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Soc Serv Rev. 2010;84(3):403-35.

Patterns of movement in foster care: an optimal matching analysis.

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  • 1Washington University in St. Louis.


Placement instability remains a vexing problem for child welfare agencies across the country. This study uses child welfare administrative data to retrospectively follow the entire placement histories (birth to age 17.5) of 474 foster youth who reached the age of majority in the state of Illinois and to search for patterns in their movement through the child welfare system. Patterns are identified through optimal matching and hierarchical cluster analyses. Multiple logistic regression is used to analyze administrative and survey data in order to examine covariates related to patterns. Five distinct patterns of movement are differentiated: Late Movers, Settled with Kin, Community Care, Institutionalized, and Early Entry. These patterns suggest high but variable rates of movement. Implications for child welfare policy and service provision are discussed.

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