Recipe: First admissions vs. re-entries
As you know, different populations of children don’t always experience foster care in the same way. That’s why it’s so important to stratify your population—to take a measure of the whole group, and then break the results down by those child- and case-related characteristics that might make a difference in the outcome.
One of those characteristics is admission type—whether the spell in question is the child’s first spell in foster care, or whether that spell is a re-entry after a prior discharge. Springboarding off my earlier post on length of stay, this Recipe will show you how to break length of stay results down by admission type in order to see whether children entering care for the first time have similar lengths of stay as children returning to care.
Question: Do children entering foster care for the first time stay in care as long as children re-entering care?
- On the All spells page, scroll down to the Spell overview section and under Admission Type, select First Admission. This narrows your comparison group to children entering care for the first time.
- Scroll down to the Sample selection section. Enter 01-01-2007 in the From box and 12-31-2007 in the To box. This tells the system that you want to limit your analysis to children in the 2007 entry cohort.
- Scroll down to the Define Output section. Under Population Nickname, enter the words “2007 first admissions”.
- Then, under Build report, select Length of Stay and then click Build report.
- On the next screen, select Population Comparison.
- On the next screen, under Spell overview, select Re-entry. This tells the system to only return spells of children who re-entered care.
- Then scroll down to the Sample selection section and enter 01-01-2007 in the From box and 12-31-2007 in the To box. This tells the system that you want to stay within the 2007 entry cohort for this analysis; the only variable we’re manipulating here is Admission Type.
- Under Population Nickname, enter the words “2007 re-entries”. Then click Submit.
Here are the results for the county I analyzed:
In this county in 2007, 212 children entered foster care; 146 entered care for the first time and 56 returned to care after a previous spell. Those who entered care for the first time stayed in care considerably longer than children who re-entered. The median length of stay for first time entrants was 326 days (about 11 months), whereas the median length of stay for children re-entering care was 180 days (about six months). Taking another view, the survival curve shows that about 48% of first time entrants were still in care after one year, but that only about 28% of re-entrants were still in care after that same period of time.
Now, as in all research, this finding sparks more questions. Why would first time entrants have a longer length of stay than re-entrants? We can use the web tool to learn more about our comparison groups and get closer to the answer. Click to the next post to learn how.