Expert Commentary

Comparing outcomes in foster care and group care

2010 study by University of Pittsburgh and University of Maryland on outcomes for youth placed in alternate forms of foster 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

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