Objective: This study aimed to identify children's long-term placement trajectories following early child welfare involvement and the association of these trajectories with subsequent physical and behavioral well-being.
Method: Participants were 330 children who entered out-of-home care following a substantiated report of child abuse or neglect during infancy/early childhood and their caregivers. Participants were interviewed at child ages 4 and 12 years to assess children's physical and behavioral well-being and every 2 years in between to determine child placements.
Results: Latent Class Analyses identified four stable placement trajectories (i.e., adopted [32%], kinship care [15%], stable reunified [27%], and stable foster care [9%]), and two unstable trajectories (i.e., disrupted reunified [12%] and unstable foster care [5%]). Logistic regressions revealed that children in the unstable trajectories had significantly poorer physical and behavioral well-being than children in stable trajectories.
Conclusions and relevance: Maltreated children placed in out-of-home care are at risk for long-term placement instability and poorer physical and behavioral well-being.
Keywords: behavior problems; child maltreatment; child trauma; child welfare placement; foster care; physical well-being.
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