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November 2019Vol. 20, No. 9Study Highlights Opportunity to Target Services to At-Risk Families to Improve Adoption Stability

A study that looks at adoption outcomes in two large states highlights the preadoptive risk factors most associated with reentry into foster care and points to an opportunity to improve adoption stability by targeting services to at-risk families.

The study used administrative data to track children in Illinois and New Jersey for 5 to 15 years, depending on their date of adoption. The goal was to determine the most common preadoption characteristics associated with postadoption reentry into care for children adopted from public child welfare agencies in Illinois and New Jersey. The study concluded that the majority of children adopted from foster care—95 percent—did not reenter care following their adoption.

The risk factors most associated with postadoption reentry into foster care included a child being younger at the time of adoption (e.g., children 3 and older were 128 percent more likely to reenter care than children adopted at a younger age) and having more prior foster care placements (e.g., each additional move was associated with a 15 percent increase in the risk of reentry). In Illinois, African-American children were 30 percent more likely to experience reentry than children of any other race (although this statistic was not corroborated in New Jersey).

The authors reported the findings may be useful in identifying at-risk families to target with preventive preadoption and postadoption services. They also point out that, because the study is based exclusively on administrative data, there is no way to determine how many of the adoptive families whose children have not reentered care may be struggling or in need of services.

"A Comparison of Foster Care Reentry After Adoption in Two Large U.S. States," by Nancy Rolock, Kevin R. White, Kerrie Ocasio, and Lixia Zhang, Michael J. MacKenzie, and Rowena Fong (Research on Social Work Practice, 29), is available at (262 KB).