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What Works in Foster Care?:
Key Components of Success From the Northwest Foster Care Alumni Study
BY Peter J. Pecora, Ronald C. Kessler, Jason Williams, A. Chris Downs, Diana J. English, James White, Kirk O'Brien
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA; 1 edition (September 2, 2009)
"This book has tremendous value to the field of child welfare; it has the highest quality research and the results have critical implications for policy and practice." --Norma Harris, Research Professor and Director of Social Research Institute, College of Social Work, University of Utah
"Finally, we have an acknowledgement of the reality of long-term foster care and the need to plan for lifetime outcomes from the very start of the substitute care placement. This work brings us closer to a time when we no longer have to sacrifice well-being on the altar of safety and permanency." --Erwin McEwen, Director, Illinois Department of Children and Family Services
"What Works in Foster Care? offers many original insights that cannot be found in existing works on the topic of family foster care. Its methodology is sophisticated, and the book does an admirable job of making this material accessible to a general audience."
--Mark Testa, Director of the Children and Family Research Center and Associate Professor, School of Social Work, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
On any given day, nearly half a million children are served by foster care services in the U.S. at an annual cost of over $25 billion. Growing demand and shrinking funds have so greatly stressed the child welfare system that calls for orphanages have re-entered the public debate for the first time in nearly half a century. New ideas are desperately needed to transform a system in crisis, guarantee better outcomes for children in foster care, and reduce the need for out-of-home care in the first place.
Yet little is known about what works in foster care. Very few studies have examined how alumni have fared as adults or tracked long-term health effects, and even fewer have directly compared different foster care services. In one of the most comprehensive studies of adults formerly in foster care ever conducted, the Northwest Foster Care Alumni Study found that quality foster care services for children pay big dividends when they grow into adults. Key investments in highly trained staff, low caseloads, and robust supplementary services can dramatically reduce the rates of mental disorders and substance abuse later in life and increase the likelihood of completing education beyond high school and remaining employed. The results of this unparalleled study document not only the more favorable outcomes for youth who receive better services but the overall return when an investment is made in high quality foster care: every dollar invested in a child generates $1.50 in benefits to society. These findings form the core of this book's blueprint for reform.
By keeping more children with their families and investing additional funds in enhanced foster care services, child welfare agencies have the opportunity to greatly improve the health, well being, and economic prospects for foster care alumni. What Works in Foster Care? presents a model foster care program that promises to revolutionize the way policymakers, administrators, case workers, and researchers think about protecting our most vulnerable youth.