Int J Environ Res Public Health, 14(11), 1405
Objectives: The Quebec Youth Protection Act was amended in 2007. The main goal of this reform was to improve placement stability for children who are removed from their home for their protection. Among several legal provisions introduced was the establishment of maximum age-specific durations of out-of-home care, after which a plan must be established to provide stability for children placed in substitute care by finding permanent homes for them. The purpose of this study is (1) to examine trends in placement use and placement stability since the reform and (2) to document the current frequency of each type of placement setting, the cumulative time in care before the exit to permanency, and the sustainability of the permanency outcome. Methods: The study relies on 3 entry cohorts of all children investigated who received protection measures in the province of Quebec during 3 specific time frames before and after the reform (n = 9620, 8676, 8425). Cohorts were observed for a period varying from 3 to 4 years. Administrative data from all 16 child protection agencies were used to track placement trajectory indicators and to compare cohorts. Results: There has been a decrease in the proportion of children receiving protection measures who were placed in care since the reform, and placement in kinship care has become more frequent among children placed. Placement stability improved slightly after the reform. Overall, for infants, the most frequent type of permanency attained is adoption, while reunification is the option most often indicated for older children. Some children are at a greater risk of experiencing unstable placement trajectories: young children have a high rate of reunification breakdown, some wait a long time to be adopted, and adolescents are frequently removed from the substitute care setting where they were supposed to stay until the age of 18. Conclusions: The results suggest interesting avenues for policy makers and service providers to improve the stability of placement trajectories. Advantages and disadvantages of administrative data are discussed.