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Project analyzes, promotes permanency in foster care

June 28, 2017

By Crystal Baity
ECU News Services

An East Carolina University researcher is compiling and analyzing data as part of a national project to improve outcomes for children in foster care.

Dr. Kevin White, assistant professor in the School of Social Work in the College of Health and Human Performance, is analyzing data collected through the national Quality Improvement Center for Adoption and Guardianship Support and Preservation. It’s a federally-funded project designed to promote permanency for foster youth and improve adoption and guardianship preservation and support services.

White’s work is funded by a $158,193, four-year sub-grant from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. White is partnering with faculty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Social Work on the research. He also is working with the N.C. Division of Social Services and Catawba County Social Services to evaluate Reach for Success, a program to increase access to coaches for post-adoptive families in that county.

Dr. Kevin White

The projects aim to support adoptive and guardianship parents so that more foster children can be placed — and remain — in permanent, stable homes, White said.

“All these kids have gone through some sort of trauma,” White said. “A lot of the families need support so they don’t come back in the system and the kids do well.”  

White is analyzing data from state child welfare agencies and adoptive and guardianship parents in North Carolina, Illinois, New Jersey, Tennessee and Wisconsin. The 83-question, 16-page survey in Catawba County is a comprehensive range of questions to determine any problems parents might have, what support services they have used or need and their child’s overall well-being.

White is building statistical models to determine what’s happening with former foster children who move from foster home to foster home compared to those in stable placements.

He’s also evaluating evidence-supported interventions like counseling which helps parents manage difficult behaviors to allow children who are placed in permanent adoptive and guardianship homes stay in their homes.

“Generally, the programs support parents by helping them get things they need to manage the children in their homes,” said White, who worked as a social worker for eight years with children in foster care and adoptions. He also worked five years in the public school system.

Previous research indicates that up to 15 percent of children have problems after placement, although information is still being collected. About 50 percent of the eligible respondents in North Carolina have returned surveys so far, White said.

“The more we look at the data, pre-adolescents and adolescents have faced the most risk,” White said. “There’s no doubt that kids who are younger do the best in regard to stability. The good news is most kids who are adopted out of foster care do well.”   

More than 2,000 foster children in North Carolina were discharged to adoption or guardianship homes during the last federal government fiscal year.

The findings will be linked to state administrative data that tracks outcomes for children in foster care.

“The whole idea of getting data on well-being issues and linking this to state-level administrative data is somewhat new,” White said.

Results will be presented and published after the project ends in 2019, White said.

White is analyzing data on children in foster care with the goal of improving outcomes.

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