And, of course, that study also compared foster care only to typical “help” for families in
their own homes, which generally is little or nothing. Providing the kinds of real help
NCCPR recommends (See our publication, Doing Child Welfare Right) would likely
change the result and, in the case of the three more recent and more rigorous studies,
create an even wider gap in outcomes favoring keeping families together.
● Perhaps most intriguing, these studies suggest it actually may be possible to quantify
the harm of a foster-care panic.
Thanks to these studies, we now have an estimate of how much worse foster children
do on key outcomes compared with comparably-maltreated children left in their own
homes. It’s also usually possible to calculate how many more children are taken away
during a foster-care panic. So it should be possible to estimate how many more children
will wind up under arrest, how many more will become pregnant and how many more
will be jobless as a result of a foster-care panic.
It also should be possible to estimate roughly how many children have been saved from
these rotten outcomes in states and localities that have reformed their systems to
emphasize safe, proven programs to keep families together.
These new studies and the Minnesota study are in addition to the comprehensive study
of foster care alumni showing that only one in five could be said to be doing well as a
young adult – in other words, foster care churns out walking wounded four times out of
five. (See NCCPR’s publication, 80 Percent Failure for more on this study) and the
mass of evidence showing that simply in terms of physical safety, real family
preservation programs have a far better track record than foster care. (See NCCPR
Issue Paper #1).
The current buzzword in child welfare is “evidence-based.” What that really means is:
How dare proponents of any new, innovative approach to child welfare expect to get
funding if they can’t dot every i and cross every t on evaluations proving the innovation’s
efficacy beyond a shadow of a doubt? Old, non-innovative programs, however, are not
held to this standard. If they were, child welfare would be turned upside down by the
results of this new research.
Because now, more than ever, the evidence is in.
Updated September 1, 2015