Safeguarding children during the arrest of their primary carer mothers: The role of the police

Miaomiao He, Catherine Flynn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


In Australia, the female prisoner population is expanding, with the majority also being mothers of dependent children. Research has demonstrated that witnessing the arrest of a family member, particularly a parent, can have both an immediate and long-term impact on children’s well-being. Yet, little is known about what causes these outcomes and how children are responded to by police during the arrest process. The aim of this study is to investigate incarcerated primary carer mothers’ perspectives on their arrest circumstances, its impact on their children, and police responses to their children during the arrest process. This study draws on secondary data from 36 primary carer mothers arrested in Victoria, which were originally gathered for an Australian Research Council-funded project. Results show that in around one-half of cases children are present at their mothers’ arrest. The location and time of the arrest can mediate children’s involvement in the arrest scene. Overall, police do not respond well to these children, with discussion between police officers and the mothers about suitable care for children occurring in less than two-thirds of cases. It can be concluded that children’s needs are not fully addressed at the arrest process. More child-sensitive arrest practices are recommended.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)434-450
Number of pages17
JournalProbation Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019


  • child protection
  • children
  • maternal arrest
  • police
  • suitable care

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