A sneak peek at our upcoming research

Michelle Wisbey 2017, Child Protection, News and Media, Young People

As the Tasmanian out-of-home care system continues to be reviewed and redesigned, the Social Action and Research Centre continues to add to a local evidence base through building on its portfolio of research relating to this sector.

SARC’s researchers are embarking on two new pieces of work exploring the collateral consequences of children being removed from their families by Child Safety Services, as they continue to advocate for the rights, safety, and happiness of all children.

From previous SARC research, we already know that low income parents in Australia who have had their child, or children, removed from their care by Child Safety Services can experience a heightened level of poverty.

This can come in the form of the withdrawal of parenting payments, which can go on to affect the family’s ability to provide adequate and stable housing, attend family visits, and provide food and clothing.

A heightened sense of trauma is also a common occurrence in many families, where anger and grief for the loss of a child, combined with both social and legal stigma, can spiral into worsening mental health and substance use, and impact on parents’ ability to effectively engage with practical parenting or therapeutic support.

Both poverty and trauma have a significant impact on the ability of families to address the issues which led to children being removed, to maintaining contact with their children and on a family’s chances of successful reunification.

It can then become challenging for Child Safety Services to attribute a family’s ability to care safely for a child to parenting capacity or to the impacts of child removal itself.

As of June this year, there were 1203 children in out-of-home-care in the state, and 12 children in active transition.

It is taking 49 weeks to house priority applicants into public housing and there are 2962 applicants on the Housing Register, at the same time as the Tasmanian private rental stock is shrinking and becoming less affordable to low income households.

It is these serious issues that have led to two of SARC’s researchers taking on new and significant projects looking at the parents involved in the out-of-home care system.

The first project we are working on is titled In Limbo, a research report by SARC researcher Lindsey Moffatt.

This project, due to be released in August next year, looks at the complexities for Child Safety Services and Family Support Services in assessing and supporting the parenting capacity of families who are reunifying with their children in the context of poverty.

In particular it will explore how we can ensure that material basics, such as adequate income and housing, are addressed to enable families to focus on providing a safe and emotionally secure family environment to expedite family reunification.

The overall aims of the research will be to highlight the income and housing challenges during family reunification for Tasmanian parents whose children are on Care and Protection Orders, and the impacts those material challenges have on successful family reunification processes.

It will also review Tasmania’s ability to quantify these issues and estimate the scale of the problem, and offer policy and program solutions.

SARC’s senior researcher Teresa Hinton is working on Breaking the Cycle, due out in May.

This research project looks at the complexities of assessing parenting capacity in the context of parental trauma and will focus on how to support parents during and post removal and the cumulative impacts of repeat child removals, where the impacts of parents’ trauma after prior child removals may not have been addressed.

It will aim to establish the prevalence of repeat removal in Tasmania and the characteristics of parents who experience it, examine the lived experience of removal, and make recommendations for reducing repeat removal rates and entry to the out-of-home care system in Tasmania.

Both projects will inform the development of policy, practice and therapeutic interventions that support the redesign of Child Safety Services and the goals of keeping families together or expediting family reunification where possible.

If you wish to get in touch with either Lindsey or Teresa about their projects, they can be contacted on:

  • Lindsey Moffatt – lindseym@anglicare-tas.org.au, 03 6213 3665
  • Teresa Hinton – t.hinton@anglicare-tas.org.au, 03 6213 3565

Read previous SARC research on vulnerable children and families: