The collateral consequences of child removal

Selina Claxton 2018, Blog

SARC is proud to announce the release of two new research reports examining aspects of the collateral consequences of child removal for low-income parents in Tasmania.

Tasmania’s evolving redesign of Child Safety Services has a renewed focus on keeping families together and expediting family reunifications where possible to minimise the traumatic impacts on children of removal from their birth families. However, both poverty and trauma have a significant impact on the ability of families to address the issues which led to their children being removed, maintain contact with their children and ultimately reunify successfully. It can be challenging for Child Safety Services to assess a family’s ability to safely care for children when the family is struggling with the impacts of child removal itself.

In Limbo, by Lindsey Fidler, explores how income and housing challenges affect parents, children and the reunification process following child removal. For many these challenges are triggered by the loss of parenting-related income support payments, leaving them vulnerable to precarious housing arrangements that are unsuitable for family reunification. Common experiences reported by both families and service providers include increased parental stress due to the need to juggle unaffordable living and parenting reunification costs, accumulating debt and homelessness. The report makes 11 recommendations to inform responses from legislation and policy, culture and practice, program and services, and planning and data. They are starting points for a conversation about how we can reduce stress and trauma for parents and children by focusing on the structural barriers that delay reunification.

Breaking the Cycle, by Teresa Hinton, documents the prevalence and experiences of Tasmanian parents who have had children recurrently removed by Child Safety Services, when removal of a child is followed by a subsequent pregnancy, further court proceedings and another removal. This tragic cycle can be repeated a number of times with children being ‘born into care’. The research documents the experience of child removal and its consequences for parents and examines the current service network and its capacity to support them. It reviews interventions which are being deployed in other jurisdictions to break this cycle and makes recommendations about how the experiences of Tasmanian parents can be improved.