Method: The study analyzed information from a statewide longitudinal, event-level administrative data system. The sample was drawn from children entering foster care for the first time and remaining in care at least 90 days in five jurisdictions across the state during calendar years 2004-2006 (n=3,799), and was tracked until exit or the study extract date (January 1, 2010). Special efforts were made to identify American Indian children in the data system, as they are considered to be underreported. Data were examined using Life Table, and Cox regression survival analysis methods. Child demographic and placement information were used as covariates in multivariate models examining the likelihood of discharge to a permanent exit (e.g., reunification, adoption, or some form of legal guardianship) versus not (i.e., experience a non-permanent exit such as emancipation, runaway, or be still in care at the end of follow-up).
Results: Controlling for other factors, African American children (hazard ratio=.717, p=<.001), and American Indian children (hazard ratio=.85, p=.014) had lower likelihood of achieving permanency than other children. Additional child and case characteristics had statistically significant relationships with permanency in one or more sites; however, African American and American Indian groups consistently emerged as the most robust predictors of non-permanent exits or remaining in long term foster care.
Discussion: Results suggest that African American and American Indian youth are at elevated risk of poor permanency outcomes, and are thus groups which could benefit from innovative permanency strategies. Further analyses, and implications for practice and policy changes to address systemic barriers to permanency for these children are discussed.