Geographic Placement Stability of Children in Foster Care



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Children placed in the foster care system are some of the most vulnerable children due to the abuse and neglect that they experienced that led them to foster care. Once these children enter foster care, they continue to face challenges by having multiple foster care placements, resulting in geographic instability in neighborhoods and disruptive environmental changes for children in foster care. The geographic placement instability of children in foster care is multifaceted with effects on (1) children’s foster care outcomes to achieve permanency, (2) successful transition to adulthood after foster care, (3) neighborhood changes, and (4) types of foster care placements. There are several reasons why a child may have multiple foster care placements, including the child’s behavioral needs or the placement setting’s availability which can drive the decision-making process on where to place children. Children who have multiple placement settings face an inordinate amount of instability by not knowing when and if they will have to change placements. Researchers and practitioners do not understand the effects of distance between the child’s home and all foster care placements and the distance between foster care placements. This dissertation analyzes the geographic impact of children in foster care using 15 years of foster care placement data from Connecticut’s Department of Children and Families. This dissertation uses a variety of statistical and geographic models, including hierarchal models, multinomial regression models, hot spot analyses, and negative binomial models, to determine how distance affects placement stability. Foster care involves geographic challenges related to multiple foster care placements, resulting in multiple shifts in neighborhood environments which can impact the child developmentally and academically. This research found that the location of the foster care placement had a greater impact on a child’s foster care outcomes than the location of the child’s home before they entered foster care.