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A longitudinal investigation of infants and out-of-home care


Foster care placements for infants can be consequential. Research suggests that infants’ path through and beyond the care system is different than the experience for children of other age groups. Studying infants is important because of their unique needs for developmentally-sensitive care; because of the underpinnings of attachment theory; and because the long-term impacts of quality care can be pronounced. Prior research examining infants in care has typically focused on their first episode and the outcomes of that episode. This study offers a longitudinal examination of a population-based cohort of infants (n = 5789) born in 2001 who entered care during the first year of life and who were followed through multiple care episodes until age 18. Findings suggest that using single, first episode data overstates the proportion of children who successfully reunify and understates the proportion of children who are adopted, return to care, or live with guardians. This research also suggests that the experience of infants who enter care as neonates is different from that of infants who enter care after the first four weeks of life. The long-term outcome for neonates is much more likely to be adoption. Long-term foster care for all infants is an especially unlikely outcome.

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