Comparing Outcomes in Foster Care and Group Care
Approximately half a million children in the United States enter foster care every year, and as many as 800,000 children have some contact with the system in some way. The system is intended to protect the most vulnerable in society and to ensure that all children have access to educational and social opportunities.
A 2010 study by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Maryland, “Comparing Three Years of Well-Being Outcomes for Youth in Group Care and Nonkinship Foster Care,” looked at how different care settings affected cognitive, academic and well-being results for youth. The study was based on a subset of data from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being, which sampled 5,501 children, from birth to age 14, in 36 states.
The study’s findings include:
- Youth placed either into group care or nonkinship foster care following a maltreatment investigation fared similarly in academic and behavioral outcomes.
- Group care is the most costly option and yet has yielded statistically similar results for youth starting from the same baseline.
- African-American youth entering group care or nonkinship foster care with below-average academic scores did not catch up over three years compared with other youth.
The study’s authors conclude that group care placements “for high-need youth, which are undoubtedly more costly, may not lead to more positive outcomes.”
Tags: poverty, youth, African-American
Note to instructor: The suggested assignments are designed for flexibility. They can be used in whole or part and can be adapted to a particular task -- for example, the newswriting assignments could be applied to the writing of the headline, the lead, the nut graph or the full story. Material from the assignments could also be combined with other material, for example, in the writing of a background, feature or local-angle story.
Read the study by the University of Pittsburgh and University of Maryland "Comparing Three Years of Well-Being Outcomes for Youth in Group Care and Nonkinship Foster Care."
- Summarize the study in fewer than 40 words.
- Express the study's key term(s) in language a lay audience can understand.
- Evaluate the study's limitations. (For example: Do the results conflict with those of other reliable studies? Are there weaknesses in the study's data or research design?)
Read the issue-related New York Times article "Report Is Mixed on Child Welfare Agency."
- If you were to rewrite the article based on knowledge of the study, what key changes would you make?
- Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study.
- Spend 60 minutes exploring the issue by accessing sources of information other than the study. Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study but informed by the new information. Does the new information significantly change what one would write based on the study alone?
- Interview two sources with a stake in or knowledge of the issue. Be prepared to provide them with a short summary of the study in order to get their response to it. Write a 400-word article about the study incorporating material from the interviews.
- Spend additional time exploring the issue and then write a 1,200-word background article, focusing on major aspects of the issue.