Study Says Foster Care Worse Than Abusive Homes

In case the bad news on Rhode Island’s foster care system wasn’t enough, here’s some bad news on the foster care system in Illinois — a larger, longer-term study that may have broader implications. From USA Today:

Children whose families are investigated for abuse or neglect are likely to do better in life if they stay with their families than if they go into foster care, according to a pioneering study.

The findings intensify a vigorous debate in child welfare: whether children are better served with their families or away from them.

Kids who stayed with their families were less likely to become juvenile delinquents or teen mothers and more likely to hold jobs as young adults, says the study by Joseph Doyle, an economics professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management who studies social policy.

“The size of the effects surprised me, because all the children come from tough families,” Doyle says. The National Science Foundation funded the study.

Doyle says his research, which tracked at least 15,000 kids from 1990 to 2002, is the largest study to look at the effects of foster care. He studied kids in Illinois because of a database there that links abuse investigations to other government records. [full text]

The news on trends in helping children is not all bad, though, as evidenced by this related story about how the number of single men adopting foster children has increased by 40%.

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3 responses

  1. i remember Newt Gingrich proposing that we take children from troubled homes and put them in orphaneges. he was asked if children should be removed when the parents were just poor, and he wasn’t sure. we could sure do a better job of supporting parents, and of identifying which children really need to be rescued from abusive families.

  2. [...] Hartford Courant staff writer Charles Proctor asked child welfare professionals in Connecticut about the recent study performed by Joseph Doyle on foster children, which we posted about here. This study is being considered the first empirical evidence that children taken out of the home have more problems with teen pregnancy and illegal behavior, and also are less likely to hold jobs than those who remained in the home. [...]

  3. If we’re going to snatch kids away from their homes, we need to make sure that they’re going to a place that’s actually better, not worse. So many foster parents don’t actually care about the kids and so many of them abuse their foster children. I was put in foster care for only a month when I was 14 and I was lucky enough to have known my foster mom and dad beforehand and was able to request to go to them. They were my little sister’s soccer coach and wife. They told me of all kinds of horror stories where foster parents would hold down their children and torture them by spraying water from a water hose directly in their face for long periods of time. Or they would litterally chain up their refridgerators so no one could eat. So many awful things happen to children in foster homes, and I thought we were trying to protect them by taking them away from their homes in the first place. If we “care” enough to snatch them, we need to care enough to put them in a place that’s actually better. Otherwise it would be no different for us just to leave them where they were and not have to give money to people to take care of them when they don’t really care.

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