Problem: Courts make complex decisions daily regarding removal of infants from birth parents and placement in out-of-home care. Nurses and other health professionals often take part in such processes, either as court informants, witnesses, or via their role delivering healthcare to infants and/or birth parents involved. To date there has been very little research exploring how health information impacts upon decision-making about infant removal.

Aim: To explore how health information impacts court decisions about removing infants from birth parents.

Methods: Using Arksey and O’Malley’s five-stage method for scoping reviews as a guide, eight electronic databases were searched to identify relevant studies published in peer reviewed journals between 1990 and 2020. After initial screening, 154 articles were assessed for eligibility, resulting in 10 relevant studies.

Findings: Three overarching themes emerged: (1) Communication between courts and health professionals; (2) Professional bias; (3) Infant attachment and reunification.

Discussion: In many jurisdictions, children’s courts operate as closed courts making scrutiny of decisions difficult. Across jurisdictions there is also a widespread lack of recognition in legislation of infancy as a unique developmental stage. Clarity of communication and understanding between health professionals and courts is needed for health information to be applied in consistent ways in court decision making.

Conclusion: The role of health information in court decision-making is unclear and heterogeneous. More research is needed if nurses and other healthcare professionals are to have clarity regarding best practice provision of information, to assist courts with decisions about infant removal.

© 2021 Australian College of Nursing Ltd. Published by Elsevier Ltd


courts, decisions, foster care, health information, infant removal, out of home care

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