The living arrangements and services that local child welfare agencies provide for foster children vary because of differences among the characteristics and needs of foster children, the demographic and socio-economic conditions of the counties in which the agencies are located, as well as any number of local, county, and state policies and practices. These differences in contextual factors contribute to differences in the experiences of and payments for children in foster care. In light of these large and complex variations, this study examined how child- and county-level factors are related to variations in costs of caring for children in out-of-home care.
Using longitudinal administrative data for 32,978 children in North Carolina who entered foster care for the first time between July 2000 and June 2006, this study employed a multilevel analytical approach to assess how individual costs for children in out-of-home care vary depending on child- and county-level factors and cross-level interactions. Separate analyses were conducted using two multilevel models: (1) a hierarchical generalized linear model (HGLM) for the full sample (N=32,978) to examine the likelihood of foster care costs, and (2) a hierarchical linear model (HLM) for children who had foster care costs (n=23,519) to assess the average monthly costs.
The study found that multiple child-level factors (e.g., the child’s demographic characteristics, reason for placement in out-of-home care, foster care experiences, and reason for exit from care) and county-level factors (e.g., county characteristics, local agency practices) were associated with the likelihood and/or amount of foster care costs. Several child-level factors influenced costs differently, depending on county-level factors.
Detailed, multilevel assessment of variations in foster care costs can help determine whether an intervention is a good use of resources to meet the needs of foster children and produce positive outcomes. It is hoped that study results will inform service practices and shape policy to improve experiences and outcomes for children in the child welfare system.
|Advisor:||Duncan, Dean F., III|
|Commitee:||Cuddeback, Gary, Guo, Shenyang, Pennell, Joan, Usher, Charles L.|
|School:||The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill|
|School Location:||United States -- North Carolina|
|Source:||DAI-A 73/01, Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Social work, Public policy|
|Keywords:||Child care, Foster care, Out-of-home care|
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