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Placement instability among young people removed from their original family and the likely mental health implications

journal contribution
posted on 01.01.2017, 00:00 authored by S Rice, S Cotton, K Moeller-Saxone, Cathy Mihalopoulos, Annette Magnus, C Harvey, C Humphreys, S Halperin, A Scheppokat, P McGorry, H Herrman
BACKGROUND: Young people in out-of-home care are more likely to experience poorer mental and physical health outcomes related to their peers. Stable care environments are essential for ameliorating impacts of disruptive early childhood experiences, including exposure to psychological trauma, abuse and neglect. At present there are very few high quality data regarding the placement stability history of young people in out-of-home care in Australia or other countries. OBJECTIVES: To undertake the first systematic census of background, care type and placement stability characteristics of young people living in the out-of-home care sector in Australia. METHODS: Data was collected from four non-government child and adolescent community service organisations located across metropolitan Melbourne in 2014. The sample comprised 322 young people (females 52.8%), aged between 12 - 17 years (mean age=14.86 [SD=1.63] years). RESULTS: Most young people (64.3%) were in home-based care settings (i.e., foster care, therapeutic foster care, adolescent care program, kinship care, and lead tenant care), relative to residential care (35.7%). However, the proportion in residential care is very high in this age group when compared with all children in out-of-home care (5%). Mean age of first removal was 9 years (SD=4.54). No gender differences were observed for care type characteristics. Three quarters of the sample (76.9%) had a lifetime history of more than one placement in the out-of-home care system, with more than a third (36.5%) having experienced ≥5 lifetime placements. Relative to home-based care, young people in residential care experienced significantly greater placement instability (χ(2)=63.018, p<0.001). CONCLUSIONS: Placement instability is common in the out-of-home care sector. Given stable care environments are required to ameliorate psychological trauma and health impacts associated with childhood maltreatment, well-designed intervention-based research is required to enable greater placement stability, including strengthening the therapeutic capacities of out-of-home carers of young people.



Shanghai archives of psychiatry






85 - 94


[Shanghai Municipal Bureau of Publishing]


[Shanghai, China]





Publication classification

C Journal article; C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2017, Shanghai Municipal Bureau of Publishing