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Placement Stability in Child Welfare

Photo of family of four holding hands on the beach.According to data from the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation's National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW), 22.3 percent of children in families investigated for maltreatment were placed out of home at least once in the 18 months following the close of investigation.

Among those placed out of home:

  • 72.6 percent had one placement
  • 18.9 percent had two placements
  • 8.5 percent had three or more placements

The oldest children in the study (13 to 17 years old) had a higher number of mean placements than younger children.

This kind of placement instability is associated with increased health and mental health needs and impaired social-emotional development. These data highlight the need for continued emphasis on placement stability in child welfare, including ongoing support for foster and kin caregivers, as well as assessment and service provision to youth.

Naomi Goldstein is Director of the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation in the Administration for Children and Families at the Department of Health and Human Services. She is responsible for advising the Assistant Secretary for Children and Families on increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of ACF programs.

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