Research Watch

Temporary placements as a strategy for physical abuse cases

Year of Publication
Reviewed By
Eliza Livingston

Hébert, S.T., Hélie, S., & Esposito, T. (2018). Temporary placements: A crisis management strategy for physically abused children. Child Abuse and Neglect, 86, 314-323


Temporary placements are used to provide children with immediate protection by removing them from situations where they may be experiencing maltreatment. The circumstances under which Child Protective Services (CPS) implement temporary placements for children are not well understood. However, there is evidence to suggest that physical abuse is associated with temporary placements due to the need for urgent intervention. The authors distinguish between two types of temporary placement, emergency and provisional. Emergency placements last up to five days, while provisional placements last from up to 30 to 60 days. This study examined the relationship between temporary placements and the situations they are used in, with a specific focus on physical abuse cases.

Data for this study was collected from Quebec’s CPS agencies from a sample of 10,181 children who had experienced at least one placement. The independent variables used were age, sex, history of receiving protective services, and the presence of physical abuse. The dependent variable was placement duration. The results showed that children investigated solely for physical abuse are six times more likely to experience temporary placement. Children who had experienced physical abuse were also less likely to receive long-term placements. The study also examined the influence of different demographic variables on temporary placement decisions involving physical abuse. Adolescent girls who have experienced physical abuse without any previous involvement from protective services are more likely to experience temporary placements, without any long-term placement.

Methodological Notes

The main strength of this study was the use of propensity-weighted analysis, which allowed for an accurate measurement of the effect of physical abuse on placement patterns by reducing any possible confounding effects. Limitations included a lack of information on the timing of events due to the use of administrative data. There was no ability to model the timing of the abuse, interventions, or placement. The inclusion of these variables would have allowed for a more thorough interpretation of the results.