• Dec 2011/Jan 2012
  • Vol. 12, No. 9

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Meeting Needs, Improving Outcomes for Youth in Long-Term Care

A new report by the Carsey Institute, Long-Term Foster Care—Different Needs, Different Outcomes, presents research on the characteristics and needs of children who remain in foster care for long periods. Data for the report stem from the long-term foster care sample of the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW) that included 727 children who had been in out-of-home care for 1 year at the time of initial sampling—between July 1998 and February 1999—and whose placement was preceded by reports of abuse and neglect.

The brief looks at children's outcomes 4 years after entering out-of-home care and the characteristics of the children and their placement settings. Understanding specific characteristics, such as age and behavioral and emotional problems, can help identify barriers to permanence and suggest possible specialized services to reduce negative outcomes.

Key findings include:

  • Four years after removal, only 5 percent of children aged 15 to 18 were adopted, compared to 61 percent of children aged 3 to 5.
  • Emotional problems were increasingly common among children in care. Twenty-seven percent of children aged 11 to 18 exhibited clinical levels of emotional problems and 41 percent in the same age group exhibited clinical levels of behavioral problems.
  • Children with emotional and behavioral problems were more likely to be in foster care. Thirty-two percent of children with emotional problems and 35 percent with behavioral problems were in foster care, compared to just 19 percent of children without these problems.
  • Children with emotional or behavioral problems were less likely to reunite with parents. Among children with emotional problems, 19 percent reunited with families, compared to 31 percent of children without emotional problems. Eighteen percent of children with behavioral problems reunited with families.

The report also suggests that States could better meet the needs of this population by opting to provide foster care for eligible youth up to age 21 under the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoption Act of 2008. Currently, only 11 States offer extended care. Research indicates that the financial benefits to States outweigh costs of possible burdens to the community that often result from youth who transition out of care at age 18.

The full report, by Wendy A. Walsh and Marybeth Mattingly, is available for download on the Carsey Institute website:

http://www.carseyinstitute.unh.edu/publications/IB-Walsh-Long-Term-Foster-Care.pdf (588 KB)

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