus on services to support the parent. She observes that although the child and family welfare system is looked to for support for parents with a disability and their children, the responsibility belongs to a whole raft of health, education and social welfare services. She believes that cooperation and collaboration across services will achieve the best results for both parent and child.

Prevalence and outcomes for parents with disabilities and their children in an Australian court sample.

Llewellyn G, McConnell D and Ferronato L
Child Abuse and Neglect v. 27 no. 3 Mar 2003 235-251
Knowledge about parents with disabilities and their children has increased during the last ten years. However, there are still myths surrounding this group, one of which is that parents with psychiatric or intellectual disabilities are perpetrators of child abuse. The aim of the present study was to provide a determination of the prevalence of parents with disabilities by disability diagnosis in an Australian court sample, to determine whether court outcomes vary for parents in the diagnostic groups and whether outcomes experienced by these groups differ significantly from those for families headed by non disabled parents. The authors found that parents with disabilities are over represented in statutory child protection proceedings and that the outcomes of these proceedings vary according to disability type.

Pride and prejudice: a snapshot of parents with disabilities experience of the child protection system in Victoria

Swain P, Goodfellow J, Lee J, Cameron N and Bennett W
Melbourne : Disability Discrimination Legal Service Inc., 2002.
This is the final report of the Disability, Parenting and the Law project conducted by Victoria's Disability Discrimination Legal Service and Yooralla's Parents with a Disability Community Project. It contains findings and recommendations that follow from research into the discrimination experiences of parents with disabilities whose children have had contact with the child protection system. The report covers the project background, the literature and research background, explanation of the Children's Court file audit, and presentation of the views of parents and professionals. The authors found that parents with a disability are over represented in child protection proceedings before the Children's Court. They make several recommendations concerning the treatment of and processes related to this group.

Stereotypes, parents with intellectual disability and child protection.

McConnell D and Llewellyn G
Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law v. 24 no. 3 2002 297-317
Although the number of children born to parents with intellectual disabilities is increasing as a result of the banning of involuntary sterilisation, so too is the rate of child removal from such parents. The authors review the way in which child protection authorities and the courts respond to parents with intellectual disabilities. They suggest that the judgements made by the authorities are informed by stereotypical beliefs about intellectual disability, rather than the individual's parenting capacity and unique circumstances; as a result, these parents suffer disadvantage, discrimination and distress in dealing with the authorities.

Disability and decision-making in Australian care proceedings.

McConnell D, Llewellyn G and Ferronato L
International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family v. 16 no. 2 Aug 2002 270-299
Parents with intellectual disability are over-represented in care and protection proceedings and their children are more likely to be placed in out-of-home care. This article reports on an investigation of court process and influences on court outcomes in the care and protection jurisdiction of New South Wales. The purpose was to illuminate how court outcomes are determined and to understand why parents with intellectual disability and their children are subject to more intrusive court outcomes. The analysis draws on information gathered over a period of nine months in 1998-99 in two children's courts in Sydney. The authors also observed the court in process and reviewed court files. The study findings suggest that the concerns raised by legal scholars internationally are justified. Influences other than demonstrated parental shortcomings or substantiated risk of maltreatment are at work.

Parents with a disability and the NSW Children's Court.

McConnell D, Llewellyn G and Ferronato L
Sydney, NSW : University of Sydney, 2000
Parents with a disability are at increased risk of involvement with care and protection agencies. The broad purpose of this research project was to obtain data on the prevalence of parents with a disability appearing before the NSW Children's Court and the outcomes for these parents and their children. In so doing, the authors' purpose was to examine whether substantive differences exist in the treatment of parents with a disability in care and protection proceedings. Research methods included a review of court files; interviews and/or focus groups with magistrates, legal representatives and Department of Community Services Officers; and courtroom observations of care proceedings. The findings of this study confirm that parents with a disability are significantly over represented and discriminated against in care proceedings.
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