Research Watch

The effect of short term placements on child placement trajectories

Year of Publication
Reviewed By
Eliza Livingston

Hébert, S. T., Esposito, T., & Hélie, S. (2018). How short-term placements affect placement trajectories: A propensity weighted analysis of re-entry into care. Children and Youth Services Review, 95, 117-124.


Child Protective Services implement short-term placements in situations where children need to be temporarily removed from their home due to maltreatment. However, shorter placements may not provide enough time to resolve familial problems and may even disrupt relationships between family members, increasing the risk that the child will re-enter care. Two types of short-term placement have been identified, emergency (one to five days) and provisional (6 to 60 days). This study examined the impact of placement duration on the risk of re-entry into care during the four years after reunification. Data was collected from Québec’s child protection agencies and analyzed using multivariate regressions.

The study included a population of 5755 children who had all experienced at least one placement and been reunified with their family for at least five days. The results of this study showed that 55% of children in emergency placements, 53.6% in provisional placements and 41.2% in long-term placements re-enter the care system following reunification. Children in emergency placements were at significantly greater risk of re-entering care during the first three years following reunification. Children in provisional placements were at significantly greater risk of re-entering care only during the first year following reunification. There was no significant relationship between placement duration and re-entry into care during the fourth year after reunification.

Methodological Notes

The main strength of this study was the use of propensity-weighted analyses, which controlled for individual factors and reduced selection bias. This allowed for a reliable measurement of the relationship between placement duration and re-entry into care. This study was limited by its use of administrative data from child protection agencies. This data lacked information on family and parent characteristics such as socioeconomic status, as well as the intervention methods used during reunification. The inclusion of these variables would have allowed for a more thorough evaluation of the possible factors that may influence the risk of re-entry into care.