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What is the relationship between being in care and the educational outcomes of children?

An international systematic review

The education of children in care has long been a concern for policy-makers, practitioners, foster carers, teachers and young people themselves. Government data and research have demonstrated an achievement gap between children in care and their peers that has sustained over many years. Furthermore, international research demonstrates that low educational attainment of children in care is an issue in many countries (Dill, Flynn, Hollingshead, & Fernandes, 2012).

Research spanning several decades and three continents has also documented poor health, employment and general well-being outcomes of care experienced adults (Blome, 1997; Buehler, Orme, Post, & Patterson, 2000; Dill et al., 2012; Harris, Jackson, O’Brien, & Pecora, 2009; Jackson, 2013; Social Exclusion Unit, 2003). Those who have been in care are more likely than the general population to be unemployed, have mental health problems, spend time in prison or psychiatric institutions or experience homelessness at some point in their lives (Centre for Social Justice,2015; Jackson & McParlin, 2006). Greater educational success has been linked to better long-term outcomes in the general population, so raising attainment is an important strategy to interrupt these negative life trajectories (Gorard, Beng, & Davies, 2012). This review aims to contribute to this literature by reviewing the evidence on the relationship between being in foster or kinship care1 and educational outcomes.

The review was undertaken in order to examine existing research evidence that addresses the following three questions:
• Is there an association between being in care and educational outcomes?
• What is the nature of the association between being in care and educational outcomes?
• Is there any evidence to suggest that this association is causal?