Relationship between out-of-home care placement history characteristics and educational achievement: A population level linked data study

Miriam Maclean, Catherine L. Taylor, Melissa O'Donnell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)
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Abstract

Studies generally show children who have entered out-of-home care have worse educational outcomes than the general population, although recent research suggests maltreatment and other adversities are major contributing factors. Children's out-of-home care experiences vary and may affect their outcomes. This study examined the influence of placement stability, reunification, type of care, time in care and age at entry to care on children's educational outcomes. We conducted a population-based record-linkage study of children born in Western Australia between 1990 and 2010 who sat State or national Year 3 reading achievement tests (N = 235,045 children, including 2160 children with a history of out-of-home care). Children's educational outcomes varied with many aspects of their care experience. Children placed in residential care were particularly likely to have low scores, with an unadjusted OR 6.81, 95% CI[4.94, 9.39] for low reading scores, which was partially attenuated after adjusting for background risk factors but remained significant (OR = 1.50, 95% CIs [1.08, 2.08]). Reading scores were also lower for children who had experienced changes in care arrangements in the year of the test. A dose-response effect for multiple placements was expected but not found. Older age at entering care was also associated with worse reading scores. Different characteristics of a child's care history were interwoven with each other as well as child, family and neighbourhood characteristics, highlighting a need for caution in attributing causality. Although the level of educational difficulties varied, the findings suggest a widespread need for additional educational support for children who have entered care, including after reunification.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)146-159
Number of pages14
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Volume70
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2017

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