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The Administrative Data Research Network is an ESRC-funded project that ran from October 2013 - July 2018. It is currently at the end of its funding cycle and is no longer taking applications. Administrative data research will be taken forward in a new project, to be launched later in 2018.

Placement stability of children in out of home care in Scotland: A sequence analysis

Research overview

Children in public care who are looked after away from home by local authorities need security and stability in the care system – but unstable placements, ‘drift’ in care planning, and delays in finding children permanent placements still cause concern. The Adoption and Children (Scotland) Act 2007 was designed to address these problems, and this project will assess how placement stability has changed since the Act and to examine patterns of stability and instability over time.



The research will give policy makers and local authorities a full understanding the impact of the 2007 Act and the patterns of stability and instability for looked after children in Scotland – including their impact on education.


Government departments

The Scottish Government datasets and educational data.

More about the project

The project will provide a detailed analysis of the longitudinal sequences of the placements looked-after children in Scotland experience. The Scottish Government’s ‘Children Looked After Scotland’ data, which has been collected from each Scottish local authority annually at an individual child level since 2008/09 will be linked to educational data to explore three research aims:

  1. To compare annual sequences of placements over seven years of data, from year 2008/09 to 2014/15 for children of all ages. This will permit examination of changes in patterns and stability of placements over this period.
  2. To produce a pseudo cohort of children born within the reporting period of the 2008/09 data and follow the trajectory of this cohort over seven years. This will allow us to describe patterns and stability longitudinally.
  3. To examine the effect of the sequences identified in aims 1 and 2 on children’s school attendance and school exclusion rates.

The analysis will provide rich information for policy makers and local authorities in understanding the impact of the 2007 Act and the patterns of stability and instability for looked after children in Scotland; including their impact on key educational measures. This will also add to the existing literature on the impact of public care experience on educational outcomes.


Date approved

May 2015 


Project lead 

Janice McGhee, School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh

Page last updated: 24/10/2017