Proctor, Laura J. , Randazzo, Katherine Van Dusen, Litrownik, Alan J. , Newton, Rae R. , Davis,Inger P. , Villodas, Miguel. (2011) Factors associated with caregiver stability in permanent placements: A classification tree approach. Child Abuse & Neglect, Volume 35, Issue 6, June 2011, 425-436.
Identify individual and environmental variables associated with caregiver stability and instability for children in diverse permanent placement types (i.e., reunification, adoption, and long-term foster care/guardianship with relatives or non-relatives), following 5 or more months in out-of-home care prior to age 4 due to substantiated maltreatment. Participants were 285 children from the Southwestern site of Longitudinal Studies of Child Abuse and Neglect (LONGSCAN). Caregiver instability was defined as a change in primary caregiver between ages 6 and 8 years. Classification and regression tree (CART) analysis was used to identify the strongest predictors of instability from multiple variables assessed at age 6 with caregiver and child reports within the domains of neighborhood/community characteristics, caregiving environment, caregiver characteristics, and child characteristics. One out of 7, or 14% of the 285 children experienced caregiver instability in their permanent placement between ages 6 and 8. The strongest predictor of stability was whether the child had been placed in adoptive care. However, for children who were not adopted, a number of contextual factors (e.g., father involvement, expressiveness within the family) and child characteristics (e.g., intellectual functioning, externalizing problem behaviors) predicted stability and instability of permanent placements. Current findings suggest that a number of factors should be considered, in addition to placement type, if we are to understand what predicts caregiver stability and find stable permanent placements for children who have entered foster care. These factors include involvement of a father figure, family functioning, and child functioning. Adoption was supported as a desired permanent placement in terms of stability, but results suggest that other placement types can also lead to stability. In fact, with attention to providing biological parents, relative, and non-relative caregivers with support and resources (e.g., emotional, financial, and optimizing father involvement or providing a stable adult figure) the likelihood that a child will have a stable caregiver may be increased.