• May 2012
  • Vol. 13 No. 4

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Study Examines Placement Stability

The number of unrelated children in a foster home may increase placement instability according to a study by Illinois' Children and Family Research Center. The study's findings also revealed an interesting pattern regarding sibling placements.

In 2004, the Children and Family Research Center (CFRC) set out to evaluate the correlation between placement stability and the number of children in a foster home. The study examined children placed in out-of-home care in 1998–2000 and tracked their foster care experiences until June 2003. CFRC extended its analysis to include a second cohort of children placed in care in 2001–2003 and tracked their experiences through June 2006. The elements analyzed for the second cohort, however, were slightly refined: 

  • Running away was added as a placement disruption outcome.
  • The number of siblings in a foster home was analyzed, not just the number of unrelated children or youth in a single home. 
  • Children in care less than 1 year and with placements lasting fewer than 31 days were excluded.

Findings showed that as the number of children in a single foster home increased, so did placement instability.

  • In the first cohort (1998–2000), children who lived in foster homes with five or more unrelated children experienced placement changes at a rate approximately 92 percent higher than children who experienced foster care in a home with no unrelated children.
  • In the second cohort (2001–2003), children who lived in foster homes with five or more unrelated children experienced placement moves at a rate approximately 101 percent higher than children who experienced foster care in a home with no unrelated children.

While the analysis revealed a positive correlation between the number of unrelated children in a single home and placement changes, there was no such relationship between the number of siblings in a single foster home and placement moves. Placement with siblings actually reduced the runaway risk for children.

The study also evaluated placement stability as it related to child age, placement type, and other factors.

In Illinois, the number of children placed in a single foster care home has decreased in recent years. In fiscal year (FY) 1990, 27 percent of children in care were placed in homes with three or more children, compared to just 12 percent in FY 2006.

Placement Stability and Number of Children in a Foster Home, by M. Testa, M. Nieto, & T. Fuller, is available on the Children and Family Research Center's website:

http://cfrc.illinois.edu/pubs/bf_20120131_PlacementStabilityAndNumberOfChildrenInAFosterHome.pdf (1,009 KB)

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