Communities and Justice

The Pathways of Care Longitudinal Study (POCLS)

Improving the long-term outcomes of children in Out-of-Home Care

The Pathways of Care Longitudinal Study (POCLS), funded by the Department of Communities and Justice and led by FACSIAR is the first large-scale longitudinal study of children and young people in out-of-home care (OOHC) in Australia. The study collects detailed information on the development of children and young people in OOHC - or who have subsequently exited OOHC to restoration, guardianship, adoption or aged out - to understand factors influencing children’s long-term safety, permanency and wellbeing.

The POCLS main aim is to improve the outcomes for children who experience OOHC and their families by expanding the evidence to inform policy, programs, practice and investment decision making to strengthen the OOHC service system.

The key research questions address the OOHC population and key sub-populations including Aboriginal children and young people, children and young people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, and children and young people with high needs and/or disabilities.

The POCLS is the first study to link child protection, health, education and offending administrative data for children in care with first-hand accounts from children, caregivers, caseworkers and teachers in order to examine their experiences in OOHC and developmental pathways. The data asset enables researchers to identify the risk factors that lead to poorer outcomes as well as the protective factors that mitigate these risks and result in improved outcomes.

The POCLS provides unique, high-quality information about the wellbeing trajectories of children in OOHC regarding: the length of time in OOHC; placement type and exiting care; recruiting, training and supporting carers; family contact; the provision of casework, services and supports; improved resource allocation; and improvements to the utility of the administrative data. Its multiple data sources include in-depth interview data collected from children, young people and caregivers; the views of caseworkers and teachers collected via an on-line survey; and linked services data (e.g. child protection, OOHC, health, education and offending). The POCLS provides a significant data resource for researchers whose study aims are consistent with the aims of the POCLS.

Last updated:

18 May 2023