Inter-agency indicators of out-of-home-care placement by age 13–14 years: A population record linkage study

Abstract

Background

Cross-agency administrative data can improve cost-effective triage systems for child protection and other human service delivery.

Objective

To determine the minimum set of cross-agency indicators that could accurately classify placement in out-of-home-care (OOHC) before age 13–14 years.

Participants and setting

Participants were 72,079 Australian children (mean age = 13.16 years; SD = 0.37; 51.4% male) and their parents, for whom linked administrative records spanning the years 1994–2016 were available for analysis within the ‘New South Wales Child Development Study’.

Methods

First, a series of logistic regression analyses were conducted to examine associations between cross-agency (health, justice, education) risk indicators and membership of the sub-cohort of 1239 children who had an OOHC placement prior to age 13–14 years, relative to (1) the sub-cohort of 55,473 children who had no previous contact with child protection services, and (2) the sub-cohort of 15,367 children who had been reported to child protection services but had no record of OOHC placement. We then explored the classification characteristics associated with a smaller combination of risk factors, and the utility of specific familial risk factors, for classifying membership of the OOHC subgroup.

Results

A combination of six risk indicators evident before OOHC placement can classify children placed in OOHC with approximately 95% accuracy, and the presence of at least four of these risk indicators provides excellent specificity (99.6%).

Conclusions

A combination of risk factors observable in administrative datasets held by multiple government agencies may be used to target support services to prevent entry into OOHC for children from vulnerable families.