Does carer involvement raise the attainment of children in care?

Background: Children in care are at risk of low educational attainment (Trout, Hagaman, Casey, Reid, & Epstein, 2008). Interventions have been developed to address this problem but systematic reviews of the evidence find that their effectiveness is currently limited (R. Evans, Brown, Rees, & Smith, 2017). Research suggests that the processes underlying low achievement for this population, which are key to informing theories of change in interventions, are poorly understood (Liabo, Gray, & Mulcahy, 2012; Stone, 2007). This study speaks to this gap in the literature by investigating risk, promotive and protective factors for children in care. It follows on from the findings from three prior systematic reviews; these found that carers play an important role in the education of children in care. The present study investigated this in more depth.

Methods The study analysed longitudinal secondary data on the educational outcomes of 690 teenagers in care in Ontario, Canada. It examined the relationship between carer involvement and the educational outcomes of young people they care for. Specifically, the study used descriptive statistics and two latent growth curve models to explore what carers do and whether carer involvement, specifically aspirations, is a promotive factor for educational outcomes for children in foster and kinship care. Moderation analysis was then carried out to determine whether carer’s high aspirations are a protective factor for children in care with special educational needs.

Results Analyses showed that carers are involved in the education of children, that high aspirations predict better school performance outcomes even after controlling for prior school performance and that carers’ aspirations are a protective factor for children with special educational needs.

Conclusion This study presents evidence that carers’ involvement in children’s education, in particular high aspirations, is a promotive factor for children in care and a protective factor for children in care with special educational needs. However, it also highlighted a significant gap in the literature suggesting that carer involvement is not well understood for children in care. These findings should inform future interventions to promote the education of children in care.

 

For further details of this study, please contact me at aoife.ohiggins@education.ox.ac.uk.

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