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Children and Youth Services Review Volume (issue): 22 (9-10) 2000

Child Welfare Research for the 21st Century
Guest Editor, Jane Waldfogel (Columbia University)

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Child Welfare Research for the 21st Century 681 -- 683
Jane Waldfogel

In the past several years, increased attention has been paid to child welfare research and the extent to which it adequately addresses fundamental questions about the safety, permanency, and well-being of children involved with the child welfare system. To cite just a few examples of the activity in this area: Congress has enacted several measures that prescribe what data are to be gathered and what outcomes are to be tracked, while the National Institute of Health and other branches of the government have conducted major reviews of their funding for research related to child abuse and neglect and have issued major new calls for proposals to study child abuse and neglect.
Children in Substitute Care: Some Conceptual Considerations and Research Implications 685 -- 703
Michael Rutter

Children in substitute care have a much increased rate of psychosocial problems but also they come from high risk backgrounds. Risk and protective influences include: genetic factors; physical traumata; preadmission psychosocial experiences; experiences ‘in care’, and experiences after leaving care. Interplay among these is usual. Follow-up studies show the reality of resilience in the face of adversity but also they indicate persistent sequelae in some cases in spite of major environmental improvements. Key challenges for the present and future are considered with respect to: societal responses to parenting failure; adoption; family foster care; kinship foster care; and residential group care. Mainstream research needs to pay greater attention to policy and practice questions and action research needs to take better advantage of improvements in research methodology.
Child Welfare Research: How Adequate Are the Data? 705 -- 741
Jane Waldfogel

This paper reviews new and existing datasets and outcome measures for research on child welfare. The new federal database (AFCARS) will provide a wealth of case-specific data about children in placement, while enhanced state-level systems will provide more extensive data on permanency and safety. State administrative datasets are another resource, but even if pushed to their limits, they will not provide adequate data to measure outcomes for children in the areas of safety, permanency, and well-being. In some instances, further progress can be made in tracking safety and permanency in state administrative data. However, additional data (from case records, interviews with caseworkers, family members, and others) will be necessary to understand the processes whereby children enter placement, remain in placement, return home, move to permanent homes, or return to placement again, and to assess child and family well-being. There is also a need for follow-up studies, and longitudinal population-based studies of children at risk of placement or abuse or neglect. Therefore, this review suggests that the next generation of studies should be longitudinal in design. Moreover, to the extent that we are concerned about children at risk, such studies will need to follow a broader sample rather than just children in placement.
Research Needed to Improve the Prospects for Children in Out-of-Home Placement 743 -- 761
Mark E. Courtney

This paper identifies several priorities for organizing research that is needed to significantly improve the prospects for children in out-of-home care. These priorities include (1) program evaluation research on services provided to children in out-of-home care, (2) organizational studies of various aspects of the child welfare system and the relationships between child welfare services and other systems, (3) research on child welfare decision making, (4) examination of the role of race and ethnicity in outcomes of care, and (5) attention to recurring methodological issues. Accomplishing this research agenda will most likely require a sustained federal commitment to funding research on out-of-home care.
Outcomes After Child Welfare Services: Implications for the Design of Performance Measures 763 -- 787
Richard P. Barth, Melissa Jonson-Reid

Reinvigorated efforts to develop performance measures for child welfare services have largely ignored a critical aspect of child welfare outcomes—what happens to children after their involvement with child welfare services ends. The authors present data from studies of post-child welfare services mortality and incarceration to indicate the vital need to incorporate information about post-child welfare services into a broad research agenda and into performance measures. Specific recommendations are advanced about the inclusion of safety indicators in performance indicator schemes.
Child Welfare Outcomes Revisited 789 -- 810
John Poertner, Thomas P. McDonald, Cyndie Murray

The use of outcome measures in child welfare has been part of agency and academic discussions for at least two decades. In 1989, McDonald, Lieberman, Poertner and Hornby contributed to the implementation of an outcome focus through the publication of “Child Welfare Standards for Success.” That paper presented the results of a comprehensive review of published and unpublished research that reported on outcomes of the major public child welfare programs: protective services, substitute care and adoption. The purpose of this paper is to revisit the field to gather additional outcome studies and to determine if broader agreement can be reached on both the definitions of outcome measures and standards for evaluating success. Discussion is included on issues of the use of outcome data for management decision-making, court monitoring, and community involvement.

see also

Fragile Families and Welfare Reform: Part I

Child Welfare Research for the 21st Century Volume 22:9-10
Guest Editor,
Jane Waldfogel (Columbia University)

Challenges Implementing and Evaluating Child Welfare Demonstration Projects, (Numbers 6 and 7) forthcoming
Guest Editor, Devon Brooks (University of Southern California)

Assessing and Managing Risk in Child Protective Services Volume 23:1
Guest Editors, Aron Shlonsky and Eileen Gambrill

Generations of Hope: An Intergenerational Model for Foster Care and Adoption Volume 22:9-10

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