There has been very little agreement on the ultimate goals of out-of-home care. Tension has always existed between “child saving” and “family preservation,” and the emphasis has sometimes shifted dramatically between the two. The Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 (P.L. 96–272) came down decisively in favor of preserving families or of ensuring that children moved quickly from out-of-home care to permanent adoptive families. Out-of-home care was viewed as the least desirable alternative—perhaps a consequence of the failure to achieve permanent placement. As the caseload has grown and the controversy over ends has continued, it has become particularly critical to determine what we really know about out-of-home care and its long-term effects on the children served. It is frequently claimed, for example, that most of the long-term effects of foster care are negative: that former foster-care children are disproportionately represented among the homeless, the unemployed, the welfare-dependent, and the delinquent. But there are gaping holes in our knowledge of the circumstances and outcomes of children in foster care—in part, as is noted below, because of the absence of well-designed and commensurably oriented studies. (author introduction)
Assessing the long-term effects of foster care: An elusive mission
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