The Pathways of Care longitudinal study (POCLS) is a new prospective longitudinal study designed to address the methodological limitations of previous research. The overall aim of this longitudinal study of children and young people in out-of-home care (OOHC) is to collect detailed information about the wellbeing of children placed in OOHC in NSW and the factors that influence their wellbeing. It will provide a strong evidence base to inform policy and practice, and in turn improve decision making about how best to support children and young people who have experienced abuse and neglect.
This five-year study, which commenced in March 2011, differs from previous Australian research in OOHC because the population cohort is all children and young people entering OOHC for the first time and includes children of all ages as well as all geographic locations in NSW. It also collects information from multiple sources, including carers, children and young people, caseworkers, teachers and administrative data through record linkage. The study has a broad scope and collects detailed information about the characteristics and circumstances of children and young people on entry to OOHC, the experiences of children and young people in OOHC, and their developmental pathways in order to identify the factors that influence their outcomes. The developmental domains of interest are the children's physical health, social-emotional wellbeing and cognitive/learning ability. POCLS will follow children and young people regardless of their pathways through OOHC (e.g., placement changes, restoration, adoption or ageing out) to examine the factors that predispose children and young people to poorer outcomes and what factors are protective.