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Prenatal reporting to child protection services has been enacted into most jurisdictions across Australia and in other countries, its aims being to intervene early and provide supports which will either identify or prevent the need for a baby to be taken into care and protection once born. Despite indications that there are increasing numbers of prenatal reports, little is known about the characteristics of those reported, the timing and reasons for reports, service responses, and the impacts of being reported. This study is one of the first to use administrative data to examine the characteristics of two samples from one Australian jurisdiction: (i) data from casefiles of 38 cases reported in 2012–13, and (ii) administrative data from 117 cases reported prenatally in 2013. These data showed that women who were reported to child protection services in relation to their pregnancy were predominantly disadvantaged, and were likely to be reported relatively late in their pregnancy due to ‘future risk concerns’. Approximately two-thirds of those reported were provided with some prenatal support, as recorded by the child protection system, generally of limited duration. Twelve percent of the babies born to the larger cohort of women were removed within 100 days of their birth. It is likely that longer term supportive interventions are needed, to reduce the risk factors evident in women reported during pregnancy, and to improve their ability to safely care for their children. Information on the short and long–term impacts from rigorous evaluations and longer-term intervention trials are also vital to ensure that prenatal reporting and interventions are, in fact, improving outcomes for infants and families.


Institute of Child Protection Studies

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Journal Article

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