Pathways of Care Longitudinal Study

by PeakCare Qld on 21st October 2015

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Pathways of Care Longitudinal Study: Outcomes of Children and Young People in Out-of-Home Care in NSW

In 2011, a representative longitudinal study was commenced to examine the outcomes for children and young people in out-of-home care in New South Wales. The research is funded by the NSW Department of Family and Community Services and is the first of its kind in Australia. A team of Australian and international experts is involved in the design, data collection and analysis.

The study looks at the experiences and wellbeing of children aged 0 to 17 years who entered out-of-home care for the first time ever between May 2010 and October 2011 (a total of 4,126 children), some of whom were subsequently subject to finalised child protection orders in NSW. The aim is to provide a strong evidence base to inform policy, practice and professional development, and to improve decision making about how best to support children and young people in out-of-home care, and those who have returned to their birth families, been adopted, or left out-of-home care at 18 years of age.

Data are being collected through at least three waves of face to face interviews with children aged over 3 years, caregivers and birth parents. Factors influencing the child’s wellbeing and three developmental domains – physical health, socio-emotional wellbeing and cognitive learning ability – are being examined. Whether a child returns home, moves placement or is adopted, they will be followed over time and their new carers or adoptive parents will be invited to participate in the study. Children's caseworkers, child care workers and teachers are invited to complete online surveys. NSW government child protection, education, health and youth offending records, as well as Commonwealth Government Australian Early Development Census records will be linked to data collected in the study.

The interviews in wave 1 provide a baseline picture of children’s wellbeing, service provision and support, children’s contact with their birth family, and the characteristics of the current caregiving household. The report is one of a number that will consider the wave 1 data.

The findings are of course extensive. In respect to developmental domains, most children were progressing well in terms of their physical health and were similar to children in the general population. In the area of socio-emotional wellbeing, children showed higher levels of behaviour problems from 3 years of age than usually found in the general population. The majority of children were in the normal range on cognitive abilities and language development. For children aged 6 years or older, rates of difficulties were higher than for children in the general population. Children in residential care appeared to be experiencing poorer wellbeing than children in other placement types. Across the three domains of functioning, approximately half of the children did not show any problems, 30% showed problems in 1 developmental domain, 16% showed problems in 2 developmental domains, and 5% showed problems across all 3 developmental domains.

For further information about the research, check out the Pathways of Care Longitudinal Study website

A number of publications are available from

Read the report to find out more about the baseline findings


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