Publication Date




There is currently little research evidence on how to manage contact in a child protection context, and for which children, in what circumstances it is beneficial.


This study uses data from a larger study of mothers in pharmacological treatment for opioid dependence in Sydney, Australia. Mothers who had at least one child in out-of-home care were interviewed about their characteristics, contact and other care arrangements.


Women (n = 56) were generally disadvantaged and had 1.8 children in care on average. Two-thirds (n = 66) of their 99 children were in kinship care and one-third in foster care (n = 33). The majority of the children (84%) had some contact with their mother, most of which was supervised, in some cases for many years. Bivariate analyses showed that contact was significantly more likely to be supervised if the children were in foster care, the mother was on psychiatric medication and/or had used cannabis more frequently in the past month.


This study is one of the largest studies to examine the issue of contact amongst mothers with a substance-using history. We found that supervised contact was common in these families and highlight the need for better support for contact. The need for better research evidence on the impacts of current models of supervised contact is also identified, particularly given the high monetary cost to the child protection system.


Institute of Child Protection Studies

Document Type

Journal Article

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