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School awarded subcontract for study that aims to improve stability of foster care children

The UNC School of Social Work has been awarded a subcontract for a $3.1 million federal grant for a study that aims to improve the well-being and stability of foster children who are living with adoptive parents or legal guardians.

The three-year effort was awarded to Research Triangle Institute (RTI) International and is funded by the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation and the Children’s Bureau in the Administration for Children and Families. Mark Testa, Spears Turner Distinguished Professor, is co-principal investigator of the project. Selena Childs, director of the School of Social Work’s Program on Evidence Building in Child Welfare, is serving on the project as well. Additional team members include senior researchers from RTI, scholars from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and East Carolina University, and partners from Mathematica Policy Research.

Testa and his colleagues were selected for their research expertise on post-adoption and guardianship stability. Although the goal is for all children in foster care to be successfully placed with a safe and stable family, research has shown that some will re-enter the child welfare system. According to the project proposal, between two and 15 percent of children who leave foster care for adoptive or guardianship homes re-enter foster care.

Over the next three years, Testa, Childs, and their colleagues will review existing literature on the topic of post-permanency instability and compile relevant policies, procedures, and data. In addition, the team will contribute to project design and implementation, including data collection and analysis, as well as developing project briefings and presentations, and tools and resources to be used by child welfare practitioners and administrators.

Ultimately, the project will create resources to help build the capacity of agencies at the federal, state, and local levels so that that can gather more accurate and ongoing information on post-permanency instability among children and youth who exit foster care through adoption or guardianship.