• April 2004
  • Vol. 5, No. 3

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Achieving Permanency After Parental Rights Are Terminated

A study published in the December 2003 issue of Children and Youth Services Review uses Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) data to demonstrate that a large proportion of children whose parental rights are terminated (TPR) still do not achieve permanence within 1 year. The study also examines how particular case factors, including age, race, and geographic location, affect how quickly children exit foster care.

The authors studied a cohort of 1,995 foster children in 42 States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico whose parental rights were terminated during the same month (October 1997). Of these children, only 35 percent were found to have exited foster care within 1 year. The report then provides descriptive information about the children and compares factors typical of children discharged from foster care within 1 year of their birth parents' rights being terminated to those typical of children not discharged within 1 year. Characteristics found to be associated with leaving at a slower rate included:

  • Age. 44 percent of the children entering foster care as infants were discharged within 1 year, compared to 31 percent of children who were over age 1 when they entered care.
  • Race. The author found that on any given day, African American children were 23 percent less likely than children of other races or ethnicities to exit care.
  • Kinship placement. 55 percent of children in pre-adoptive placements were discharged within 1 year, compared to 19 percent of children in kinship placements.
  • Multiple placement settings. Children who were discharged within 1 year of TPR had an average of 2.97 previous placement settings, while children not discharged within 1 year had an average of 3.46 placement settings.

The study also found that the rate of exiting foster care after TPR varied by State. Some State differences remained even after accounting for client demographics and other caseload differences. The author suggests this might be a result of how different States view permanency or may reflect policy and practical differences affecting foster children. Further research will be necessary to account for State differences.

The author concludes that these findings raise concerns about the large proportion of children who do not have permanence within 1 year after TPR. The author questions whether policy changes are needed to decrease the lengths of stay after TPR and stresses the need for more empirical studies on the meaning of legal permanency to children and alternative ways to recognize family bonds.

The study, "After Parental Rights are Terminated: Factors Associated with Exiting Foster Care," can be found in Children and Youth Services Review, Vol. 25, No. 12. Find ordering information on the ScienceDirect website at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0190740903001051. Requests for reprints should be sent to Brenda D. Smith (bsmith@albany.edu), School of Social Welfare, State University of New York, 135 Western Avenue, Albany, NY 12222.

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