Maternal health and social outcomes after having a child taken into care: population-based longitudinal cohort study using linkable administrative data

J Epidemiol Community Health. 2017 Dec;71(12):1145-1151. doi: 10.1136/jech-2017-209542. Epub 2017 Oct 5.


Background: We investigated whether mothers experience changes to their health and social situation after having a child taken into care by child protection services, then compared these outcomes with those found in mothers whose children were not taken into care.

Methods: The cohort includes mothers whose first child was born in Manitoba between 1 April 1998 and 31 March 2011. Mothers whose children were taken into care after age 2 (n=1591) were compared with a matched group of women whose children were not taken into care (n=1591).

Results: The rates of mental illness diagnoses, treatment use and social factors were significantly higher for mother whose children were taken into care, both in the 2 years before and in the 2 years after the index date. These adjusted relative rates (ARRs) increased significantly for anxiety (before ARR=2.71, after ARR=3.55), substance use disorder (3.77-5.95), physician visits for mental illness (2.83-3.66), number of prescriptions (psychotropic: 4.35-5.86; overall: 2.34-2.94), number of different prescriptions (psychotropic: 2.70-3.27; overall: 1.62-1.70), residential mobility (1.40-1.63) and welfare use (2.07-2.30).

Conclusion: The health and social situation of mothers involved with child protection services deteriorates after their child is taken into care. Mothers would benefit from supports during this time period to ensure that the outcomes they experience after the loss of their child do not become another barrier to reunification.

Keywords: cohort studies; health inequalities; maternal health; mental health.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety Disorders / epidemiology
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child Protective Services*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Maternal Health*
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Mother-Child Relations
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology