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Disproportionality in Reunification Success of Children in Foster Care with Biological Parents

Fri, March 22, 7:45 to 9:15am, Baltimore Convention Center, Floor: Level 1, Exhibit Hall B

Integrative Statement

Families of color, especially those from marginalized racial or ethnic groups, have traditionally experienced overrepresentation in child welfare systems. Yet, although approximately 51% of children leave foster care to return home with a biological parent, little is known about the long-term success of these reunifications among families of color. The current study uses administrative data from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis Reporting System (AFCARS) to examine family- and state system-factors associated with successful reunification for families whose children were formerly in foster care. A total of 53,789 children who were discharged from foster care in 2012 to live with a biological parent were tracked over 24-months. A multilevel model was run to examine family- and state-level factors predictive of successful reunification. Overall, Latino and African American families in this sample had higher odds of achieving successful reunification than their Caucasian counterparts. However, slopes varied significantly across state systems, indicating that the relationship between race and ethnicity and successful reunification varied significantly among state child welfare systems. Other predictors of successful reunification after controlling for race and ethnicity included lack of drug abuse, state poverty rates, and average time to reunification. Implications for policy and practice focus on targeting interventions for families with identified risk factors, ensuring that reunifications are not rushed so that families can address risk factors before reuniting with their children, and adapting interventions to meet the needs of culturally diverse families.


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