Abstract: Child and Family Factors Impacting Post-Permanence Discontinuity: A Longitudinal Comparison of Discontinuity Rates across Permanency Outcomes (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

Child and Family Factors Impacting Post-Permanence Discontinuity: A Longitudinal Comparison of Discontinuity Rates across Permanency Outcomes

Saturday, January 18, 2020
Marquis BR Salon 16, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Monica Faulkner, PhD, Research Associate Professor, The University of Texas at Austin, TX
Catherine LaBrenz, MSW, Doctoral Candidate, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX
Rowena Fong, EdD, Ruby Lee Piester Centennial Professor, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX
Laura Marra, MSSW, Senior Research Coordinator, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX
Jolynne Batchelor, PhD, LCSW, Research Associate, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX
Nancy Rolock, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI
Kevin White, PhD, Assistant Professor, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC
Background: Up to one-third of children discharged from foster care to permanent settings re-enter foster care before the age of 18. Re-entry into foster care signals that a child has experienced discontinuity that is harmful to a child’s development. Little information is available to understand child and family factors associated with re-entry into foster care.

Methods: A survival analysis is conducted using administrative data from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) to examine predictors of re-entry into foster care after reunification, guardianship, or adoption controlling for child variables. The specific sample for this study consists of all children who exited foster care in Texas through reunification, guardianship, or adoption. The dependent variable for the analysis was re-entry into foster care after achieving permanence through guardianship, adoption, or reunification ring Fiscal Year 2010. Children were then followed until FY 2016 to examine rates of re-entry. Child level covariates include length of time in care, type of abuse, disability, moves while in care, race, gender and age at placement.

Results: Of children who achieved permanence in FY 2010, the largest proportion (n=54,022) exited to adoption or pemanent manging conservatorship ,  followed by reunification (n=41344), adoption only (n=34,288) and guardianship only (n=19734). Two percent of children who had achieved permanence through adoption and guardianship re-entered care, compared with 1.3% of children who achieved permanence through adoption only, 3.3% who achieved permanence through guardianship only, and 9.5% who achieved permanence through reunification. Only two factors were consistently associated with higher hazards of re-entry across all permanence types: child disability and instability while in foster care. Children in guardianship who were disabled had the highest hazards of re-entry into care, HR = 1.73, 98% CI, while those who were adopted had HR = 1.67, 98% CI and those who reunified had HR= 1.31, 98% CI. Similarly, children who experienced three or more moves while in foster care and subsequently achieved permanence via guardianship had the highest hazards of re-entry, HR=1.62, 98% CI, followed by those who were adopted, HR= 1.40, 98% CI, and then those who reunified, HR=1.14, 98% CI.

Conclusion: Findings suggest that reunification rates in Texas are lower than the national average and that families who reunify in Texas have the highest rates of post-permanence discontinuity. In Texas, families formed through adoption and guardianship receive some post-adoption supports through services and subsidy payments from the child welfare system. Adoption is highly celebrated through adoption days at courts and adoptive parents and guardians are positively regarded in in the community while birth families are often disregarded. Thus, services birth families receive are largely unable to help mitigate future risk for maltreatment. In Texas, families are provided a service plan at their first court date. The service planning is not a collaborative effort, but rather an effort to ensure the parent is compliant with services that the caseworker feels are relevant.