From care to education and work? Education and employment trajectories in early adulthood by children in out-of-home care

Antti Kääriälä, Pasi Haapakorva, Elina Pekkarinen, Reijo Sund - Child Abuse & Neglect



Temporal dynamics during the early adulthood transition among children in out-of-home care is a neglected research area, leaving the possibility of coping with childhood adversity over time a poorly understood topic.


To explore early adulthood education and employment trajectories among young adults who experienced out-of-home care during childhood and to examine how various care history factors predict these trajectories.


We use longitudinal birth cohort data comprising individual-level information from national registers of all children born in Finland in 1987 (N = 59,476, of whom 1893 were in care).

Setting and methods

We use trajectory clustering from a previous study on the 1987 birth cohort to compare trajectories between children in care and a propensity score–matched group of peers never in care. We investigated the association between care history factors and trajectories with multinomial logistic regression modeling.


Compared with the matched peer group, children in care were less likely to enter trajectories characterized by education and employment (38%) and more likely to enter trajectories involving early parenthood (14%) or long periods of fragmented social assistance benefit receipt and unemployment (21%). Those on early parenthood trajectories were almost exclusively women, whereas those receiving social assistance benefits and experiencing unemployment for lengthy periods were mostly men. Entering disadvantaged trajectories was associated with, inter alia, placement as an adolescent, residential care, and aging out of care.


The study demonstrates the relevance of examining longitudinal trajectories in children in care’s early adulthood. Many young adults with care experience need support in education and employment beyond young adult age.