Foster Care Essay

Foster Care Essay

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There are too many children in foster care. Despite federal legislation (viz., the Adoption and Safe Family Act [ASFA], among other legislative directives) designed to reduce the number of children in care, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2010) indicates that of the 285,000 children exiting care in 2008, only 52 percent were reunified with their parents or primary caretakers. Although ASFA also has statutory guidelines designed to reduce the amount of time required for the courts to decide permanent placement for children that have been removed from their parents, children exiting foster care in 2008 spent an average of 21.8 months in state custody (U.S. Department of Heath and Human Services). These outcomes create several questions for researchers, two of which are pertinent to the current study: 1) What factors influence whether children are reunified with their families; and 2) What factors influence the timeliness with which reunification occurs?
Prior research has attempted to answer these questions by focusing on demographic information such as age, race, education of parents and children (e.g., Courtney, 1994; Wulczyn, 2004), and income (e.g., Courtnety, 2004; Eamon, 2002); family composition such as single parent homes and number of adults in home (e.g., Davis, Landsverk, Newton, & Ganger, 1996; Harris & Courtney, 2003). One caveat to these examinations is that many of them look at factors like e.g., race, family composition, poverty; they did not focus on the processes and/or structures of the juvenile dependency court system itself. The present study attempts to overcome this caveat by examining a process factor—involvement of the parents and their respective legal representatives at early decision-m...


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...fathers were not involved (Malm et al., 2008). Children whose non-resident fathers were highly involved also spent less time in foster care (21.4 months) than children whose non-resident fathers were not involved (25.3 months) (Malm et al.).
Despite previous research examining father involvement in services and case plan development, a paucity of research remains concerning the influence of father involvement in legal proceedings on dependency outcomes. Although some analysts (such as Edwards, 2009) suggest that including the father in dependency proceedings may lead to favorable outcomes for the child, including relative placement as opposed to foster care and possibly avoiding out-of-home placement altogether, these suggestions have not been empirically tested. This study examines association between father’s involvement in legal proceedings and reunification.

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