Assessing the Context of Permanency and Reunification in the Foster Care System. 4.1 Reentry Counts and Rates by Type of Exit From Care

12/01/2001

Table IID.1 presents counts of children who reentered foster care within one year of an earlier exit, with each cell classified by the type of exit from the prior spell and by a series of child and case characteristics. The cells to the right side of the table present these reentries as a proportion of all relevant exits. For the nine states pooled, 17.3 percent of children reunified from foster care by the age of 14 years reentered care within one year of exit. Reentry rates for relative exits and other exits were slightly higher (18.3%), and reentry from runaway exits was much higher. Adoption and age-out exits are excluded from the reentry analysis because they are expected to produce no identifiable reentries.

Table IID.1 
Foster Care Exits and Reentries Within One Year of Exit. All Spells With an Exit During the First 36 Months. 1990-1993 Entrants, Nine States.
  Counts Proportion who Reenter Care
Exit Type Exit Type
Reunified with Family Exit to other Relative Run away from care Other exit Total Tracked exits Reunif Relative Run Other Total

All Exits

138,458 16,820 15,858 28,722 199,858          

Ages 15-17 at Exit

22,288 2,116 9,761 6,873 41,038          
Reenter in 12 mos. 3,182 423 4,889 1,905 10,399 0.143 0.200 0.501 0.277 0.253

Ages 0-14 at Exit

115,000 14,539 5,377 20,594 155,510          
Reenter in 12 mos. 19,945 2,654 3,485 4,953 31,037 0.173 0.183 0.648 0.240 0.200
Reenter in 36 mos 30,241 3,930 3,751 6,265 44,187 0.263 0.270 0.698 0.304 0.284
Reenter before 1998 34,740 4,386 3,773 6,722 49,621 0.302 0.302 0.702 0.326 0.319

Ages 0-14, Reentries in 12 months

State

AL 244 340 35 299 918 0.163 0.192 0.547 0.186 0.186
CA 8,068 221 918 651 9,858 0.158 0.117 0.592 0.120 0.164
IL 2,250 50 703 292 3,295 0.217 0.365 0.864 0.127 0.242
MD 580 339 37 118 1,074 0.185 0.225 0.487 0.176 0.199
MI 1,426 599 143 140 2,308 0.154 0.285 0.581 0.075 0.171
MO 1,259 75 184 466 1,984 0.193 0.126 0.748 0.184 0.201
NM 484 22 55 154 715 0.204 0.079 0.618 0.348 0.224
NY 3,964 840 1,261 2,433 8,498 0.166 0.155 0.616 0.482 0.233
WI 1,670 168 149 400 2,387 0.246 0.200 0.608 0.583 0.279

Year of Spell Entry

1990 4,608 652 632 1,193 7,085 0.159 0.179 0.610 0.239 0.184
1991 4,818 690 854 1,247 7,609 0.168 0.185 0.653 0.239 0.196
1992 5,094 637 892 1,272 7,895 0.182 0.179 0.641 0.243 0.207
1993 5,425 675 1,107 1,241 8,448 0.184 0.187 0.674 0.240 0.211

Duration of previous spell in care

< 1 month 4,737 824 805 1,066 7,432 0.194 0.225 0.588 0.317 0.227
1 - 2 months 4,140 649 770 1,113 6,672 0.198 0.208 0.620 0.308 0.231
3 - 5 months 2,664 350 550 742 4,306 0.175 0.182 0.660 0.274 0.208
6 -11 months 3,308 347 562 801 5,018 0.162 0.170 0.676 0.258 0.190
12-17 months 2,441 219 346 461 3,467 0.159 0.160 0.724 0.176 0.175
18-24 months 1,460 123 187 336 2,106 0.152 0.115 0.690 0.139 0.158
25-36 months 1,195 142 265 434 2,036 0.130 0.106 0.753 0.156 0.149

Type of Care

Congregate Care 2,867 411 1,820 1,161 6,259 0.242 0.267 0.629 0.333 0.317
Nonrel. Foster Care 12,628 1,971 1,198 2,967 18,764 0.183 0.198 0.675 0.261 0.204
Kinship Care 3,940 232 283 654 5,109 0.127 0.083 0.699 0.129 0.130
Mixed care types 510 40 184 171 905 0.153 0.159 0.605 0.259 0.199

