[International] Improving the educational achievement of young people in out-of-home care
International Linkedin Education of Children in Care NetworkImproving the Educational Achievement of Young People in Out-of-home Care Journal article summary for inaugural ‘Talk with the Author’ Event 13-24 August, 2012 with Katharine Dill and Bob Flynn Dill, K., Flynn, R.J., Hollingshead, M., & Fernandez, A. (2012). Improving the educational achievement of young people in out-of-home care. Children and Youth Services Review 34(6), 1081–1083. doi:10.1016/j.childyouth.2012.01.031
Background Information• Ontario, Canada: Annually assess educational and other development outcomes for children and youth in out-of-home care• Practice and Research Together (PART) learning event in collaboration with the University of Ottawa’s Centre for Research on Educational and Community Services (CRECS)• Show-casing intervention studies• Editorial article for recent Children and Youth Services Review journal special edition with 17 articles on the education of children and youth in care from Canada, Germany, Sweden, UK and US.
Synthesis of IdeasCAREGIVER INFLUENCE ON EDUCATIONAL ACHIEVEMENTSMore evaluated interventions are needed• In an international review of the research literature, Swedish researchers (Forsman & Vinnerljung, 2012) were only able to find 11 published studies in which interventions that sought to improve the educational achievement of children and young people in care had been evaluated. Of these, few used a strong design, replicated results, or a large sample.Interventions to improve educational outcomes yield positive results• Nine of Forsman and Vinnerljung’s (2012) 11 studies demonstrated positive findings. There has been a particular research focus upon tutoring and these studies have in the main been very encouraging. However, other promising approaches also deserve more evaluation.Caregivers are crucial• Caregivers play an important role in relation to the educational success of children and young people in care. Using data from the Ontario Looking After Children project, Cheung, Lwin, and Jenkins (2012) found that providing more academic support in the home, an increased focus upon reading and books, and higher educational expectations, were all associated with better outcomes. These findings are supported by others including Griffiths (2012) and Jackson and Cameron (2012).
Synthesis of Ideas (cont.)COLLABORATION BETWEEN CHILD WELFARE AND SCHOOL SYSTEMSLinking child welfare and educational systems• In Griffith’s (2012) UK evaluation of the Letterbox Club, the importance of the interface between the child welfare and education systems was highlighted. Similarly, Trout, Tyler, Stewart and Epstein (2012) evaluated a US reintegration program with a focus upon family, school, and community; they confirmed the importance of combining components such as parenting, school, and academic engagement in order to avoid children and young people subsequently coming back into care.Making system work for young person in care• There needs to be more systematic and structured collaboration between schools and child welfare agencies with a view to education becoming a more central part of child welfare practice. Pecora (2012) even argues that if the quality and quantity of child welfare and education services are optimized, high school graduation rates of those in care can be as good as, or even better than, the general population.Local initiatives• At the conference in Ottawa, there was a particular focus upon the value of local interventions as well as support for practitioners to share ideas, collaborate and explore evidence-based and evidence-informed programs, through local seminars, training opportunities and information sharing events.Structural inequalities and educational outcomes• Looking beyond the practice within individual schools and child welfare agencies, a focus upon the need for local or national policy development to address more structural inequalities is also important.
Synthesis of Ideas (cont.)METHODOLOGICAL ISSUESAdvantage of randomized designs• While randomized designs can be particularly challenging to implement in a child welfare setting, they may offer the strongest possible evidence of the overall effectiveness of an intervention. Three studies in the special issue made use of randomized designs (Flynn, Marquis, Paquet, Peeke, & Aubry, 2012; Harper & Schmidt, 2012; Trout et al., 2012).Need to exploit available correlational data, quantitative and qualitative• As was the case with Griffiths (2012), Stoddart (2012), Gharabaghi (2012) and Zeller and Köngeter (2012), more use should be made of correlational data, and qualitative as well as quantitative.Research-based planning of new interventions• As was the case with the study by Trout et al. (2012), a research-oriented approach should be taken when designing new interventions. As well as building upon what research tells us ‘works’, such an approach can also contribute to the further development of the knowledge of others.
Next Steps• What has happened within Ontario?• What needs to happen in the field?• Need for a community of practice