Assessing the Context of Permanency and Reunification in the Foster Care System. 4.2 Probabilities of Reunification

12/01/2001

Based on the parameters of the best-fitting model, the probabilities of reunification are derived for various subgroups of children who entered foster care at seven years old, which was the average age. Using the methodology employed in the reanalysis of NIS-2 data (Sedlak 1993), probabilities of reunification are derived for eight scenarios that involve various combinations of caretaker services, job skills and substance abuse problems (see Table 6). The highest probabilities of reunification are represented in scenario eight: children whose parental caretakers have job skills, received services and do not have any substance abuse problems. For this scenario, the probability of reunification is 56 percent among white children, compared to only 23 percent among black children.

Table 6. 
Probabilities Of Reunification For Children Entering Foster Care At Age 7 By Scenario And Race
 

Job Skills

Caretaker Services Substance Abuse Problem Probability of Reunification
(100* Probability)
Scenario   Black White
1 No No Yes 2% 7%
2 No No No 3% 10%
3 No Yes Yes 4% 17%
4 Yes No Yes 6% 22%
5 No Yes No 7% 24%
6 Yes No No 9% 31%
7 Yes Yes Yes 15% 44%
8 Yes Yes No 23% 56%

Scenario six represents intermediate probabilities: children whose parental caretakers have job skills, have no substance abuse problem, but received no services. For this scenario, whites have a probability of reunification that is three times higher than blacks (31% vs. 9%). Other intermediate probabilities appear in scenario four: children whose parental caretakers have job skills, but have substance abuse problems, and received no services. In this scenario, whites have a probability of reunification that is about four times higher than blacks (22% vs. 6%). Yet, scenario one represents the lowest probabilities of reunification: children whose parental caretakers have no job skills, received no services, and have substance abuse problems. In this scenario, the probability of reunification among white children is 7 percent, compared to only 2 percent among black children.

To depict visually the various probabilities of reunification by race, a bar graph (Fig. 1) was created that compares four scenarios: one, four, six and eight. It reveals that the probability of reunification increases as the parental caretakers' characteristics are more advantaged. Yet, it also reveals that even when parental caretakers of black children have the same desirable (or undesirable) characteristics as white caretakers, white children are still three or more times likely to be reunified than black children. Moreover, the probability of reunification for blacks with the more desirable characteristics in scenario eight (23%) is about the same as it is for whites in scenario four (22%) in which caretakers have substance abuse problems, received no services, but have job skills. Clearly, race continues to be a strong predictor of reunification in each of the scenarios.

Figure 1
Probability of Parental Reunification for Children Who Entered Foster Care At Age 7 by Race

Figure 1 Probability of Parental Reunification for Children Who Entered Foster Care At Age 7 by Race