Suicide among Mothers of Children Taken into Care by Child Protection Services

May 04, 2018

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark Research

Mothers who have had a child taken into custody by Canada’s child protection services (CPS) are at increased risk for suicide attempts and deaths compared to their biological sisters without CPS involvement and other mothers receiving general CPS services.

Researchers used linkable administrative data from the Population Research Data Repository at the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy to identify women who had at least one child removed from the home by CPS between 1992 and 2015. To control for familial and genetic variables, the researchers also identified the biological sisters of these women. To control for maternal circumstances leading to CPS involvement, they identified a group of women who received services from CPS but did not have a child taken into custody. For each mother, the researchers examined suicide attempts and deaths, along with risk factors such as socioeconomic status, age, and history of mental health conditions, substance use diagnoses, and suicide attempts. 

Compared to their biological sisters and mothers receiving general CPS services, mothers whose children were taken into CPS care were more likely to be younger, living in a lower socioeconomic neighborhood, and to have attempted suicide. Mothers whose children were taken into CPS custody had 286 additional suicide attempts and 76 additional suicide deaths per 100,000 person years compared to their non-CPS involved biological sisters. They had 352 additional suicide attempts and 77 additional suicide deaths per 100,000 person years compared to mothers who received general CPS services.

These findings suggest that additional mental health supports may be needed to help mothers cope with their children being taken into CPS custody, and to address underlying mental health conditions that may impact reunification plans.

Wall-Wieler, E., Roos, L. L., Brownell, M., Nickel, N., Chateau, D., & Singal, D. (2018). Suicide attempts and completions among mothers whose children were taken into care by child protection services: A cohort study using linkable administrative data. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 63(3), 170–177.