Building Bridges to Promote Educational Well-Being: A Population-Based Study of the Impact and Timing of Out-of-Home Placement, Child Maltreatment & Homelessness
Major federal legislation has placed the educational well-being of at-risk children in the national spotlight. No Child Left Behind legislation has pressed American public schools to ensure that all children are meeting minimum academic standards by third grade (U.S. Department of Education, 2004). By setting the target at grade three, this legislation affirms the significance of early childhood and the necessity of early identification and intervention for vulnerable young children. Similarly, the Adoption and Safe Families Act has increased the accountability of state child welfare agencies for meeting the educational well-being needs of children in public child welfare systems. Guided by a developmental epidemiology framework, the purpose of the present population-based study was to examine the unique impact of out-of-home placement in a multiple risk context and explore the timing of first out-of-home placement, child maltreatment, and homelessness experiences in early childhood. Participants were a population of 12,045 second grade students in a large, urban school district. Information on social risk factors, birth risks, demographics, and academic achievement and adjustment outcomes were obtained and linked through the Kids Integrated Data System as part of a larger collaborative study. Approximately four-percent of children in the cohort had a history of out-of-home placement by the end of second grade. Findings revealed a high co-occurrence of out-of-home placement with child maltreatment and homelessness. The unique impact of out-of-home placement in a multiple risk context was assessed using multiple logistic regression. Results showed that after controlling for substantiated child maltreatment and homelessness, out-of-home placement was no longer significantly related to academic achievement. Cox regression analyses demonstrated that child maltreatment and homelessness predicted to out-of-home placement and uncovered a significant interaction between poverty and homelessness and child maltreatment. This study provides an illustration of how administrative data can be used in a collaborative research process to inform understanding of the educational well-being of young children with histories of out-of-home placement. Implications from this study include: cross-agency training, integrated service planning and delivery, and enhanced collaboration between early childhood education programs and child welfare systems to promote access to high quality early childhood education experiences.