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Parents with disability and their experiences of child protection systems

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Parents with disability and their experiences of child protection systems – Research Report


The Disability Royal Commission has published a research report by Western Sydney University. The report looks at how parents with disability experience child protection systems in Australia.

This video is a summary of that report. You can find the full report on our website.


The voices of parents with disability, and the voices of people who work with and support them, are not often heard. This is especially the case for parents with disability who are First Nations or from culturally and linguistically diverse communities.

For this report, researchers asked:

  • What are the experiences of parents with disability across child protection systems?

  • Do child protection systems uphold the human rights of parents with disability?

  • How can we reduce the contact parents with disability have with child protection systems?

To answer these questions, researchers:

  • looked at national and international research

  • looked at information from Australian child protection websites

  • interviewed parents, lawyers, advocates and other child protection service provider in New South Waled and Victoria.

What did the research find?

The research found failures in the whole child protection system and not enough appropriate supports for parents with disability. This prevents many parents with disability being able to look after their children safely, and prevents many children being able to live safely within their family and community.

The research found that the system does not uphold the human rights of parents with disability and their children. There are discriminatory attitudes about parents with disability. This includes people believing that parents with disability cannot keep their children safe. 

The research found that parents with disability are over-represented in all stages of the child protection system.

It found parents with disability are more likely to have their children removed from their care. This can be permanent for many of these children.

The research said that child protection departments are less likely to try to place children back in the care of parents with disability.

It found there are not enough inclusive, accessible support services for families, and not enough referrals to these services.

What does the research recommend?

The research makes many recommendations about changes to child protection laws, policies, practices, workforce training, data collection and oversight.

One idea is to set up a program for parents with disability who have had bad experiences with the child protection system that have led to trauma. The program would acknowledge harm caused by the system, and offer counselling, money or an apology. This is called ‘redress’.

Other recommendations include:

  • Develop a plan to collect data about parents with disability in contact with child protection systems to use for service planning.

  • Revise risk assessment tools and processes so that they can identify parents with disability.

  • Provide disability, cultural safety and trauma-informed training to all child protection caseworkers and other professionals working with parents with disability.

  • Make sure professionals who assess parents have experience in working with parents with disability. Advocates or other supporters should be available to support parents during assessments. Independent statutory officers should oversee assessment processes.

More information:

To read the full report, visit our website. Go to the ‘Publications’ section and click on ‘Research program’.