Age at Spell Entry

Under 3 months 1,946 266 0 529 2,741 0.175 0.130 - - 0.169 0.169
3 mos. - 1 year 1,856 219 0 416 2,491 0.181 0.145 - - 0.209 0.181
1 - 2 years 3,542 447 0 612 4,601 0.170 0.167 - - 0.193 0.173
3 - 5 years 3,496 474 0 604 4,574 0.155 0.174 - - 0.192 0.161
6 - 8 years 2,461 348 7 575 3,391 0.140 0.172 0.583 0.221 0.153
9 -11 years 2,773 367 508 744 4,392 0.174 0.205 0.721 0.291 0.209
12-14 years 3,871 533 2,970 1,473 8,847 0.230 0.301 0.637 0.368 0.325

Age at Exit

0 years 2,254 338 0 555 3,147 0.202 0.162 - - 0.234 0.202
1 - 2 years 4,018 486 0 810 5,314 0.172 0.149 - - 0.185 0.171
3 - 5 years 3,875 517 0 639 5,031 0.155 0.169 - - 0.170 0.158
6 - 8 years 2,590 353 0 566 3,509 0.140 0.167 - - 0.209 0.150
9 -11 years 2,604 349 177 670 3,800 0.161 0.189 0.681 0.267 0.183
12-14 years 4,604 611 3,308 1,713 10,236 0.221 0.281 0.646 0.350 0.310

Spell Sequence

First spell in care 17,359 2,369 2,352 4,055 26,135 0.165 0.178 0.627 0.223 0.186
Reentry spell 2,586 285 1,133 898 4,902 0.256 0.237 0.698 0.375 0.320

Note: Exits for Completed Adoption and Reaching Age of Majority (aging out of foster care) are excluded from this table. Reentries from adoptions cannot be tracked due to privacy restrictions. Reentries should never occur for children who age out of care.


By examining the column containing reentry proportions from reunification exits, we observe systematic differences in the relationship between reentry and the independent variables. For all states combined, there is an observed tendency for more reentry by children whose prior spell was in the following categories:

  • shorter spells in care,
  • spells where the child was over 12 years of age at entry,
  • spells where the child is either very young or over 12 years of age at exit,
  • spells where the child was primarily placed in congregate care facilities,
  • spells that were themselves reentries from a prior foster care episode.

Table IID.2 presents reentry levels from reunification spells for each state separately. Reentry rates vary from a low range of 15-16 percent in Alabama, California, Michigan and New York, to levels over 20 percent in New Mexico, Illinois and Wisconsin.

Table IID.2
Reentry of Children Reunified from Foster Care, by State.

Universe: Spells in foster care that begin in 1990-1993, that end in reunification within three years of spell start, and where child is age of 0 through 14 years at time of exit.
  AL CA IL MD MI MO NM NY WI Total

Number Reunified within Three Years of Entry

1,493 51,172 10,367 3,136 9,255 6,514 2,377 23,900 6,786 115,000
Reentry within One Year 244 8,068 2,250 580 1,426 1,259 484 3,964 1,670 19,945
Reentry in Years 2-3 89 4,309 1,170 229 795 668 145 2,161 730 10,296

Proportion Reentering Care:

within one year 0.163 0.158 0.217 0.185 0.154 0.193 0.204 0.166 0.246 0.173
during Years 2-3 * 0.060 0.084 0.113 0.073 0.086 0.103 0.061 0.090 0.108 0.090

Proportion Reentering Care Within One Year of Reunification

Year Spell Start

1990 0.141 0.141 0.211 0.167 0.147 0.188 0.174 0.157 0.232 0.159
1991 0.156 0.149 0.221 0.188 0.151 0.191 0.192 0.168 0.219 0.168
1992 0.170 0.171 0.228 0.183 0.143 0.192 0.218 0.169 0.271 0.182
1993 0.196 0.169 0.208 0.200 0.176 0.201 0.225 0.173 0.256 0.184

