BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES:

Poor school outcomes for children in out-of-home placement (OHP) raise concerns about the adequacy of child welfare and educational policy for this vulnerable population. We analyzed the relation between OHP and academic achievement, focusing on reading and math achievement in grades 3 through 8.

METHODS:

Linked administrative data were used for our analytic sample comprising 529 597 child-year observations for 222 049 children who experienced OHP or were in a comparison group. Three models were estimated: a pooled ordinary least squares regression that considered placement status and test scores net of the full set of control variables; an identical model that added the previous year’s test scores as an additional control; and a final model that included child-specific fixed effects.

RESULTS:

Children in OHP settings had achievement test scores at least 0.6 SD below average. However, we found similar deficits across children with past, current, and future exposure to OHP and, in our preferred model, OHP (past, current, or future placement) had no statistically discernible relation with either reading or math achievement.

Conclusions:

OHP by itself is not significantly related to school achievement; however, evidence reveals consistently low average math and reading achievement among children involved with Child Protective Services.

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