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Parents with a disability and the NSW Children's Court / David McConnell, Gwynnyth Llewellyn and Luisa Ferronato

David; Llewellyn McConnell, Gwynnyth; Ferronato, Luisa; Support University of Sydney, Family; Project, Services .,


This study, funded by the Law Foundation of New South Wales, investigated prevalence and outcomes for parents with a disability and their children appearing before the New South Wales Children's Court in child protection matters. The study involved review of court files for all child protection matters finalised at two Children's Courts in Sydney over a nine month period, May 1998-February 1999; interviews with all eight specialist children's magistrates, 34 lawyers and 155 child protection workers; and observation of court proceedings. The study finds that parents with a disability are substantially over represented in care proceedings; New South Wales Department of Community Services decision making is most strongly driven by perceptions of risk to the child, informed, or misinformed, by beliefs and attitudes about particular disability groups; undue emphasis is given to clinical decision making based on a diagnostic-prognostic model which bears little relevance to assessing parenting performance; the children of parents with intellectual disability were made state wards and placed out of home more often than any other group, while outcomes were less extreme for children of parents with a psychiatric disability as long as there was no mention of drug and/or alcohol use; and parents with a disability are marginalised in the court process, often having little understanding of what has taken place and little opportunity to be heard. The report makes a number of recommendations designed to address these problems. .

Publication information

Journal/Publication : {Lidcombe, NSW} : The Family Support and Services Project, The University of Sydney, 2000. vii, 102p. bibl, diagr, graph, table

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