Understanding Postadoption and Guardianship Instability for Children and Youth Who Exit Foster Care, 2017 - 2022

For children in foster care, adoption and guardianship represent two important permanency outcomes. However, a finalized adoption or guardianship does not necessarily indicate that a child will experience long-term stability or have a permanent home. Instability may be formal (where a child re-enters foster care) or informal (where a child lives temporarily with another family member). 

The extent to which families experience both formal and informal postadoption and guardianship instability is uncertain. And, the reasons for this instability are not always clear. In addition, little is known about the potential of child welfare agencies to serve as a key source of information on instability. 

The purpose of the Understanding Postadoption and Guardianship Instability for Children and Youth Who Exit Foster Care project is to examine rates of instability, factors associated with instability, and the supports and resources that promote post-permanency stability. Ultimately, the project aims to support efforts to build the capacity of federal, state, and local agencies to get accurate information about instability for children who exit foster care to adoption or guardianship. To date, the project has conducted an assessment of the knowledge base related to postadoption and guardianship instability and developed design options for a group of studies that would leverage existing data and collect new data to obtain information on postadoption and guardianship instability

Currently, the project is finalizing plans to execute two studies:

  1. Survey of National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-being (NSCAW) Adopted Youth, Young Adults, Adults, and Adoptive Parents will gather information on the extent of post adoption instability events that occur in families who have adopted children who have exited the foster care system and factors potentially related to instability .
  2. Contact After Adoption or Guardianship:  Child  Welfare Agency and Family Interactions study will collect data on the intentional and unintentional ways public child welfare agencies are in contact with or receive information about the well-being of children and youth who have exited the foster care system through adoption or guardianship - in particular, information about the experiences of these children and youth with placement instability.

The contract for this project was awarded to RTI international.

Point(s) of contact: Alysia Blandon and Jacquelyn Gross.

Information collections related to this project have been reviewed and approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs under OMB #0970-0555. Related materials are available at the Survey of National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW) Adopted Youth, Young Adults, Adults and Adoptive Parents information collection page on RegInfo.gov. Visit disclaimer page

The most currently approved documents are accessible by clicking on the ICR Ref. No. with the most recent conclusion date. To access the information collections (E.g. interviews, surveys, protocols), click on View Information Collection (IC) List. Click on View Supporting Statement and Other Documents to access other supplementary documents.

Related Resources

For children living in foster care, adoption and guardianship are important permanency outcomes when reunification with their biological family is not an option. Most children living in adoptive or guardianship families do not reenter state custody after adoption or guardianship finalization. However, five to 20% of children may experience post adoption and guardianship instability (White et al., 2018). “Post adoption and guardianship instability” refers to situations in which children...