Assessing the Context of Permanency and Reunification in the Foster Care System. 3.1 Study Sample

12/01/2001

Selected characteristics of the sample of children in the reunification study are presented in Table 1. These characteristics were reported by caseworkers to the Westat interviewers based on a careful examination of the children's case records. Of the 1,034 foster children in the study, 21 percent were reunified, seven percent had other discharges and 72 percent were still in care. Half of them (52%) were white, 38 percent were black and one-tenth were Hispanic. Six out of ten had a disability. Thirty-seven percent entered foster care under the age of five, 17 percent entered between the ages of 5-8 years old, and 46 percent entered at nine years or older. How long were they in foster care? Twenty-eight percent were in care less than one year, 38 percent were in foster care between 1 and 2 years, while 34 percent were in foster care three or more years. One-fifth of the children were placed with relatives.

What are the characteristics of the children's caretakers? Only three out of ten were single mothers. Over half (54%) had less than a high school education, 64 percent were not employed and half received AFDC. Thirty-one percent of the caretakers lacked job skills, 41 percent had substance abuse problems, and 44 percent did not receive any of the 23 services listed. Three out of ten (30%) caretakers had allegations of abuse, while one-fourth (26%) had allegations of neglect. Most data on foster children reveal that the number placed for neglect usually far exceeds those placed for abuse. Yet, the data in Table 1 provide comparable numbers of abuse and neglect allegations. There are two reasons for these results. First, these study variables refer to the subset of ONLY abuse and ONLY neglect allegations--excluding cases in which both abuse and neglect allegations may have been present. Second, neglect allegations were restricted to the three types that almost all states include in their definitions: physical, emotional and medical. Allegations of abandonment, lack of supervision, or failure to thrive were excluded, since many states do not include them in their classifications of neglect.

Table 1.
Characteristics Of Children In Reunification Study
Discharge Status Caretaker Education

Reunified

21%

Less than HS education

54%

Other discharge

7%

HS or higher education

46%

Still in care

72%

Percent

100%

Percent

100%

Total N

555

Total N

1,034    
   

Employment

Race of Child

Employed

36%

White

52%

Not employed

64%

Black

38%

Percent

100%

Hispanic

10%

Total N

743

Percent

100%    

Total N

989

AFDC

   

Receives AFDC

49%

Child Disability

No AFDC

51%

Disabled

60%

Percent

100%

Not disabled

40%

Total N

717

Percent

100%    

Total N

1,017

Job Skills

   

Has skills

69%

Age Entered Foster Care

No skills

31%

Under 1 year

17%

Percent

100%

1-4 years

20%

Total N

793

5-8 years

17%    

9-12 years

19%

Drug Problem

13 or more years

27%

Has problems

41%

Percent

100%

No problem

59%

Total N

946

Percent

100%
   

Total N

792

Time in Foster Care

   

Under 1 year

28%

Caretaker Services

1-2 years

38%

1 or more services

56%

3-4 years

18%

No services

44%

5-9 years

13%

Percent

100%

10 or more years

3%

Total N

1,034

Percent

100%    

Total N

1,033

Abuse Allegations

   

Only abuse

30%

Kin Care

No abuse

70%

With Kin

21%

Percent

100%

Not with Kin

79%

Total N

763

Percent

100%    

Total N

976

Neglect Allegations

   

Only neglect

26%

Single Mom

No neglect

74%

Single

30%

Percent

100%

Not single

70%

Total N

792

Percent

100%  

Total N

1,034  

(Total N = unweighted sample sizes)