Assessing the Context of Permanency and Reunification in the Foster Care System. 6. Research Implications


This analysis suggests a number of future directions in research on race and reunification. First, as Courtney and colleagues (1996) conclude in their comprehensive review of the literature, it is important to acknowledge the role of race and ethnicity in future child welfare research:

We encountered many studies in which these factors were not mentioned as variables, although the sample size and location of the study would have lent themselves to such analysis. The failure or unwillingness to at least acknowledge the relationships among race, child welfare services, and child welfare outcomes may only serve to invite uninformed speculation about the reasons for these relationships. Whenever methodologically possible, child welfare researchers should include race as an explanatory factor in research designs and consider their theoretical justification for doing so (i.e., why does the researcher think that race might play a role?) (Courtney 1996).

Second, there is a need for reunification studies that not only include adequate sample sizes of African Americans, but of Hispanics, Native Americans, and Asian and Pacific Islanders as well. While many studies have often obtained similar results for Caucasians and Hispanics, little is known about reunification rates for Native Americans or Asians because they are most often excluded due to their small sample sizes. Third, there is a need for more longitudinal studies that are based on both administrative records and surveys that track cohorts of children over time to better understand the dynamics of reunification patterns among racial and ethnic groups.

Fourth, additional research is needed on the type of services that are most appropriate for enhancing reunification among parental caretakers of different racial and ethnic groups (Maluccio, Fein, and Davis 1994). This analysis found lower reunification rates among families that did not receive any services. Reviews of child welfare research revealed that families of color are less likely to receive services than Caucasian families (Courtney 1996). Further research is needed to determine, "Which mix of specific services are most effective for reunification with which types of parental caretakers among various racial and ethnic groups?" Fifth, more research is needed that continues to include common measures from prior studies in order to more carefully examine their separate and combined effects on reunification. Such an approach might resolve contradictory findings related to the importance of race, ethnicity, kinship placement, SES, child disability, age of entry, and reasons for placement as predictors of reunification.