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The effect of the Looking After Children approach on the development of children in foster care: preliminary data from four Quebec youth centres



The Looking After Children (LAC) approach and the Assessment and Action Record (AAR) have been implemented in four youth centres in the Province of Quebec (Canada) since 2003, under the responsibility of the Quebec Association of Youth Centres. This initiative has been accompanied by an evaluation project whose objective is to monitor the implementation process (Phase I) and its effects (Phase II). Both the implementation initiative and the evaluation process have benefited from the financial support of the Canadian government's National Crime Prevention Strategy (NCPS) in collaboration with the Ministère de la Sécurité publique du Québec. The first phase of the evaluation, which ended in June 2006, monitored the implementation conditions of the LAC approach, as well as the perceptions of the young people, the foster parents, and the service-providers of the effects of the approach. Case workers and foster parents reported positively that aspects of LAC have enabled them to know the children better and to focus on their strengths. The children felt it was fun to fill out the AAR in spite of its length, and that it highlighted their achievements. Results regarding the use of the AAR in practice showed that some workers have integrated the AAR as a clinical tool into their practice. However, work remains to be done on this aspect, by increasing opportunities to talk about LAC in supervision, by placing more emphasis on the importance of proper training, and by linking the AAR more closely with the intervention plan. This first stage of the evaluation process did not measure the effects of LAC on the children over time, a necessary step in understanding how LAC is contributing to the children's development. Therefore, the second phase aims to document the effects of the use of LAC on the foster parents' and case workers' practices, and on the development and welfare of the young people in placement. The presentation for this conference deals with this second phase, more specifically on the analysis of the development trajectory of a group of children involved in LAC for the past three years.


Our sample is made up of children placed in medium- or long-term foster care. It comprises 183 young people at Time 1, 123 at Time 2, and 53 at Time 3, as of the end of May 2008[1]. To carry out longitudinal follow-up of the youngsters involved in LAC, we retained only those for whom we have three measurement times (children who have filled out three consecutive AARs). Thus, our analyses concern a group of 50 young people. Our sample comprises 22 boys (44%) and 28 girls (56%), between 3 and 15 years of age (M = 9.5, SD =3.28). The average age at first placement is 3.54 years old (SD=3.29) and the subjects have lived with their present foster families for an average of 5.21 years (SD = 3.66).

Data sources

The data analyzed were collected from the AARs. In this Quebec project, we are using the second Canadian version of the AAR (AAR-C2; Flynn, Ghazal, and Legault 2004). The AAR-C2 retains the structured interview format and many of the monitoring questions of the original British AARs, while also incorporating many validated measures from the (Canadian) National Longitudinal Study on Children and Youth (NLSCY) (Statistics Canada and Human Resources Development Canada 1999, Legault et al. 2005). The analyses will be based on information gathered according to three scales which report different aspects of the children's lives. The behavioural scale focuses on anxiety; the relational scale concerns conflict resolution; and the perception scale deals with placement satisfaction.

Analysis and results

A strategy of intragroup comparison will allow us to measure the evolution, between Time 1 and Time 3, of the placed children involved in the LAC project. We are using GLM (general linear model) analysis. At a descriptive level, we observe that the child in our sample presents a high level of anxiety, and despite that, shows good skills to resolve conflict and seems to be very satisfy with the placement situation. We observe that there are very little time effect on these three variables. Our observations show that the children present the same portrait after three measurement times.


The strategy presented in this conference constitutes a part of the first stage of analysis of the effects of the LAC approach. Obviously, we need to go further to study the effects of the approach on the children in a comparison perspective. Then, in its future work, the team will compare LAC children with non-LAC foster children, using databanks from Quebec youth centres. Two indicators will be investigated: environmental stability and behaviour. Secondly, we will compare LAC children with children from the general population, using scales from the NLSCY which are included in the AAR-C2. These two comparisons will allow us to better understand how LAC may influence children's development. Finally, to better understand how LAC may influence case workers' practices, we will do a qualitative analysis of their intervention plans in a longitudinal perspective.

Contact details

Marie-Andrée Poirier : Professor, School of Social Work, Université de Montréal, email: marie-andree.poirier@umontreal.ca.

[1] We have closed our sample for analysis purposes, but we will continue to integrate AARs in our databank until fall 2008.


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