Aoife O’higgins, PhD student, University of Oxford, UK
The gap between the educational outcomes of children in care and their peers has been well documented in research (O’Higgins, Sebba, & Luke, 2015). But the risk and protective factors underlying this social problem are poorly understood and insufficiently modelled in order to be useful for interventions (Sebba et al., 2015; Stone, 2007; Trout, Hagaman, Casey, Reid, & Epstein, 2008).
This study aims to strengthen the evidence base for social and educational interventions by identifying some risk and protective factors for educational outcomes. The study focuses on what happens in foster and kinship placements. In particular it looks at whether foster and kinship carer aspirations affect the school engagement of looked after children and in so doing promote better educational outcomes. The analysis uses structural equation modelling to explore the relationships between these variables over time in a sample of 682 teenagers in stable foster and kinship care placements.
Its findings aim to inform future research on risk and protective factors for children in care. Moreover, it will seek to support the development of existing or new interventions for children in care. Finally, it is hoped that the study will contribute to policy developments by creating a conversation about collecting data from carers.
The present paper will present the findings from this study and discuss their relevance to practice and policy.
Key-words: education, carer aspiration, school engagement