Study points to importance of careful consideration in reasons for placement of youth

Date Published: 

Knoke, D., Goodman, D., Leslie, B. & Trocmé, N. (2007). Differences in the factors associated with out-of-home placement for children and youth. Canadian Social Work, 9(1), 26-47.

Reviewed by: 
Elizabeth Fast

Because the removal of a child from the family home is one of the most intrusive types of intervention, it is often assumed that the primary reason for bringing children into care is that the family home is a high risk situation. This study looked at the differing reasons that children at various developmental stages are brought into care. Files of 3,676 children from two large metropolitan child welfare agencies in Toronto were examined for the following factors: risk assessment rating, reasons the child was brought into care and age group (under 12 or 12-16 years). Results showed that children under 12 years of age were placed for reasons related to physical maltreatment, neglect and high-risk caregiver behaviors. However, children 12-16 years were placed because of behavioral concerns, poor relationships with caregivers, and mental health troubles. The older the child is when entering care, the longer the stay is likely to be, and the harder it becomes to be adopted or to return home. Employment and education outcomes for youth leaving care are poor. Implications point to the potential need for more prevention services for families in which youth are not necessarily “at risk” of maltreatment, but are at a high risk of being placed into care for other reasons.

Methodological notes: 

This study tracked a large sample of youth from the administrative databases of the two agencies. Although overall risk ratings and reason for placement were analyzed, the authors were unable to look at individual risk ratings (such as parent’s drug or alcohol use or history of previous maltreatment) because many of these ratings were missing from the database. The Ontario Risk Assessment Model has been found to be reliable for individual risk ratings, but much less so for overall risk ratings (Barber et. al, 2007); therefore this study is limited by the poor reliability of the overall ORAM risk ratings.

Barber, J., Trocmé, N., Goodman, D., Shlonsky, A., Black, T., & Leslie, B. (2007). The reliability and predictive validity of consensus-based risk assessment. Toronto, ON: Centre of Excellence for Child Welfare.