December 15, 2020

A deeper look at out-of-home care

Geographically targeted efforts to prevent children being placed in out-of-home care might be possible, Vanderbilt researchers report.

by Bill Snyder

Higher levels of poverty, single-parent households and unemployment, lower education levels and lack of health insurance are well-established, community-level risk factors associated with children being placed in out-of-home care. 

Previous studies have been limited by sample size and by the broad geographic areas they encompassed, however. 

In a paper published in the journal Child Abuse & Neglect, Sarah Lotspeich, PhD, Rameela Raman, PhD, and colleagues studied 33,890 instances of child welfare agency involvement between 2011 and 2018 in a single state. 

By linking administrative data to census data via geocoding, they were able to identify risk factors for children under 19 being placed in out-of-home care, raising the possibility that prevention efforts can be geographically targeted. 

“An improved understanding of the landscape leading up to a child being placed in out-of-home care may help identify avenues for prevention,” the authors noted. “This (study) stands as a promising approach to capture cases as well as identify risk factors that can help inform policy.”