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Addressing poor educational outcomes among children with out-of-home care experience: Studies on impact, pathways, and interventions
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Work.
2019 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Children with out-of-home care (OHC; foster family/residential care) experience is a high-risk group for future adverse outcomes. With an ambition of supporting the design of effective preventive child welfare measures targeting children in OHC, the overall aim of this thesis is to examine education as a possible intervention path for improving their development and overall life chances.

The thesis consists of four interrelated empirical studies that address different aspects of poor educational outcomes among children with OHC experience by means of analyses of longitudinal survey and register data, and evaluations of two interventions aimed at improving their basic academic skills.

Study I examined the hypothesized causal effect of poor school performance on adverse outcomes in young adulthood among children with OHC experience. The results showed that poor school performance has an impact on later psychosocial problems net of observed and unobserved factors, suggesting that the estimated effects allow for causal interpretations.

Study II explored educational outcomes at different stages in the educational career, and pathways to varied educational outcomes for children with OHC experience and their peers. The results showed that the OHC group had lower educational outcomes across the life course. Yet, by large, their educational pathways did not differ significantly from their peers – cognitive ability and previous school performance had the largest associations with the outcomes in both groups. However, the influence of these factors were weaker in the OHC group whilst the influence of the birth family’s attitude towards higher education was stronger.

Study III aimed at furthering our understanding of the book-gifting program the Letterbox Club’s potential impact on foster family children’s reading skills. The results showed that participation in the program was associated with small improvements. In general, the program was well received by children and carers, and could result in increased reading. The study furthermore suggested that promotion of carer involvement may improve its potential impact.

Study IV explored the process of conducting a structured paired reading intervention involving foster family children and their carers. Findings showed that it is possible to engage carers in interventions targeting the education of children in OHC, but that this is no automatic process – carers need a rationale for getting involved, and support in delivering the intervention.

In sum, this thesis shows that improving the educational outcomes of children in OHC may be a viable intervention path in supporting their life course development, a path that historically has been overlooked. The thesis furthermore shows examples of promising interventions which may improve the basic academic skills of children in OHC. The results also point out that the child welfare system should provide early and continuous educational support, and highlight the importance of addressing adults’ attitudes, expectations, and involvement in these children’s education.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Social Work, Stockholm University , 2019. , p. 58
Series
Stockholm studies in social work, ISSN 0281-2851 ; 40
Keywords [en]
child welfare, out-of-home care, educational outcomes, impact, pathways, interventions, longitudinal, evaluation
National Category
Other Social Sciences not elsewhere specified
Research subject
Social Work
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-175347ISBN: 978-91-7797-873-2 (print)ISBN: 978-91-7797-874-9 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-175347DiVA, id: diva2:1362779
Public defence
2019-12-06, Aula Svea, Socialhögskolan, Sveavägen 160, Stockholm, 10:00 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following paper was unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 2: Manuscript.

Available from: 2019-11-13 Created: 2019-10-21 Last updated: 2019-11-05Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Does poor school performance cause later psychosocial problems among children in foster care? Evidence from national longitudinal registry data
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Does poor school performance cause later psychosocial problems among children in foster care? Evidence from national longitudinal registry data
2016 (English)In: International Journal of Child Abuse & Neglect, ISSN 0145-2134, E-ISSN 1873-7757, Vol. 57, p. 61-71Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Research has shown that children in foster care are a high-risk group for adverse economic, social and health related outcomes in young adulthood. Children's poor school performance has been identified as a major risk factor for these poor later life outcomes. Aiming to support the design of effective intervention strategies, this study examines the hypothesized causal effect of foster children's poor school performance on subsequent psychosocial problems, here conceptualized as economic hardship, illicit drug use, and mental health problems, in young adulthood. Using the potential outcomes approach, longitudinal register data on more than 7500 Swedish foster children born 1973–1978 were analyzed by means of doubly robust treatment-effect estimators. The results show that poor school performance has a negative impact on later psychosocial problems net of observed background attributes and potential selection on unobservables, suggesting that the estimated effects allow for causal interpretations. Promotion of school performance may thus be a viable intervention path for policymakers and practitioners interested in improving foster children's overall life chances.

