Out-of-home care is one of the most intrusive interventions by the welfare state. In Denmark about 1 percent of all children at any time are in out-of-home care (approx. 12,400 children in 2011). In recent years, research has demonstrated that long-term outcomes for children in out-of-home care are considerably poorer than for other Danish children in terms of e.g. education, health and criminal record. A new and ambitious cooperative project between SFI and University of Copenhagen aims at improving the knowledge base significantly on the effectiveness of out-of-home interventions.
The study provides estimates of the causal effect of out-of-home placement on health, education and crime and compare foster care with institutional care. Further, the aim is not only to provide measures of absolute and relative effects of out-of-home care interventions, but also to offer a qualitative explanatory framework for understanding the estimated effects. This combination of methods and analytical strategies is crucial with regard to being able to employ the results in future social policy and practice. The project is divided into three subprojects that together will improve the knowledge base on out-of-home care significantly.
1) Project 1: What factors determine the decision to place a child in out-of-home care?
This subproject combines a quantitative and a qualitative approach and uncovers the decision-making process regarding:
a. Whether to place children in out-of-home care.
b. How to decide on the relevant intervention (foster or institutional care) if placement is chosen.
2) Project 2: What are the “active ingredients” of foster care?
This subproject explores the ”active ingredients” of the treatment that constitutes foster-care interventions, looking at vital outcomes such as health/well-being, schooling/education and criminal record. Subproject 2 is primarily a qualitative study.
3) Project 3: What are the causal effects of out-of-home care?
This subproject determines the causal effects (total and relative) of out-of-home placement, looking at vital outcomes such as health/well-being, schooling/education and criminal record. Subproject 3 is a quantitative study.
The study is intended to produce knowledge of high relevance, not only in academia, but also in practice. The research design brings together two different research traditions, using the potentials of each to answer the central question regarding the effects of out-of-home care. On the one hand, a quantitative approach is applied in order to determine causal effects of certain actions and interventions. On the other hand, a qualitative approach is employed to explore and explain the social processes of the interventions involved.
The project is funded by Trygfonden and will be affiliated with the ongoing research conducted by Trygfondens Centre for Child Research . The research team is composed of qualitative researchers from SFI – The National Centre for Social Research and quantitative researchers from the Department of Economics at Copenhagen University. A group of international researchers has been commissionedto collaborate on the project. Moreover, the Social Services Administration of the City of Copenhagen has agreed to participate. Finally, the project will benefit from collaboration with the research centre NUBU (Danish Centre for Vulnerable Children and Young People).
The inclusion of NUBU in the research group ensures results from the study will disseminated in a crucial learning context for future caseworkers, social pedagogues, teachers and other professionals who operate within the field of child protection social work. The research group will also include two PhD students, one sociologist and one economist. The project is set to begin in the summer of 2014 and results will be published regularly up until 2019.