Child Welfare Process and Outcomes: Caregiver Cognitive Impairment

Parental cognitive impairment and child maltreatment in Canada

The number of children referred for protective services, and of these, the proportion living with a parent or other caregiver with cognitive impairment, is increasing. Building systems capacity to support parents with cognitive impairments and promote the health and well-being of their children is therefore essential to containing the escalating human and economic costs of child maltreatment, protective services, and out-of-home care in Canada.

The challenge at hand is turning rights and rhetoric into reality for parents with cognitive impairments and, in turn, promoting a healthy start to life for their children. Our analysis of the Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect (CIS-2003) core-data, documented in this report, reveals that more than one in ten child maltreatment investigations, and more than one in four cases that result in child welfare court action and probable placement, involve children of parents with cognitive impairments.

The findings from this study underscore the need for a planned and coordinated national strategy to build systems capacity to support parents with cognitive impairments and their children. A 'broad-spectrum' approach is needed. Equipping services with the knowledge, skills and mandate they need to deliver evidence-based parent training is crucial. However strategies are also needed to tackle discrimination, alleviate family poverty, strengthen the social ties of parents with cognitive impairments and in turn, improve the life chances of their children.