Infants and Teens More Likely to Experience Foster Care Reentry


Children who have exited foster care are more likely to return to care if they are infants, in their early teen years or have experienced a group placement before reuniting with their families, according to a new study conducted by the Center for State Child Welfare Data and funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.


In addition to assessing a child’s risk of returning to foster care after discharge, the study — Reentry to Foster Care — explores how child welfare agencies can identify kids who might benefit from evidence-based interventions available through the Family First Prevention Services Act.

Based on a sample of more than 600,000 children in 20 states, the research covers a seven-year window from 2003 and 2010. It examines the trajectories of children who exited their first stay in care before age 18 to be reunited with their families or placed with guardians. Follow-up analysis continued through Dec. 31, 2017.

To assess the risk of reentering foster care after reunification or placement with a guardian, researchers looked at three clusters of variables: 1) child characteristics, including race and ethnicity, gender and age; 2) placement history, such as the type of placement and length of stay; and 3) social context — the extent of socioeconomic disadvantage, for example.

“When a child has left foster care to live with family, the last thing we want is for them to need to return,” says Rodney Brittingham, associate director of the Casey Foundation’s Child Welfare Strategy Group. “As states develop their plans for taking advantage of Family First, this research can help child welfare agencies focus on families and young people who can benefit the most from services that help them stay together.”

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