Assessing the Context of Permanency and Reunification in the Foster Care System. 3. The Role of Race in Parental Reunification

12/01/2001

The Role of Race in Parental Reunification explores whether race is a strong predictor of reunification when combined with other child, family, or case history characteristics, and whether the main effect of race is reduced when controlling for other important predictors of reunification.

This paper provides information from a secondary analysis of data collected for the National Study of Preventive, Protective, and Reunification Services Delivered to Children and Their Families.2 The paper addresses three questions. First, is race a strong predictor of reunification when combined with other important child, family, or case history characteristics? The analyses revealed that race is a strong predictor of reunification when combined with other important child, family, and case history characteristics. White children were more likely to be reunified than black children. Second, what other child, family, or case history characteristics are also strong predictors of reunification? The analysis reveals four important predictors of reunification in addition to race: age of entry, caretaker job skills, caretaker substance abuse problems, and caretaker services. In particular, age of entry was found to be significantly related to reunification. Rates of reunification rose directly with increases in the age that the children entered foster care. Third, are the main effects of race reduced when controlling for other important predictors? The analyses found that controlling for the other key predictors does not reduce the independent effects of race. In sum, it was concluded that race continues to play a major role in the reunification of children in addition to other child, family, and case history characteristics.

The analyses also found kinship placement to be inversely related to reunification: children who were placed with kin were less likely to be reunified than children placed with non-relatives. Moreover, this study found that kinship placement did not continue to be significantly related to reunification, when combined with race and the other predictors in the regression models. Thus, it was concluded that the higher kinship placements of black children do not explain their lower reunification rates relative to white children.


2.  U. S. Children's Bureau. 1997. National Study of Protective, Preventive, and Reunification Services Delivered to Children and Their Families. Washington, D. C: U. S. Government Printing Office.