Children and Youth Services Review
School of Medical and Health Sciences
Edith Cowan University, Grant number G1002547 / Commissioner for Children and Young People WA
The challenges and experiences associated with child removal and reunification from the perspective of mothers experiencing substance-related harms is under-researched in Australia. Our qualitative study employed a socio-ecological model to better understand the background to child removal, and perceived barriers and facilitators to achieving reunification of mother and child. In-depth interviews were conducted with 16 women, 8 of whom self-identified as Australian First Nations People. At the time of the interviews, these women were either living in substance use rehabilitation facilities, their own home or with relatives. Findings highlighted a history of complex disadvantage and trauma among the women, along with a deep and enduring commitment to their children. Key barriers to reunification included limited social support networks, insecure housing, and challenges in meeting conflicting requirements from the child protection, social welfare and justice systems. An important facilitator to reunification was access to a residential substance use rehabilitation facility that offered holistic wrap-around services with links to community support. This study highlights the inadequacy of individual approaches focused on parents’ substance use and emphasises the need to address significant structural disadvantages that underpin increasing numbers of children being placed in government mandated care in Australia.
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