Dr Stephanie Taplin, Dr Giovanna Richmond, Professor Morag McArthur

Funding Source:

Australian National Council on Drugs


The Australian National Council on Drugs (ANCD) is the principal advisory body to government on drug and alcohol issues and plays a critical role in ensuring that the voice of communities and all related sectors are heard.

In some states and territories it is becoming common for pregnant women to be routinely assessed for psycho-social risk, including alcohol and other drug (AOD) use. There is concern about the potential harm maternal AOD use may pose to children both before and following birth, yet also recognizes that there is potential harm for both children and their parents if, because of maternal AOD use, children are taken into care following birth. In some jurisdictions, concerns about maternal AOD use during pregnancy can lead to pre-birth notification to statutory child protection services.

How effective this screening is in both assisting women to access AOD treatment and support services and in reducing the risk to the child and better determining the need for the removal of babies by child protection services, is unknown. Nor is it known whether such practices may have unintended adverse consequences.

This project aims to identify states' and territories' policies on maternal screening for AOD use in pregnant women; identify any evidence which may exist on the impact of such policies; and undertake a literature review on "best practice" in the management of AOD-using pregnant women vis a vis child protection risks.

For more information, contact Dr Stephanie Taplin.