Out-of-Home Placement Decision-Making and Outcomes in Child Welfare: A Longitudinal Study
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After children enter the child welfare system, subsequent out-of-home placement decisions and their impact on children’s well-being are complex and under-researched. This study examined two placement decision-making models: a multidisciplinary team approach, and a decision support algorithm using a standardized assessment. Based on 3,911 placement records in the Illinois child welfare system over 4 years, concordant (agreement) and discordant (disagreement) decisions between the two models were compared. Concordant decisions consistently predicted improvement in children’s well-being regardless of placement type. Discordant decisions showed greater variability. In general, placing children in settings less restrictive than the algorithm suggested (“under-placing”) was associated with less severe baseline functioning but also less improvement over time than placing children according to the algorithm. “Over-placing” children in settings more restrictive than the algorithm recommended was associated with more severe baseline functioning but fewer significant results in rate of improvement than predicted by concordant decisions. The importance of placement decision-making on policy, restrictiveness of placement, and delivery of treatments and services in child welfare are discussed.
KeywordsChild welfare Out-of-home placements Team decision-making Decision support algorithm Outcomes
This study was funded by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (IDCFS). The authors would like to give special thanks to the Child and Youth Investment Teams (CAYIT), especially Teddy Savas and Lee Annes, for their invaluable insight and input.
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