Pathways of Care Longitudinal Study

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Pathways of Care Longitudinal Study (POCLS) is the first large-scale prospective longitudinal study of children and young people in out-of-home care (OOHC) in Australia. The child developmental domains of interest are physical health, socio-emotional wellbeing, cognitive/learning ability and safety. POCLS is the first study to link data on children’s child protection backgrounds, OOHC experiences, health, education and offending held by multiple government agencies; and match it to first hand accounts from children, caregivers, caseworkers and teachers. The POCLS database will allow researchers to track children’s experiences and outcomes from birth.

Read about the project phases and overview of the study design.

The study will provide a strong evidence base to inform policy, practice and professional development. It will also improve decision making about how best to support children and young people in OOHC, as well as those who have returned to their birth families, been adopted or left OOHC at 18 years of age.

Watch a short video for caregivers or children, or read the Pathways of Care Longitudinal Study brochure.

Latest news

Want to know more about the latest research on children and young people in out-of-home care? Attend for free or live stream the POCLS special session at the Australian Social Policy Conference, on Wednesday 27 September, at 2.55pm.

Who is in the study?

The population cohort is a census of all children and young people who entered OOHC for the first time in NSW between May 2010 and October 2011 (18 months) (n=4,126). A subset of those children and young people who went on to receive final Children’s Court care and protection orders by April 2013 (2,828), were eligible to participate in the study. Click here to go live stream.

Face-to-face interviews collect information from children, caregivers and birth parents. The study data collection includes direct assessments of language comprehension and non-verbal reasoning from the age of three years, and an activity on felt security from the age of seven years. A wide range of information is collected in the interviews, including establishment of the placement, caregiver and household characteristics, child well-being and development, school and child care experiences, children’s relationships with the caregiving family, services and support, birth family contact and neighbourhood.

Data collection

Data collection commenced approximately 18 months after the children and young people entered care. Repeat interviews occur every 18-24 months. At Wave 1, 1285 children and their caregivers completed an interview; Wave 2, 1,200 children and their caregivers completed an interview; and Wave 3, 1,033 children and their caregivers completed an interview. Wave 4 data collection will be underway in 2017-2018 and Wave 5 data collection in 2019-2020.

The study follows the child or young person over time. If the child or young person changes placement or returns to their birth family or is adopted during the study, the new carers or parents are invited to participate in future waves of the study. Participation in the study is voluntary.

As part of the study, teachers (childcare and school) and caseworkers also complete online surveys.

Links to administrative data

As well as child protection and out-of-home care data held by the NSW Department of Family and Community Services (FACS), four external data sources will be linked to data from the study including:

  1. Australian Early Development Census records (Commonwealth Department of Education)
  2. Education records (NSW Department of Education)
  3. Health records (NSW Ministry of Health)
  4. Youth offending records (Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research).

Research ethics

Ethics approval for the study was obtained from:

  • UNSW Human Research Ethics Committee (approval number HC10335 & HC16542)
  • the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council of NSW Ethics Committee (approval number 766/10).
  • NSW Department of Education and Communities State Education Research Approval Process (SERAP, approval number 2012250) and the Catholic Education Office Sydney (and relevant diocese) approval for the childcare worker and teacher surveys.
  • NSW Population & Health Services Research Ethics Committee (Ref: HREC/14/CIPHS/74 Cancer Institute NSW: 2014/12/570) approval for record linkages.

For more information about the study refer to the Frequently Asked Questions.

Contact us

NSW Department of Family and Community Services (FACS)
Phone: (02) 9716 2635 or Freecall 1800 997 960

To report suspected child abuse or neglect, call the Child Protection Helpline on 132 111 (24 hours/7 days)