Assessing the Context of Permanency and Reunification in the Foster Care System. 2.2.1 Substantive Highlights From Individual State Tables


For all states combined, the time trend observed between 1990 and 1996 was a decrease in exit rates and a sharper decrease in reunification rates. While this general pattern is reflected across the individual state tables, there is substantial variation among the individual states in the timing and magnitude of these changes.

  • Only California and Illinois exhibit persistent downward trends in both exit rates and reunification rates across all annual cohorts.
  • New York shows an increase in exit rates across the time period, while reunification rates decreased slightly. This is the one case where a decrease in the proportion of reunifications appears to be primarily the result of an increase in other types of exit.
  • Michigan shows no apparent time trend for exits, but a decrease in reunification.
  • In Wisconsin, Alabama, New Mexico, Maryland, and Missouri, the general trends observed over the full 1990-1997 period were of decreases in both rates. However, these changes were not smooth and continuous. In each case, we observe one or more small annual reversals to the pattern of decrease.

A final sheet is presented after the state tables that summarizes the nine-state and single state results. It is a display of the "average monthly reunification rate" (Panel G), from each of the preceding sheets on a single page.

Figure C is a graphic representing duration-specific reunification rates for each state. These rates were obtained by averaging the separate 1990-1996 entry rates from each Panel E. The pattern of reunification rates decreasing over the duration of spells in foster care is apparent in all nine states. However the magnitudes and the timing of changes in these duration specific rates varies widely. Although all states have their highest reunification rate during the first month of care, the actual Month I rate varies from .181 in New Mexico to .042 in Illinois. In Maryland, New Mexico, and Alabama the rates drop very quickly during the first year, while in Wisconsin and Michigan they drop much less rapidly.

  • Highest completed reunification is observed in Wisconsin and New Mexico. New Mexico reunifies a very high proportion of foster children during the first month of care. Wisconsin has relatively high initial rates, but is notable for maintaining higher reunification levels through 18 months.
  • Medium overall level of reunification is observed in California, Missouri, Michigan, and New York. Michigan has the lowest early rates among this group, but maintains slightly higher rates of reunification from 6 months through 3 years,
  • The lower overall levels of reunification are observed in Alabama, Maryland, and Illinois. Alabama and Maryland have medium levels compared to other states during the first month of care, but these drop quickly for months 2 onward. Illinois has comparatively low reunification rates across the duration interval.

Figure C.
Likelihood of Reunification from Foster Care Average Monthly Rates by Time Spent in Care, Nine States

Figure C. Likelihood of Reunification from Foster Care Average Monthly Rates by Time Spent in Care, Nine States