The effect of instability on children in foster care: a compilation of evidence

Carme Montserrat, Researcher, University of Girona, Spain

Stability plays a key role in children’s lives, and especially in the lives of children in foster care. Evidence gathered over years of research has led us to think that it is crucial for both policy-makers and practitioners to take this aspect into account when developing action plans. Some examples are the following:  (a) One study, conducted with children from the general population in 8 countries (N=12,473), has already demonstrated the impact of changes in household structure, schools, neighbourhood or country on children’s subjective well-being (Montserrat et al, 2016). By population subgroups, children in the care system (N=669) (Llosada et al, 2016) were more exposed to changes and, therefore, their subjective well-being was significantly lower.  (b) The education of children in foster care was also more affected when they had undergone frequent school and placement changes (Montserrat et al, forthcoming). This study showed time series cross-sectional data for 5 consecutive years (N=1,841), and longitudinal data on the same individuals during 3 school years (N=391). (c) Young people leaving care. Data, and especially the care leavers’ own opinions, revealed how their transition to adulthood could be hindered by disruptions to their early lives (Montserrat, 2014) (d) Finally, given that kinship care is the type of out-of-home placement that currently offers greater stability to children in the child protection system, it should be an object of further study (Montserrat, 2014).


Llosada-Gistau, J., Casas, F. & Montserrat, C. (2016). What matters in for the subjective well-being of children in care? Child Indicators Research, DOI: 10.1007/s12187-016-9405-z

Montserrat, C., Dinisman, T., Baltatescu, S., Grigoras, B.A. & Casas, F. (2015). The Effect of Critical Changes and Gender on Adolescents’ Subjective Well-Being: Comparisons across 8 Countries. Child Indicators Research, 8, 1, 111–131

Montserrat, C. & Casas, F. (forthcoming). The education of children and adolescents in out-of-home care: a problem or an opportunity? Results of a longitudinal study. European Journal of Social Work, Montserrat, C. (2014). The child protection system from the perspective of young people: messages from three studies. Social Sciences, 3, 687–704,

Montserrat, C. (2014). Kinship care in Spain. Messages from research. Child & Family Social Work, 19, 367–376.

Key-words: instability, children in foster care, education, care leavers, kinship care


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