Child protection outcomes of the Australian Nurse Family Partnership Program for Aboriginal infants and their mothers in Central Australia
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© 2018 Segal et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Background The Nurse Family Partnership Program developed in the USA, designed to improve mother and infant/child outcomes, has reported lower rates of child protection system involvement. The study tested the hypothesis that an adapted Nurse Family Partnership Program implemented in an Aboriginal community in Central Australia (the FPP) would improve Child Protection outcomes. Methods This was a retrospective and prospective cohort study drawing on linked administrative data, including birth registry, primary health care client information system, FPP program data, and child protection data. Participants were children of women eligible for the FPP program (an exposed and a control group of women, eligible but not referred) live-born between 1/3/2009 (program commencement) and 31/12/2015. Child protection data covered all reports, investigations, substantiations and out-of-home care placements from the time of the child’s birth to 31/12/2016. Generalised linear modelling was used to estimate the relative risk (RR) of involvement with child protection and type of involvement (report, investigation, substantiation, out-of-home-care placement) among FPP and control children. Results FPP mothers (n = 291) were on average younger, were more likely to be first-time mothers and experiencing housing instability than control mothers (n = 563). Among younger mothers 20 years, FPP children had statistically significantly lower rates of involvement with child protection (ARRreport = 0.49, 95% CI: 0.29 to 0.82; ARRinvestigation = 0.34, 95% CI: 0.19 to 0.64; ARRsubstantiation = 0.45, 95% CI: 0.21 to 0.96) and experience fewer days in care (ARR = 0.10, 95% CI: 0.02 to 0.48). Among children of first-time mothers, FPP children also had statistically significantly lower rates of involvement with child protection (ARRreport = 0.50, 95% CI: 0.30 to 0.83; ARRinvestigation = 0.36, 95% CI: 0.19 to 0.67; ARRsubstantiation = 0.38, 95% CI: 0.18 to 0.80) and fewer days in care (ARR = 0.06, 95% CI: 0.01 to 0.27). Conclusion Study results suggest a modified Nurse Family Partnership delivered by an Indigenous community-controlled organisation may have reduced child protection system involvement in a highly vulnerable First Nations population, especially in younger or first-time mothers. Testing these results with an RCT design is desirable.
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