The Reunification of American Indian Children in Long-term Foster Care

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Graduate School of Social Work


Objective: The literature examining reunification for American Indian children reveals mixed findings regarding racial differences. Studies that isolate the impact of race on reunification while controlling for other covariates are needed, and this study fills that gap. Method: Data are from the long-term foster care sample of the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW I). We examined a sample (N = 456) of American Indian, African American, and White children ages 2–15 at baseline (M = 7.98 years, SD = 4.17). Using nearest-neighbor propensity score matching, we estimated the effect of race on reunification at 18- and 36-month follow-up. We used logistic regression analyses to explore factors associated with reunification in addition to race. Results: Our findings suggest that reunification rates do not differ based on race after controlling for other factors. American Indian children were statistically no more or less likely to reunify than their White or African American peers. Conclusions: Lower rates of reunification for American Indian children may be better explained by covariates in the propensity score model and regression analyses (e.g., age, emotional–behavioral problems, type of placement) rather than race.

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