Duration of Prior Spell

< 1 month 0.223 0.152 0.270 0.207 0.168 0.191 0.226 0.216 0.334 0.194
1-2 months 0.146 0.174 0.239 0.203 0.161 0.195 0.164 0.247 0.252 0.198
3-5 months 0.114 0.166 0.209 0.186 0.154 0.207 0.165 0.160 0.232 0.175
6-11 months 0.182 0.151 0.207 0.149 0.148 0.191 0.221 0.141 0.231 0.162
12-17 months 0.066 0.153 0.211 0.170 0.172 0.218 0.227 0.126 0.176 0.159
18-23 months 0.039 0.160 0.192 0.163 0.134 0.150 0.252 0.115 0.219 0.152
24-36 months 0.067 0.137 0.161 0.139 0.123 0.170 0.169 0.102 0.158 0.130

Primary Type of Care

Congregate 0.205 0.222 0.334 0.238 0.178 0.249 0.222 0.243 0.292 0.242
Unrelated Foster Care 0.143 0.177 0.221 0.181 0.152 0.185 0.218 0.175 0.244 0.183
Kinship Care - - 0.126 0.188 0.122 - - 0.120 0.140 0.079 - - 0.127
Mixed Care Types 0.200 0.149 0.202 0.104 - - 0.273 0.273 0.114 0.158 0.153

Age at Exit

0 years 0.149 0.199 0.249 0.193 0.187 0.204 0.183 0.194 0.260 0.202
1-2 years 0.182 0.163 0.211 0.182 0.173 0.199 0.230 0.147 0.236 0.172
3-5 years 0.153 0.150 0.200 0.160 0.138 0.171 0.215 0.131 0.191 0.155
6-8 years 0.130 0.133 0.180 0.135 0.121 0.135 0.215 0.124 0.186 0.140
9-11 years 0.142 0.143 0.192 0.187 0.144 0.187 0.175 0.161 0.229 0.161
12-14 years 0.191 0.174 0.295 0.248 0.176 0.254 0.181 0.234 0.317 0.221

Race/Ethnicity

African American 0.187 0.188 0.230 0.178 0.162 0.216 0.211 0.154 0.185 0.184
Hispanic 0.000 0.133 0.159 0.125 0.143 0.167 0.189 0.142 0.216 0.139
Other 0.182 0.120 0.326 0.194 0.136 0.221 0.244 0.168 0.277 0.172
White 0.148 0.161 0.205 0.198 0.149 0.180 0.207 0.200 0.267 0.181

Spell Sequence

First Spell 0.158 0.151 0.209 0.178 0.148 0.185 0.190 0.161 0.221 0.165
Reentry Spell 0.212 0.240 0.308 0.269 0.220 0.274 0.295 0.209 0.416 0.256

Placement Stability

One Placement 0.193 0.153 0.220 0.177 0.144 0.181 0.186 0.177 0.242 0.171
Two placements 0.106 0.160 0.217 0.198 0.176 0.184 0.212 0.147 0.256 0.172
3-4 Placements 0.116 0.185 0.199 0.201 0.167 0.210 0.239 0.154 0.274 0.186
5 or more placements 0.069 0.214 0.253 0.256 0.169 0.259 0.291 0.120 0.275 0.211

*Note: Reentry proportions for years 2 and 3 may be partially censored for spells that started in 1992 or 1993.


Again, the individual state patterns tend to resemble the pattern for all states combined with a number of deviations. One interesting pattern is that the proportion of reentries appears to be increasing over the time of observation in all states (except for a final-year drop-off in Illinois and Wisconsin). There is also a strong tendency for reentries to occur more frequently after prior spells in care that were of shorter duration. The relation to duration is least apparent in Michigan, Missouri and California. In addition, Michigan, Missouri and New Mexico each show a pattern of higher reentries from one of the middle-length spell groups (12-24 months).

However, there does not appear to be a direct relationship, at the aggregate level, between those states with high reunification rates and those states with high reentry rates. Broad conclusions of this type would be attractive, but are not supported by the data. On the one hand, Wisconsin and New Mexico have high levels of each type, and Alabama has low levels of both types. These observations would support the idea that reentry and reunification levels are systemically related. But in contrast, California has higher reunification and lower reentry, while Illinois has lower reunification and higher reentry.