Report to the Congress on Kinship Foster Care. Length of Stay in Care

06/01/2000

Most studies show that children in public kinship care remain in care significantly longer than children in non-kin foster care.39 These findings raise concerns about permanency planning. Child welfare experts have argued that children are left in public kinship care without a permanency plan or that some child welfare agencies and workers regard these care arrangements as permanent (Welty, 1997). However, public kinship care has been shown to benefit children by reducing their chances of living in multiple foster homes and possibly of reentering foster care once they have been reunified with their parents.

One national study found that 42 percent of children in public kinship care remain there for more than two years compared to 36 percent of children in non-kin foster care (Cook and Ciarico, 1998). Moreover, only 3 percent of children in public kinship care return home within one month and only 20 percent return within six months, compared to 13 and 36 percent, respectively, of children in non-kin foster care. The reason for the longer average stay is that children in public kinship care are more likely to be younger and African American, and younger and African American children are much more likely to remain in care for long periods (Cook and Ciarico, 1998). Another study finds that significant differences in length of stay in kinship care remain even after controlling for these factors (Courtney, 1994) (Table 4).

Children in public kinship care are significantly less likely than children in non-kin foster care to experience multiple placements (Table 5) (Beeman et al., 1996; Benedict et al., 1996; Berrick et al., 1995; Chipungu et al., 1998; Cook and Ciarico, 1998; Courtney and Needell, 1994; Goerge, 1990; Iglehart, 1994; Le Prohn and Pecora, 1994; Zimmerman et al., 1998). Although the majority of children in both groups have been in only one foster care placement, many children in non-kin foster care have been in multiple placements (Chipungu et al., 1998; Cook and Ciarico, 1998; Courtney and Barth, 1996; Iglehart, 1994). In addition, there is some evidence that when children in public kinship care are transferred to a new placement, they are more likely to be transferred to the home of another relative (Courtney and Needell, 1997; Iglehart, 1994). Several studies show that children who have not been subject to multiple placements during their time in foster care benefit from this increased stability and exhibit greater well-being while in care (Aldgate et al., 1992; Fein et al., 1990; Iglehart, 1995; Widom, 1991).

Table 4. Length of Stay in Foster Care

(Months) Kin (%) Length of Stay Non-Kin (%) Cook and
Ciarico, 1998
Less than 1 03.0 13.0
1–6 17.0 23.0
7–12 21.0 14.0
13–24 17.0 14.0
25 or more 42.0 36.0
Courtney, 1994
1 or less 05.0 15.0
6 or less 10.0 30.0
6–18 27.0 46.0
Over 18 58.0 09.0

 

Table 5. Number of Placements in Foster Care

Non-Kin Placements (%) Kin (%) Cook and
Ciarico, 1998
One 80.0 65.0
Two 17.0 12.0
Three or more 03.0 23.0
Chipungu, 1998
One 52.0 35.5
Two 25.9 26.2
Three or more 22.1 38.3
Iglehart, 1994
One 49.0 37.0
Five or more 09.0 14.0

 

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