Prevention advocacy is quite fashionable in child welfare, as in many other areas. However, there is scant evidence of the effects of most efforts at preventing child maltreatment (Littell and Schuerman, 1995). And there is substantial evidence that placement prevention programs do not have their intended effects (Schuerman, Rzepnicki, and Littell, 1994; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2001).
If managed care agencies are unable to prevent entrance into foster care, they may attempt to limit service utilization by preventing recidivism. Little is known, however, about how to prevent a child who is discharged from foster care from reentering. The empirical data are scant in suggesting why some children who are discharged from care will ultimately re-enter (estimates are usually around 20 percent) (Goerge and Wulczyn, 1990). Interestingly, the strongest finding thus far is that placement duration is “strongly negatively associated with the rate of reentry” (Ibid). In other words, children who stay longer in foster care are the least likely to reenter care at a later point in time. This might suggest that a longer time in foster care gives parents the time they need to get on their feet and become stabilized before regaining custody of their children. Of course, the longer children are in foster care, the less time is available for them to experience either further maltreatment or re-entry into the system. In any event, the finding presents a problem to managed care efforts to reduce stays in foster care.