Sarah Wise


Dr Sarah Wise creates knowledge through robust research to solve policy and social problems that concern children with vulnerabilities and their families. Sarah has a background in developmental psychology and over 20 years’ experience working at the interface of research, practice and policy. Her special interest areas are out-of-home care, complex interventions and systems of care and early childhood development. Sarah currently holds a joint appointment with Social Work – Melbourne School of Health Sciences and Berry Street.


Research has consistently demonstrated wide gaps in the academic achievement of children in foster and kinship care compared to children who are not in care. While inequalities in learning and development are evident from the earliest stages of life and tend to exacerbate over time, high quality early education and care can remediate initial difficulties and change pathways through education. However, not all early years experiences are positive. Although there is almost a complete absence of research on the effects of early education for children in care, there are reasons to be cautious about the quality and quantity of early years’ services that foster and kinship care children use within their first year, and potentially two years, of life.

This paper reports results from the Early Childhood in Foster and Kinship Care (ECIFKC) study; an Australian national study undertaken by the University of Melbourne and Berry Street. The quality and quantity of childcare used by ECIFKC children in their first two years of life is compared with same age Australian children. To understand child care decisions, carer reports on why ECIFKC children use, or do not use child care are examined. MANOVA is also used to investigate differences in ECIFKC children who do not use child care, use <15 hours of childcare and who use 15+ hours of childcare per week on child, carer and placement characteristics.

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