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Child protection and mothers in substance abuse treatment study: Major findings

Research Centre, New South Wales Department of Family & Community Services – 2011

Summary of an Australian study on children with substance-abusing mothers in the child welfare system. Presents background on the problem, and methodology of the study, which surveyed mothers in an opioid treatment program. A majority of the women were socioeconomically disadvantaged, with extensive substance abuse histories. A significant number also had mental health (depression and anxiety), domestic violence, and criminal histories. A majority reported experiencing some form of abuse as a child or teenager. A number of the women began having children at a young age, with several reporting behavioral problems in their children. Over half said substance use affected their parenting abilities. Support came largely from family members. Over 60% of the mothers reported child welfare involvement, with substance use as the most common reason. One third currently had a child in out-of-home care, many of these in kinship care. A large number of the women had a child removed at birth. A majority of the women reported seeking treatment voluntarily, many because they were pregnant or because they felt they were not taking proper care of their children. Subjects reported positive treatment outcomes. Variables found to increase the likelihood of child welfare involvement are number of children, mental health problems, and lack of family support. Notes the importance of providing services that address these issues.