Child Welfare Agency Performance: How are Child, Agency, and County Factors Related to Achieving Timely Permanency Outcomes for Children in Foster Care? Public Deposited

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  • March 20, 2019
  • Weigensberg, Elizabeth Caplick
    • Affiliation: School of Social Work
  • Performance measurement and accountability have become increasingly important for state and local child welfare agencies, motivating a great need for understanding what factors are related to achievement of performance outcomes. This study evaluated how child characteristics, local child welfare agency factors, and county demographics are related to achievement of timely permanency outcomes. This study used longitudinal administrative data of 22,316 children who entered foster care for the first time in North Carolina between 2002 and 2005, along with readily available local agency and county data. A multi-level survival approach was used to assess individual and contextual factors related to timely achievement of several permanency outcomes, specifically reunification, adoption, guardianship or custody, and emancipation. Furthermore, a competing risks analytical framework was used to simultaneously assess how child, agency, and county factors relate to achievement of different permanency outcomes, which was stratified by age, to identify differences in these relationships among infants, children ages 2 through 12, and adolescents. Study results demonstrated that multiple child, agency, and county factors were related to how quickly children in foster care achieved permanency outcomes, yet the strength and direction of these relationships differed by age and type of permanency. In particular, the child characteristics of age, gender, race, ethnicity, and reason for placement into foster care were all shown to have significant relationships with timely achievement of permanency. Local child welfare agency characteristics, specifically caseload size, use of relative placements, agency engagement in alternative response, and agency history of implementing reform efforts, as well as county demographics of poverty and unemployment were significantly related to timely achievement of several permanency outcomes. These findings provide insight into how individual- and macro-level contextual factors play a role when measuring agency performance. This research also provides a needed evidence base to identify specific factors that may be useful for estimating stratified performance measures, allowing agencies to assess performance of particular subpopulations of children in foster care. Ultimately knowing how individual, agency, and county factors are related to permanency can help child welfare agencies better understand their own performance and help target limited resources for improvement efforts.
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  • In Copyright
  • Usher, Charles L.
  • Open access

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