Methods: Data and Sample: The analysis sample consists of all children in North Carolina schools in the 3rd to 6th grade range in the school year 2009-10, with a focus on children with a history of OOHC in either foster, formal kinship, or informal kinship settings. These youth were followed for 3 academic years. Four longitudinal administrative data sources including education and child welfare data, were merged to create this unique sample of 519,306 children.
Measures: The End of the Grade (EOG) scale scores in math and reading from 3rd to 8th grades were used as dependent variables. EOG math and reading scores are developmentally scaled, with scores that indicate proficiency at grade level rising from one grade to the next. An accelerated cohort design was used to ensure all grades from 3rd to 8th were represented. A repeated measures multilevel model was used to estimate the association between types of OOHC and academic performance.
Results: After controlling for important covariates, findings revealed no difference in academic trajectories between formal kinship and non-OOHC, but showed differences between foster, informal, and non-OOHC. Children whose relative placements are supervised by child welfare (formal kinship) have academic outcomes better than children in foster care or children in relative placements that are not supervised by the child welfare system. Kinship care did have some protective effects as children in both formal and informal kinship care had higher math scores than children in foster care.
Implications: Given the finding that the informal group outperformed the foster group, but still fell considerably behind their non-OOHC peers, we need additional research to better understand the experiences of children in informal kinship care. Additionally, this group's academic struggles relative to non-OOHC children has policy implications as it highlights the need to reduce barriers to services that may assist these children in succeeding academically.