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March 2005Vol. 6, No. 2Early Intervention Foster Care Yields Positive Results for Permanency

A randomized trial of an Early Intervention Foster Care (EIFC) program found that preschoolers participating in the program had significantly fewer failed permanent placements than children in regular foster care. The study involved 90 children ages 3 to 6 years who were placed in Oregon's foster care system. Children were randomly placed in either EIFC or regular foster care (RFC). EIFC involved extensive training, support, and supervision for foster parents. In addition, children received behavioral services and therapeutic playgroup sessions, and they participated in family therapy. Children typically received services for 6 to 9 months. During the study, 54 children were placed in a permanent living situation (29 from EIFC, and 25 from RFC). Permanency placements failed for 36 percent of children in RFC, but for only 10 percent of children in EIFC. For both groups, most permanent placements failed between month 8 and month 14 of the placement, but failure rates were higher for children in RFC during this time period. Additionally, the number of prior foster placements was associated with a failed permanent placement for RFC children but not for EIFC children.

The authors of the study conclude that EIFC has a positive impact on successful permanency placements for very young children in foster care. In addition, EIFC appears to mitigate a risk factor for failed permanency placements, namely, the number of prior placements. The study also points to the need for additional services to families during the critical period of 8 to 14 months after a permanency placement is made.

This article, "The Early Intervention Foster Care Program: Permanent Placement Outcomes from a Randomized Trial," is available in the February 2005 issue of Child Maltreatment and can be viewed at (PDF - 139 KB)

Related Item

For an earlier report on this program, see the March/April 2001 issue of Children's Bureau Express for "Researchers Study Early Intervention for Preschool Foster Children."