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

A project by Grace Smith and Mimi Ughetta

Introduction

It is estimated that at this moment there are 424,000 children in foster care in the United States. With such a sizable population in need, we attempted to find what factors may increase a child's likelihood of entering the foster care system. Do the problems that send a child into foster care vary with age? What roles do race and gender status play? Is the foster care system meeting the needs of the children it is supposed to care for? To conduct our research, we used data on foster placements by the Connecticut Department for Children and Families (DCF), which served 37,568 youths between 2005 and 2018. We chose this project because we feel that through data visualization and analysis, the trends which determine foster care placement can be identified so that resources can be set aside for future children in need. Over the course of our research we discovered persistent trends in the demographics of children entering the care of the DCF which can be used to predict the makeup, and thus the needs, of future foster care children.

Data

Our research was based on data of foster care placements by the Connecticut Department for Children and Families (DCF), which served 37,568 youths from birth to over 18 years of age between 2005 and 2018. We used four DCF datasets which spoke to placement statistics over time and place by age, gender, race, and family reunification status. This is a sizable amount of data, but it is far smaller than the overall population of children in the foster care system in any given year, and is miniscule in comparison to the number of children that the foster care system served from 2005 to 2018. While there were other datasets that spoke to demographics in the entire US foster care system, their requirements for maintaining data privacy were too stringent for us to meet, meaning that to choose them would be to compromise our ability to present our findings publicly. We chose the DCF data set because we are passionate about the cause of improving foster care and wanted to be able to present our findings publicly. For this reason, we note that our findings are not generalizable to the entire foster care population in the United States. Our analysis is thus limited to the foster care system of Connecticut.

The Visualizations

Our project is presented in the order that we researched each of our questions. For this reason, we ask that you click the buttons on our navigation bar in the order that they are presented to view our presentation of our research chronologically. The navigation bar will highlight the viewer's current page so that one can easily navigate to the next visualization by selecting the button to the right of the highlighted button. Each of our research questions, data visualizations, and subsequent analysis are presented on each page. A discussion of our findings and citations of our sources can be found on the final page of our website.