NSCAW One Year in Foster Care Wave 1 Data Analysis Report

Publication Date: November 15, 2003


This report focuses on a subset of over 700 children who have been in foster care for one year. The information provided here was collected from child welfare workers; current relative, foster parent, or group caregivers; and the children themselves. In authorizing the study, special concerns of Congress included the length of time that children spend in foster care and other out-of-home care settings, as well as how children fare developmentally during these experiences. For this reason, this subset of an additional 700 children was added to the core NSCAW sample of 5,500 children entering the child welfare system (and the study) at the point of contact with Children’s Protective Services (CPS). The One Year in Foster Care (OYFC) component of the NSCAW study is intended to identify important processes and outcomes involved in the provision and experience of out-of-home care. Out-of-home care includes conventional foster care, kinship foster care, group care, residential treatment, and other settings.

At one year, these children are being assessed at an opportune time, as Federal child welfare law calls for a decision to be made about the permanent plan (i.e., reunification, adoption, guardianship) of children in foster care and discourages stays beyond one year without “compelling reasons.” This report provides the first national look at the characteristics of this particular sample of children in foster care for one year.

This report is also significant because it is based on the individual case-level data from NSCAW. The two previous reports (U.S. DHHS, June 2001) looked at state- and county-level child welfare services characteristics. For this reason, the data collection and analytical methods and measures are thoroughly detailed. Although this report seeks to identify key findings from these baseline data, a comprehensive analysis of these data was not possible due to the sheer size of the dataset. Further analyses can be generated from these data, which are available to the research community in the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect (NDACAN) at Cornell University.

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