Why is Little Suzie in Foster Care?
An Analysis of Trends in Foster Placement in the Early 2000s

Dicussion

When we began our project, we sought to identify trends in DCF placement. Over the course of our research, we found the following:

  1. Infants and teenagers are more likely to be placed in foster care than children aged 4 through 12.
  2. There has been a steady downward trend in the number of children placed in foster care annually that ended in 2017 when a record 4,650 children were placed in the Connecticut foster care system.
  3. The data collection methods of the DCF make analysis of placement trends in rural vs urban areas impossible.
  4. Male children are more likely to be placed in foster care than female children, and data is not collected on placement rates of intersex and trans children.
  5. Black and hispanic children are more likely to be placed in foster care than their white peers.
  6. Family reunifications have been on a steep downward decline since 2005.






These findings can be used by DCF officials to anticipate the needs of incoming children in the Connecticut foster care system.

Limitations

We noted at the outset that our data was not generalizable to the entire US foster population because our sample size is small and the population of Connecticut is unrepresentative of the entire US population. For example, in our choropleth visualization we identified that we could not make conclusions regarding the rural/urban influence on placement because the data was labeled by regional office instead of county and the DCF website does not specify which counties each office serves. We further want to note that because the data only represents the years 2005-2018, we are unable to provide an analysis of the ways that the Covid-19 pandemic influenced foster placement in Connecticut. For this reason we argue that datasets with foster data through at least 2020 be made publicly accessible so that researchers can confirm that previous trends hold strong or identify changes wrought by Covid-19. In the absence of this data, it is much more difficult to be confident that any conclusions drawn over the course of this research have held true for the last year, or will hold true in the future.

Conclusions

Our project took data from the Connecticut Department of Children and Families and used it to identify trends in foster placement from 2005 through 2018. From this research we identified trends that are likely to help DCF officials predict the needs of incoming foster children based on their demographics. We believe that there is a clear and pressing need for this research because our examination of the family reunification numbers from 2005 to 2016 indicates that the DCF has been failing to provide children and families with the resources necessary to be reunited for years. Were we to continue this research, we would ask the same questions on a larger scale, ideally using datasets that are representative of the entire US foster population such as The Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS).

References

  1. deepgis. CT DEEP GIS Open Data Website Content - Political Boundaries. CT DEEP GIS Open Data Website, 2019. Web. 3 May 2021. https://ct-deep-gis-open-data-website-ctdeep.hub.arcgis.com/datasets/82672ae5f3764021b9a4804f524f928b_1?geometry=-75.681%2C40.844%2C-69.523%2C42.282
  2. CT DCF. Children Entering DCF Placement: Annual Trend by Age Group. data.ct.gov, 2020. Web. 3 May 2021. https://catalog.data.gov/dataset/children-entering-dcf-placement-annual-trend-by-age-group
  3. CT DCF. Children Entering DCF Placement: Annual Trend by Gender. data.ct.gov, 2020. Web. 3 May 2021. https://catalog.data.gov/dataset/children-entering-dcf-placement-annual-trend-by-gender
  4. CT DCF. Children Entering DCF Placement: Annual Trend by Race/Ethnicity. data.ct.gov, 2020. Web. 3 May 2021. https://catalog.data.gov/dataset/children-entering-dcf-placement-annual-trend-by-race-ethnicity
  5. CT DCF. Reunifications by SFY, DCF Office, Age at Exit and Length of Stay. data.ct.gov, 2020. Web. 3 May 2021. https://catalog.data.gov/dataset/reunifications-by-sfy-dcf-office-age-at-exit-and-length-of-stay
  6. Kuerzibe (2019) Radar Chart d3 v5 [Source code]. http://bl.ocks.org/Kuerzibe/338052519b1d270b9cd003e0fbfb712e
  7. Population Division, U.S. Census Bureau. Child population by race in Connecticut. Kids Count Data Center, 2020. Web. 3 May 2021. https://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/tables/103-child-population-by-race#detailed/2/8/false/37,871,870,573,869,36,868,867,133/68,69,67,12,70,66,71,72/423,424