Out-of-Home Care and the Educational Achievement, Attendance, and Suspensions of Maltreated Children: A Propensity-Matched Study

Objective

To estimate the influence of out-of-home care on reading scores, attendance, and suspensions by comparing a matched sample of maltreated children who entered out-of-home care and maltreated children who remained at home.

Study design

Linked administrative data for all children born in Western Australia between 1990 and 2010 was used, focusing on those with substantiated maltreatment before year 9 achievement tests (n = 3297). Propensity score modelling was used to address differences in preexisting risk factors (child, family, neighborhood characteristics, maltreatment history, and reading scores) and compare outcomes for children placed in out-of-home care and those remaining in in-home care.

Results

Both groups of maltreated children had poor educational outcomes. After accounting for group differences in risk characteristics, there was no difference in year 9 reading achievement for the out-of-home care and in-home care groups. There was no difference in suspensions for the groups. The only significant difference was children in out-of-home care had fewer school absences than children in in-home care.

Conclusions

Out-of-home care was not found to be a significant factor in the adverse educational outcomes of these children; however, there is a clear need for further educational support to address poor outcomes for children involved with child protection services.