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September 2013Vol. 14, No. 7Children's Stability and Well-Being Study

PolicyLab at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia recently released the results of the Children's Stability and Well-Being (CSAW) study, which included a 2-year longitudinal study and 10 focus groups. The CSAW study assessed the educational experiences, particularly educational instability, of children involved with child welfare. Educational instability refers to frequent changes in schools, delays in enrollment, and chronic absenteeism. It can affect any school-aged children, but children involved with child welfare are disproportionately affected.

Results from the longitudinal study, which followed 407 children ages 3 to 8 in the Philadelphia child welfare system, include the following:

  • Children involved with child welfare missed an average of 25 days (5 weeks) of school per year, which is twice the number of days the overall pool of children missed.
  • Children involved with child welfare attended an average of 2.7 schools during the 2-year period, with 20 percent attending 4 or more schools.
  • Absenteeism is higher prior to placement in foster care than after placement in foster care.

The focus groups yielded several themes, including limited communication between the education and child welfare systems, inconsistent levels of knowledge and implementation of policies and procedures in both systems, and the variety of challenges associated with caring for children with behavioral problems.

The CSAW brief also describes the implications of these findings and next steps to improve education outcomes. The three opportunities for action outlined in the brief are:

  • Promote real-time data sharing and cross-systems communication.
  • Track and respond to school absences, suspensions, and behavioral health issues.
  • Integrate the delivery of educational, child welfare, and behavioral health services.

Improving Education Outcomes for Children in Child Welfare, by David Rubin, Amanda O'Reilly, Sarah Zlotnik, Taylor Hendricks, Catherine Zorc, Meredith Matone, and Kathleen Noonan, is available on the PolicyLab website: (680 KB)