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November 2023Vol. 24, No. 9The Impact of Increased Postpermanency Payments on Foster Care Exits and Academic Achievement

Lengthy stays in foster care and aging out of foster care can result in poor transitions to adulthood. However, it is common for financial support in the form of adoption assistance and guardianship assistance payments to be lower than foster care payments or nonexistent.

In 2015, Minnesota passed a child welfare policy change known as the Northstar Care for Children reform, which increased adoption and guardianship payments so they were equal to foster care payments. To examine the impact of financial incentives on child and youth permanency and other outcomes, researchers from the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare at the University of Minnesota conducted a study of the Northstar reform as part of the Minn-LInK project.  

The study examined how the increase in permanency payments affected the following factors:

  • The rate of exit from foster care and probability of exit into adoption and kin guardianship
  • Child academic achievement years after the start of foster care

Researchers gathered data on foster care, education, and mental health from several sources, including the Minnesota Department of Human Services’ Social Services Information System, the Minnesota Department of Education’s Minnesota Automated Reporting Student System, Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment, Disciplinary Incident Reporting System, and Hennepin County Medical Center’s Medicaid claims. Using these data, researchers examined outcomes such as the rate of exit to adoption and kinship care, academic achievement, suspensions, school stability, and use of mental health services among a sample of more than 40,000 children and youth.

Findings affirmed the researchers’ hypothesis that increased payments could contribute to improved permanency achievement and academic outcomes. Specifically, study findings indicate the Northstar reform increased the likelihood of older children exiting foster care for adoption or guardianship, decreased time spent in foster care, and improved child and youth academic outcomes 3 years after entering the system.

A brief on the study and a discussion guide detailing practice implications and potential agency and system change are available on the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare website.