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Research Summary

The study Child protection services for children with special healthcare needs: a population record linkage study (Hindmarsh et al. 2020) examines the characteristics of contact with child protection services for children in the early childhood years (ages 5-6) with special health care needs (SHCN). This peer-reviewed study led by the University of New South Wales was completed using data from the New South Wales Child Development Study (NSW-CDS). The NSW-CDS is a longitudinal population study of the mental health and wellbeing of more than 90,000 children born in NSW between 2000 and 2006. It links administrative records from multiple NSW agencies spanning health, education, child protection and criminal justice, with cross-sectional assessments collected in early and middle childhood.

What did the study find?

  • Of the 65,349 children included in the study, 2,667 (4.1%) were identified as having special needs and 5,608 (8.6%) as having impairments of concern.
  • Children with SHCN (whether designated with special needs or identified as having impairments of concern) were up to two times more likely to be known to child protection services in the early years of childhood, relative to children without SHCN.
  • Children in both of the SHCN groups were less likely to be returned to the care of parents compared to children known to child protection services without SHCN. Children with special needs were twice as likely to be placed in OOHC, compared to their peers without SHCN.
  • Other factors which also increased the likelihood of child protection contact included: Indigenous status, perinatal and birth risk factors, parental mental illness, socioeconomic factors and parental criminal offending history.
Publication Details
Access Rights Type:
FACSIAR Summary February 2022