Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: Effects of State Foster Care Licensure Regimes on Foster Placement Settings and Outcomes

Friday, November 13, 2015 : 9:10 AM
Merrick II (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Sarah Font, University of Texas, Austin
Many foster children in the U.S. are in unlicensed foster care placements, with the overwhelming majority of unlicensed placements being in kinship care. Placements may be unlicensed for a variety of reasons, including an inability to meet state licensure standards. Each state sets their own standards for foster parent licensure, which vary in their strictness and content, and in how they are applied to kinship placements. Licensure is important for two reasons (1) unlicensed placements are not eligible for federal reimbursement under Title IV-E and the amount of financial support available to unlicensed placements is typically lower than what is available to licensed placements, and (2) licensure standards were ostensibly created to ensure that placements are safe and appropriate. Thus, it is important to ascertain how licensure standards impact placement decisions, and whether being in a placement that meets licensure standards is important for child well-being.

The current study examines the extent to which licensure standards act as a barrier to kinship placements overall, or as a barrier to Title IV-E eligible kinship placements. Moreover, I assess whether receipt of IV-E reimbursement (an indicator of licensure) and strength of licensure standards influence placement disruption risk, which is a key federal performance measure and an important factor in child well-being. Specifically, I address 3 questions: (1) Is the strictness or content of state licensure regimes associated with the probability that a child entering foster care will be placed with a relative?; (2) Is the strictness or content of state licensure regimes associated with the probability that a child in kinship care will receive IV-E reimbursement payments?; (3) Does placement disruption risk differ among placements not receiving IV-E payments, placements receiving payments under less restrictive standards, and placements receiving payments under strong standards?

This study uses years 2008-2012 of the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS), which includes all foster children in all states. I link these data with state-level policy variables, primarily obtained from the U.S. Children’s Bureau’s Child Welfare Information Gateway. The primary method of data analysis will be hierarchical logistic regression. Preliminary results suggest that strong licensure standards do not act as a barrier to kinship care placements overall, but they are associated with a lower probability that a kin placement will be receive IV-E reimbursement payments. The results of this study will provide important insight into how licensure standards are being enforced and whether they have any relation to child well-being.