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Factors influencing the reunification of children with their substance-using parents subsequent to placement in out-of-home care


Sixty-five percent of child removals from the family home occur for reasons relating to parental substance use. Removed children are placed in almost equal numbers in foster of grandparent fulltime custodial care. While both foster and grandparent caregivers are often heroic in fulfilling their caregiving role they often do so (particularly in the case of grandparents) under the burden of significant self-sacrifices. An overarching concern for many such caregivers is: Who will look after the child when I’m no longer able to do so? The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child asserts that as far as possible all children have the right to know and be cared for by their parents. The question then becomes for the children of parents with drug issues is: Under what conditions is it feasible and safe for parent-child reunifications to occur? As there are no ready answers to this question our mixed methods project will determine the factors which inhibit/enable Caucasian, CALD and Aboriginal parent-child reunifications within WA families.

Expected impact of the research on the WA community

Current rehabilitation services and state and federal governments lack quality research on which to base their family reunification decisions. There also is little understanding as to what safeguards and support services are required to protect children should their rehabilitating/rehabilitated parents be found capable of resuming their care. The impact of this innovative project for WA policy makers and service providers is that our research results will translate directly into improved practice guidance in assessment techniques for OT clinicians and, importantly will establish the evidence-based parameters for parent-childre unifications.

Opportunitiesfor funding and in-kind participation in the next stage of the research project

Given that this is the first research project in WA researching the inhibitors and enabling factors influencing family reunifications among removed children and their parents with significant substance abuse issues, the findings from this research will form the basis for a large grant application to devise, pilot,and implement a child-safety intervention for drug affected families. The need for such an intervention is pressing given the prevalence of drug-taking among young adults in Australia. We are actively seeking philanthropic donations and additional research partners to tackle this widespread social phenomenon (contact:


Professor Ruth Marquis
Dr Myra Taylor
Dr Celia Wilkinson
Dr Julie Dare

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