Recipe: Infants in foster care—Part 3
In Part 1 of this series of Recipes, we learned about a county where infants represent the largest proportion of children entering foster care. In Part 2, we found out that those infants stayed in care longer than children who entered care at older ages. In this Recipe, we’ll use another function of the web tool to learn more about who these infants are and what they experience while in care, and use what we learn to inform our decision making about the type of intervention they might need.
This Recipe will take about 10 minutes to complete.
Question: What are the demographic and case-related characteristics of the infants in my system? In what ways are the children in my system who enter as infants different from the children who enter care at older ages?
- Follow the steps in the previous Recipe.
- On the results page, scroll to the top and click Go to Demographic Comparison in the upper right hand corner. Clicking this button will compare the characteristics of your base population to those of your most recently added comparison population. Because our analysis only deals with two comparison groups (children who entered care as infants vs. children who entered care at older ages), clicking Go to Demographic Comparison will compare these two groups.
- At the top of the results page you’ll see the selection criteria that define your two groups. Scroll down and under Report options, select All. Then click Display Report.
The results will appear at the bottom of the screen in an internal box with its own scroll bar. If you prefer to see the results laid out in one document, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click Download PDF.
Because I’m focused here on the needs of infants, I want to hone in on the characteristics that make them unique and consider whether any of those characteristics could play a role in their increased length of stay. Here are some of the more interesting results for the county I analyzed:
- Infants are much more likely (81%) than older children (54%) to experience non-relative foster care as their predominant placement type.
- Infants are much more likely (40%) than older children (9%) to exit care to adoption. [Note, however, that as of the censor date, 20% of older children (and 17% of infants) were still in care; as time goes on, the “still in care” children will leave that category and fall into one of the exit type categories. Still, in this case, even if all of the older children still in care exited to adoption in the future and none of the remaining infants did, that would only add up to 29% of older children getting adopted—a rate that would still be considerably lower than that of the infants.]
- When infants do reunify with their families, they reunify much faster. Whereas 71% of infants who reunified went home within 90 days, only 19% of older children who reunified went home in that period of time. [It is important to note, though, that in this case, only 7 infants reunified by the censor date.]
- Infants’ placements are more stable than those of older children. Whereas 56% of infants experienced no placement moves prior to the censor date, 43% of older children experienced no movement within that timeframe.
Before we executed this Recipe, we knew that in this county, infants represent a relatively large proportion of children in care and stay in care longer than older children. In this Recipe, we learned that infants in this county are also more likely to be placed in non-relative foster care, more likely to exit to adoption, more likely to have placement stability, and when they reunify, more likely to reunify within 90 days.
All of this adds to the knowledge base on which we can draw as we consider what type of intervention could help improve permanency outcomes for infants. Is there a way to engage those non-relative foster parents to help speed along permanency? Is there something to be learned from the experience of those infants who reunified within 90 days that we can apply to our casework with infants systemwide? Up to this point, we’ve viewed a lot of data on infants in this county, but we haven’t been able to dig into the actual casework, which would help us get at these next questions. Click to the next post to find out how we can use the web tool to dig further.