Main Article Content
Evidence suggests that many women whose children enter care via family court proceedings (care proceedings) in England experience mental health and substance misuse problems. Further, an estimated 22% of women will return to court within 5 years for subsequent proceedings, often returning quickly with a new infant and with little time to address underlying health-related problems. With growing pressures on England’s family justice system and the wider children’s social care sector, there is a need to identify opportunities to engage with women in a healthcare setting to reduce the likelihood of (recurrent) care proceedings.
Objectives and Approach
We used linked family court and mental health service data (n = 2843) for mothers who were referred to mental health services and were involved in care proceedings in South London between 2007 and 2019. We (1) describe differences in the frequency, type and timing of mental health and addictions service use between mothers who return to court and those who do not and (2) evaluate risk/protective factors for returning to court.
After resolving duplicate matches (n = 2808), 1028 women (36.6%) referred to mental health services over the study period subsequently returned to court. We will describe differences in characteristics of service use and care proceedings between women who return to court and those that do not. We will also explore a range of potential risk/protective factors for returning to court, including maternal age at first child, indicators for failure to engage with services, mental disorder type, substance misuse, and maternal neighbourhood deprivation status.
Conclusion / Implications
Better understanding of how women use mental health and addictions services before, during and after proceedings, and identification of key risk/protective factors for returning to court, would inform strategies to reduce recurrent involvement in care proceedings among this population group.
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