247495 Predictors and patterns of foster children's early care and education

Monday, October 31, 2011

Shannon Lipscomb, PhD; Assistant Professor in Human Development and Family Science , Cascades Campus, Oregon State University, Bend, OR
Katherine Pears, PhD; Research Scientist , Oregon Social Learning Center, Eugene, OR
Background: Children's early care and education (ECE) plays a significant role across a wide variety of health outcomes, including cognitive and academic achievement, stress, and mental and behavioral health. There is some, though inconsistent, evidence that ECE predicts developmental outcomes most powerfully for children from at-risk families. The current study examines ECE for a specific, understudied high-risk group: foster children. Foster children are an important group not only due to their high vulnerability and receipt of public resources, but also because their dramatic variability in health risks and behaviors enhance understanding of the entire human spectrum in ways that are not possible with typical samples. Methods: Participants included 192 pre-Kindergarten age foster children (62% non-relative care; 53% European American). Foster parents reported demographics and use of ECE. Case files provided foster care history data. Results: Foster children attended ECE at high rates, but with substantial variability. Latent class analysis of ECE quantity, quality, type, and duration revealed three typologies: half-time Head Start, part-time other ECE, and full-time mixed ECE. Child and family characteristics predicted these typologies, illustrating distinct risk groups. For example, full-time mixed care group exhibited lower family risks (higher income and education) but higher child risks (later entry into foster care, placement instability, multiple ECE arrangements, and long hours of ECE, which prior research shows elevates stress responses, which are already high among foster children). Conclusions: Caseworkers and researchers should attend to intersections among child and family characteristics and ECE to understand ECE as a developmental context.

Learning Areas:
Diversity and culture
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Describe key features and overall patterns of foster children's early care and education experiences. Identify child and family characteristics that differentiate foster children's early care and education experiences.

Keywords: Child Abuse, Child Care

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am qualified to present because I conduct empirical research and evaluation on early care and education for children from diverse backgrounds.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.