Improving Pathways to Assessment and Care for Infants of Substance Abusing Mothers: Are We Getting It Right?
There is documented correlation between parental substance abuse, child maltreatment, and poor outcomes. In two health districts in Sydney, Australia (Site A and B), specialised clinics were established to provide comprehensive assessments for infants of substance abusing mothers (ISAM). We aimed to determine whether there was a difference in outcomes between infants who attended clinic versus those who did not; and to identify differences in the pathways to care between sites. We analysed child protection reports and available health markers of all ISAM referrals in 2011. We held stakeholder meetings with services involved with ISAM in both sites; to describe service components; strengths and weaknesses of pathways. Fifty-five per cent (11/20) attended clinic in Site A; 80% (25/31) in Site B. Three-quarters of ISAM had at least one referral to child welfare; child protection service involvement was more common in those who attended. Immunisation status was lower than the national Australian average; approximately half were seen by community nursing services. Gaps in services, lack of database, and differences in pathways between sites were identified. Attending clinics correlates with child protection service involvement and may afford health protection. Transparent communication, service integration, and shared learning can improve outcomes for this vulnerable group.
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