Pathways of Care Longitudinal Study (POCLS) is the first large-scale prospective longitudinal study of children and young people in out-of-home care (OOHC) in Australia. The child developmental domains of interest are physical health, socio-emotional wellbeing, cognitive/learning ability and safety. POCLS is the first study to link data on children’s child protection backgrounds, OOHC experiences, health, education and offending held by multiple government agencies; and match it to first hand accounts from children, caregivers, caseworkers and teachers. The POCLS database will allow researchers to track children’s experiences and outcomes from birth.


Study name Pathways of Care Longitudinal Study: outcomes of children and young people in out-of-home care in NSW
Study abbreviation  POCLS
Current principal investigator/s Merran Butler
Current project manager Marina Paxman
Cohort representative (study contact) Marina Paxman
Postal address

Level 5, 6 Parramatta Square, 10 Darcy St, Parramatta NSW 2150 

Phone +61 2 9716 2635
Primary Institution NSW Department of Communities and Justice
Collaborating Institution/s University of Sydney, University of New South Wales, University of South Australia, Edith Cowan University Western Australia, University of Canterbury New Zealand, Chapin Hall Centre for Children University of Chicago, Sax Institute, IPSOS – I-view Social Research.
Major funding sources NSW Department of Communities and Justice
Study website
Key reference

Paxman, M., Tully, L., Burke, S. and Watson, J. (2014). Pathways of Care: Longitudinal study on children and young people in out-of-home care in New South Wales. Family Matters, Issue No. 94, 15-28.

NSW Department of Communities and Justice. (2022). POCLS Objectives and Strategic Research Agenda 2022- 2023. Pathways of Care Longitudinal Study: Outcomes of Children and Young People in Out-of-Home Care. Technical Report Number 1. Sydney. NSW Department of Communities and Justice

Are data available outside study team? From 2020 by application. For enquiries please email
Study focus

Child developmental domains of interest are physical health, socio-emotional wellbeing and cognitive/learning ability.

Factors influencing the experiences and outcomes of children and young people who enter out-of-home care.

Sampling frame The population cohort is a census of all children and young people who entered out-of-home care for the first time in NSW, Australia, between May 2010 and October 2011 (18 months) (n=4,126) and the study holds record linkage data. A subset of those children and young people who went on to receive final Children’s Court care and protection orders by April 2013 (2,828) were eligible to participate in interviews.
Year commenced  Data collection commenced in May 2011.
Commencement sample

Record linkage data for a total of 4,126 children in the population cohort.

Of the study eligible cohort (n=2,828), caregivers of 1,789 children agreed for the NSW Department of Communities and Justice (then known as the Department of Family and Community Services) to securely transfer their contact details to IPSOS I-view Social Research to invite them and the study child (if three years and older) to participate in a face-to-face interview at each wave of data collection. During COVID interviews were conducted by phone.

Intergenerational? NA 
Imaging NA
  • Child protection and out-of-home care records (NSW Department of Communities and Justice)
  • Australian Early Development Census records (Commonwealth Department of Education)
  • Education records (NSW Department of Education)
  • Health records (NSW Ministry of Health)
  • Health records (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare)
  • Youth offending records (Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research).
Biosamples?  NA
Ethics approvals or requirements?
  • UNSW Human Research Ethics Committee (approval number HC10335, HC16542, HC210985)
  • Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council of NSW Ethics Committee (approval number 766/10).
  • NSW Department of Education and Communities State Education Research Approval Process (SERAP, approval number 2012250) and the Catholic Education Office Sydney (and relevant diocese) approval for the childcare worker and teacher surveys.
  • NSW Population & Health Services Research Ethics Committee (Ref: HREC/14/CIPHS/74 Cancer Institute NSW: 2014/12/570) approval for record linkages
  • Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (EO2019-1-406).


Wave Year Age (mean, range) Eligible sample
1  2011-13

Mean: 5.1 years

Median:3.75 years

Range: 9 months-17 years

1,285 interviews completed
2 2013-2015

Mean: 6.67 years

Median: 5.33 years

Range: 2-17 years

1,200 interviews completed
3 2014-2016

Mean: 7.85 years

Median: 6.58 years

Range: 3-17 years

1,033 interviews completed
4 2017-2018 Range: 5-17 years 962 interviews completed
5 2019-2020 Range: 7-17 years 862 interviews completed
6 2023 Range: 11-17 years and over 18 years

Estimated 700 interviews with young people under 18 years; and 200 interviews with young adults over 18 years