• December 2012/January 2013
  • Vol. 13, No. 11

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Instability Among Young Children in Care

The Administration for Children and Families' Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE) released a research brief exploring the stability of caregivers and households of infants in out-of-home care. Based on data from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW), a longitudinal study of children at risk of abuse or neglect or already in the child welfare system, the brief focused on 1,196 children who were infants involved in investigations of abuse or neglect and were followed until they reached 5–7 years old. Data were collected from 1999 to 2007 and through interviews with caregivers and caseworkers.

Specifically, researchers sought to find answers to the following questions:

  • How common are caregiver and household changes that last 1 week or longer for infants involved in a maltreatment investigation?
  • How many changes in caregivers and households occur during the first 2 years of life and up to the time that children enter school?
  • What are the characteristics of these children and their families?
  • Are some children at increased risk for experiencing a caregiver or household change or a higher number of changes?

Results showed that caregiver changes were very common in the first 2 years of life. More than 33 percent of children experienced at least one caregiver change during the first 6 months of life. Just under 25 percent of children 13–18 months old experienced at least one change, and almost half of the children (45.1 percent) experienced at least one change from 19 to 24 months old.

Instability and Early Life Changes Among Children in the Child Welfare System is available on the OPRE website:

http://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/opre/early_life.pdf (352 KB)

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