Child protection contact among children of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds: A South Australian linked data study

Razlyn Abdul Rahim, Rhiannon Pilkington, Alexandra M. Procter, Alicia Montgomerie, Murthy N. Mittinty, Katina D'Onise, John Lynch

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Aim: To describe the cumulative incidence of child protection (CP) system contact, maltreatment type, source of reports to age 7 years, and socio-demographic characteristics for culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) Australian children. 

Methods: We used CP, education, health, and birth registrations data for children followed from birth up to age 7 from the South Australian Better Evidence, Better Outcomes, Linked Data (SA BEBOLD) platform. Participants: SA born children enrolled in their first year of school from 2009 to 2015 (n = 76 563). CALD defined as non-Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, spoken language other than English, Indigenous or Sign, or had at least one parent born in a non-English speaking country. Outcomes measures: For CALD and non-CALD children, we estimated the cumulative incidence (risk) of CP contacts up to age 7, relative risk and risk differences for all levels of CP contact from notification to out-of-home care (OOHC), primary maltreatment type, reporter type, and socio-economic characteristics. Sensitivity analyses explored different population selection criteria and CALD definitions. 

Results: By age 7, 11.2% of CALD children had ‘screened-in’ notifications compared to 18.8% of non-CALD (risk difference [RD] 7.6 percentage points (95% confidence interval: 6.9–8.3)), and 0.6% of CALD children experienced OOHC compared to 2.2% of non-CALD (RD 1.6 percentage points (95% confidence interval: 1.3–1.8)). Emotional abuse was the most common substantiated maltreatment type for CALD and neglect for non-CALD. Among both groups, the most common reporter sources were police and education sector. Socio-economic characteristics were broadly similar. Sensitivity analyses results were consistent with primary analyses. 

Conclusion: By age 7, CALD children had lower risk of contact with all levels of CP. Estimates based on primary and sensitivity analyses suggested CALD children were 5–9 percentage points less likely to have a report screened-in, and from 1.0 to 1.7 percentage points less likely to have experienced OOHC.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)644-652
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Paediatrics and Child Health
Issue number4
Early online date6 Feb 2023
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • child abuse and neglect
  • child maltreatment
  • culturally and linguistically diverse


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