Abstract: Cost Analysis of a Rural Family Treatment Court (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

Cost Analysis of a Rural Family Treatment Court

Friday, January 14, 2022
Independence BR G, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Margaret Lloyd Sieger, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University of Connecticut, Hartford, CT
Cynthia Nichols, MSW, Doctoral Student, University of Connecticut, Hartford, CT
Jessica Becker, MSW, Research Assistant, University of Connecticut, Hartford, CT
Jody Brook, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS
Background/Purpose: The rates of children entering foster care due to parental substance use have steadily increased in recent years. Unfortunately, while there has been an increase in foster care entries, reunification rates among substance use affected families in the child welfare system have decreased. Children of substance affected families often face additional challenges related to remaining in foster care for longer durations and being re-referred to the child welfare system. In the context of the treatment needs associated with substance use, family treatment courts (FTCs) have become an alternative approach to traditional courts in meeting the legal and psychosocial needs of these families. While FTCs have shown to reduce time spent in foster care and improve reunification rates, there is growing evidence suggesting FTCs provide significant cost savings. The purpose of the study is to examine the days saved in foster care for FTC participation and the subsequent cost effectiveness of FTCS in comparison to traditional courts.

Method: This study used treatment and matched comparison data to examine the difference of cost and foster care days among children in FTCs. Treatment group data was collected on a sample of 91 children in FTC who experienced at least one foster care placement during the course of the project. The comparison group was collected from a pool of 34,273 children in the State’s child welfare database, propensity score matching on eleven predictive variables was used. Stata version 15.0 was used for propensity score nearest neighbor one-to-two matching within a caliper, with 0.25 of a standard deviation as caliper size (Guo & Fraser, 2009). This resulted in matched comparison group of 178 cases. This study used life tables, a type of survival analysis, to measure the difference in foster care days among the two groups.

Results: Findings of this study suggest that 361.2 fewer days were spent in foster care per case within the FTC group. In total this amounted to 32,869.2 days saved for 91 children over the course of the project. Cost savings were found by subtracting the total FTC program costs from the foster care costs of 91 children. FTC and program costs totaled to $635,640 for 4 years. To capture the amount of dollars saved in the foster care system, the cost of one day of foster care was multiplied by the average days saved per child and by the 91 children who utilized foster care, which amounted to $3 million. In subtracting these costs, close to $2.4 million foster care dollars were saved, or, $26,245.67 saved per child through the reduction of foster care utilization.

Implications: The results of this study add to the growing body of literature suggesting that FTCs reduce the amount of days children remain in foster care, which subsequently contributes to substantial cost savings. As FTCs continue to be utilized as a cost-effective approach in treating substance affected families, the role of social work within the court structure and implications for social work practice models need to be a focus for future research.