Age-specific risk factors associated with placement instability among foster children

Kierra M.P. Sattler, Sarah A. Font, Elizabeth T. Gershoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Placement instability places foster children at an increased risk of negative developmental outcomes. Previous research has yielded inconsistent results on risk factors for placement instability. Therefore, we investigated two research questions: (1) Which child attributes and case histories are associated with placement disruptions (moves indicative of child, agency or caregiver dissatisfaction with the existing placement)?; and (2) How do associations of child attributes and case histories with placement disruptions vary by developmental stage –early childhood (0–5 years), middle childhood (6–12 years), and adolescence (13 years or older)? Using a complete entry cohort of 23,765 foster children in Texas, our results demonstrated that the effects of different risk factors varied by placement end reason and across developmental stages. Of note, kinship placement, compared to non-relative foster care, and placement with all siblings were each associated with an increased risk of substandard care disruptions. Placements with females or Hispanic children were at an increased risk of child-initiated disruption, whereas placements with Black children were more likely to end due to placement mismatch or substandard care reasons. Finally, the adolescence age group was always associated with the greatest increase in risk regardless of disruption reason. These findings provide researchers, caseworkers, and policymakers important information on the risk factors for placement instability among children in foster care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)157-169
Number of pages13
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
StatePublished - Oct 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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