School functioning of children in residential care: The contributions of multilevel correlates

Shalhevet Attar-Schwartz*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


Objective: This study, using an ecological approach, examines the relationships between problems in school functioning (including academic and behavior problems) of children in residential care with a number of variables describing the child and the care setting. Methods: The study reports on 4,061 children and youth (ages 6-20) in 54 Israeli residential care facilities supervised by the Ministry of Welfare. It is based on data derived from an ongoing system of monitoring care based on annual reports by social workers on children in care settings. Additionally, data on the characteristics of the settings were collected through a structured questionnaire completed by the supervisors at the Ministry of Welfare. Hierarchical Linear Modeling (HLM) was utilized to examine how characteristics of the individual children and the care settings were related to problems in school functioning among the children. Results: Most of the children (about 62%) had at least one problem in school functioning. The most vulnerable children were boys, children who were taken from parental homes by court decree, children with problems in quality of contact with their biological parents, and children who stayed in the care setting for shorter periods. The settings' characteristics most associated with poor performance at school are group structure (vs. mixed and family home structures), higher levels of peer violence, fewer after-school activities, and settings in which children tend to stay for shorter periods of times. Conclusions: The findings demonstrate the need for an ecological perspective in addressing children's problems in school functioning within the care system. The results help to identify the types of placements that should benefit from additional resources in order to promote adaptive performance in school among the children. Practice implications: Social workers in residential care should give high priority to children's positive academic involvement. The study demonstrates the need for identifying the intersection of the individual, familial and institutional contexts in which problems in school functioning are more prevalent. Therefore, it is important to allocate sufficient resources to care settings which serve these children. The study suggests some priorities and directions for policy and practice with children in residential care.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)429-440
Number of pages12
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2009


  • Children in care
  • Gender
  • Parental visitation
  • Quality of care
  • Residential care
  • School performance


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