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Demography. 2006 May;43(2):309-35.

The foster care crisis: what caused caseloads to grow?

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  • 1Department of Economics, Box 26165, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, NC 27402-6165, USA.


Foster care caseloads more than doubled from 1985 to 2000. This article provides the first comprehensive study of this growth by relating state-level foster care caseloads to state-specific characteristics and policies. We present evidence that increases in female incarcerations and reductions in cash welfare benefits played dominant roles in explaining the growth in foster care caseloads over this period. Our results highlight the need for child welfare policies designed specifically for the children of incarcerated parents and parents who are facing less generous welfare programs.

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