Keywords
foster care, school performance, causal effect, longitudinal, cohort study, fosterbarn, skolprestationer, kausal effekt, longitudinell, kohortstudie
National Category
Sociology
Research subject
Social Work
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-131456 (URN)10.1016/j.chiabu.2016.06.006 (DOI)000379379300007 ()
Funder
Riksbankens Jubileumsfond
Available from: 2016-06-20 Created: 2016-06-20 Last updated: 2019-12-10Bibliographically approved
2. Exploring educational pathways over the life course in children with out-of-home care experience: A multi-group path analysis
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Exploring educational pathways over the life course in children with out-of-home care experience: A multi-group path analysis
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

It is well-established that children with out-of-home care (OHC) experience perform poorly in the educational system. However, we know less about their educational pathways over the life course. Utilizing longitudinal prospective survey and register data with a follow-up to more than 60 years of age, this study compared educational outcomes over the life course between children with OHC experience and their same-aged peers. Moreover, by means of multi-group path analysis, the study explored differences in educational pathways. The results showed that the OHC group had lower school grades in sixth grade, in ninth grade as well as lower educational attainment in middle age. Cognitive ability and previous school performance had the largest associations with the outcomes. Yet, these predictors had significantly weaker influence in the OHC-group. Conversely, the birth family’s attitude towards higher education was more important among children with OHC experience. Implications for policy and practice are discussed.

Keywords
out-of-home care, educational outcomes, pathways, longitudinal, path analysis
National Category
Educational Sciences Social Work
Research subject
Social Work
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-175346 (URN)
Projects
What explains child welfare children’s underachievement in the educational system? A life course approach (WHAM)
Funder
Swedish Research Council, 2017-01476
Available from: 2019-10-21 Created: 2019-10-21 Last updated: 2019-10-22Bibliographically approved
3. Exploring the Letterbox Club programme’s impact on foster children’s literacy: potent intervention or general support?
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Exploring the Letterbox Club programme’s impact on foster children’s literacy: potent intervention or general support?
2019 (English)In: Oxford Review of Education, ISSN 0305-4985, E-ISSN 1465-3915, Vol. 45, no 4, p. 502-518Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The book-gifting programme, the Letterbox Club, was developed as a response to the increased interest in ways of improving the educational outcomes of children in out-of-home care. By reporting quantitative and qualitative findings from a Swedish trial, and compiling findings from previous British evaluations, the purpose of this paper is to further our understanding of the programme’s potential impact. Pre/post measurements of the reading age of 72 foster children showed an average improvement of 2.5 months in comparison to the national average. With some exceptions, interviews with children and carers showed that the programme was well received and indicated that it could increase reading engagement and carer involvement. The current empirical base knowledge suggests that the Letterbox Club has a small impact on foster children’s literacy. The results do not allow for causal interpretations. Long-term outcomes are unknown. The programme lacks a theoretical foundation, and the implementation is dependent on individual and contextual factors. However, the programme is simple to administer, low-cost, and can reach a large number of children. The article therefore suggests that the Letterbox Club could be seen as a general supportive measure, and promotion of carer involvement is proposed as a way of improving its potential impact.

Keywords
Foster children, literacy, intervention, general support, evaluation, impact
National Category
Social Work
Research subject
Social Work
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-167975 (URN)10.1080/03054985.2019.1595559 (DOI)000465817900001 ()
Available from: 2019-04-12 Created: 2019-04-12 Last updated: 2019-10-21Bibliographically approved
4. Foster carers’ experiences of a paired reading literacy intervention with looked-after children
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Foster carers’ experiences of a paired reading literacy intervention with looked-after children
2017 (English)In: Child & Family Social Work, ISSN 1356-7500, E-ISSN 1365-2206, Vol. 22, no 1, p. 409-418Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Previous studies have shown that paired reading, a structured literacy intervention, is a promising method for improving looked-after children's literacy skills. The aim of this study was to explore variations in foster carers' experiences of conducting the intervention. Interviews were carried out with 15 Swedish foster carers with varying experiences in programme compliance and of practicing the method. Findings suggest that the intervention process starts with getting carers involved, which seems to be dependent on a positive carer attitude. Integrating the reading training in the everyday life is another important aspect, which evolves around motivating the child and prioritizing the reading sessions. Furthermore, the results emphasize the need of having a flexible approach when delivering the intervention. The results suggest that it is possible to engage foster carers in literacy training for looked-after children and that paired reading can provide a model for competent reading and also result in improved child/carer relations. However, participants need support, and in some cases adjustments in the day-to-day delivery of the intervention are required.

Keywords
foster carers, intervention, literacy, looked-after children, paired reading
National Category
Social Work
Research subject
Social Work
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-123623 (URN)10.1111/cfs.12258 (DOI)000394902700040 ()
Available from: 2015-11-30 Created: 2015-11-30 Last updated: 2019-10-22Bibliographically approved

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