Population-based Canadian data on educational and social outcomes for children and youth involved with child welfare system
Brownell, M. D., Roos, N. P., MacWilliam, L., Leclair, L., Ekuma, O., & Fransoo, R. (2010). Academic and social outcomes for high-risk youths in Manitoba. Canadian Journal of Education, 33(4), 804-836.
This study provides analysis of the first large-scale provincial dataset containing information on educational outcomes for all children in the child welfare system, not just those in care. It also demonstrates the utility of linking data among different children’s sectors, such as education and social services, in order to track a spectrum of outcomes relevant to child well-being. Data were linked from educational, social, and health services for all Manitobans born in 1984-85 who resided in Winnipeg the year they turned 18 (N=11,703). Risk factors identifying a youth “at high risk” included (1) poverty (indicated by family receipt of income assistance), (2) child welfare (CFS) involvement at any time between the age of 10 and 17 years, the years covered by the database, or (3) having a mother who was a teen at the time of birth of her first child. Presence of multiple risk factors was even more important than the type of risk factor in accounting for poor outcomes. The analysis indicates that youth “at high risk” are much less likely than those not identified as at high risk to complete high school, or accumulate 8 credits in grade 9. They are more likely to receive income assistance as young adults, and, for young women, to become a mother in adolescence.
The analysis indicates that 31% of the population had at least one risk factor, 9% had two factors and only 4% had all three risk factors. Seventeen percent of the population was involved with child welfare (either foster care or family in receipt of protective or support services). Approximately 43% of those involved with child welfare did not complete high school in seven years, as compared with 18% of the population without risk factors. Of those with all three risk factors, 84% did not complete high school. Results followed a similar pattern for credit accumulation in grade nine, receipt of income assistance, and likelihood (for young women) of becoming a mother during adolescence.
The unique Manitoba Population Health Database contains non-identifying individual administrative data on health care, education (enrollment, marks, and credits in high school) and social service contacts (child welfare involvement and income assistance receipt) for all residents. It also includes a registry of all residents and data about family members.
The population data in the study are acquired from administrative records so it accurately reports child welfare involvement but likely underreports abuse and neglect. Moreover, because data were only available for child welfare involvement that occurred when children were between the ages of 10-17, children with earlier child welfare involvement would not be identified in this dataset. The analysis also did not focus on any information about protective factors.