Data on parental convictions and early childhood development have been used in a Telethon Kids Institute study that could promote a better understanding of how to respond to the needs of children with convicted parents. These children are currently not adequately supported by child-or adult-oriented services.
The study used linked de-identified administrative data from WA's Department of Justice to determine that 7 per cent of the 19,000 children born between 2003 and 2004 had parents who had served community-based orders or prison terms.
These records were merged with children’s scores on the Australian Early Development Census, which measured their physical, social, emotional, communicative and cognitive development.
Lead researcher Megan Bell said the study found that children of convicted parents had a high risk of being developmentally vulnerable across all measured domains, with children of imprisoned parents experiencing even greater risk.
Dr Bell recommended the introduction of standard procedures in Australia to identify children of convicted parents and support their development.
A recent Telethon Kids Institute study investigating the risk of child maltreatment across various disabilities relied on records covering more than half a million WA children.
Children with disabilities are three times as likely to experience abuse and neglect, and the study highlighted how different risk levels related to disability types.
The researchers examined linked de-identified records from a number of sources, including Birth Registrations, Western Australian Register of Developmental Anomalies and the Department of Child Protection and Family Support, for 524,534 children born in Western Australia between 1990-2010.
Data analyst Scott Sims, from the Developmental Pathways Project, said children with an intellectual disability, mental health problems or conduct disorders were at highest risk compared to those with autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy or birth defects.
The findings indicated that not only was more support needed for families caring for a child with a disability, but those services could be better targeted for the high-risk groups.