•A systematic review was conducted on the role of out-of-home placement between child maltreatment and offending behavior.
•No consistent evidence was found for significant difference in offending behavior among maltreated youth who received in-home and out-of-home care.
•More restricted settings, a higher number of placements, and placement at a later age are each associated with higher rates of offending behavior.
Although children who have been maltreated receive either in-home or out-of-home services in the United States every year, the role of these services in offending behavior remains unclear. Additionally, although maltreated children placed in out-of-home care have different placement experiences (e.g., different types of placements, different numbers of placements), research that summarizes the findings of previous studies and investigates patterns of offending behavior by different placement characteristics is sparse. The present systematic review addressed this gap in existing knowledge by examining the current literature on the association between out-of-home placement and offending behavior among youth with Child Protection Services maltreatment reports. The first research question was: Do maltreated youth placed in out-of-home care demonstrate higher rates of offending behavior as compared to those who received in-home service? The second research question was: For maltreated youth placed in out-of-home care, does offending behavior differ by placement characteristics (i.e., type of placement, number of placements, age at first placement, and neighborhood associated with placement)? Five electronic databases, PsycINFO, PubMed, Criminal Justice Abstracts, Social Work Abstracts, and Social Sciences Citation Index, were searched and a total of 15 articles were included in the current review. The first research question was addressed by eleven studies that compared offending behavior for maltreated youth placed in out-of-home care with those who received in-home care. These studies revealed mixed findings: many studies showed higher rates of offending behavior for maltreated youth placed in foster care compared to those who remained at home, but some studies found no difference between the two groups. The second research question was addressed by ten studies that explored the impact of different placement characteristics on offending behavior of maltreated youth placed in out-of-home care. These studies showed consistent findings; studies showed that more restricted types of care, a higher number of placements, those placed at a later age, and placement with greater ethnic heterogeneity in the neighborhood are each associated with higher rates of offending behavior. Our results suggest that efforts need to be made to place maltreated youth in less restricted care and to reduce the number of placements.