Fostering a permanent home: a mixed methods evaluation of the zero to three court teams for maltreated infants and toddlers initiative Public Deposited

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  • March 20, 2019
  • McCombs-Thornton, Kimberly L.
    • Affiliation: Gillings School of Global Public Health, Department of Maternal and Child Health
  • Infants and toddlers are the largest group entering the U.S. child welfare system each year. This disrupted caregiving occurs at a critical period of their development. In response, ZERO TO THREE: National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families (ZTT) developed the Court Teams for Maltreated Infants and Toddlers initiative. In the Court Teams model, a locally-based family court judge works with a community coordinator to convene social service representatives. This local Court Team designs a plan to address the needs of young foster care recipients. The plan incorporates monthly case reviews, referral to child-focused services, and other components of the Court Team model. One goal is to reduce "time to permanency". This dissertation uses mixed methods to evaluate the effect of the Court Teams program on time to permanency. The quantitative study compares Court Teams children from the four initial sites (n=298) with a nationally representative sample of young child welfare participants (n=511) from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW). Propensity score weights and survival analysis are used to determine program effect on length of time before a child 1) moves into what ultimately becomes the permanent home, and 2) is officially discharged from foster care. The Court Teams initiative has a significant effect on how quickly children exit foster care. ZTT children leave foster care nearly 3 times as fast as the comparison sample. The program does not, however, affect time before a child moves into what eventually becomes the permanent home. Findings also suggest that ZTT cases experience a different pattern of exits from foster care. Reunification is most common for Court Teams cases (38%) while adoption is most prevalent for the comparison group (41%). Court Teams children appear to leave foster care faster regardless of the type of exit. Phone interviews were conducted with project staff in each site to understand how the program works to accelerate time to permanency. Qualitative data suggest that parental compliance with the service agreement heavily affects the case outcome. Both judicial approach and the monthly case reviews appear to contribute most to reducing time to permanency.
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  • In Copyright
  • "... in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Gillings School of Global Public Health (Maternal and Child Health)."
  • Foster, E. Michael
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  • Chapel Hill, NC
  • Open access

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