To examine changes in reported functioning over a 12-month follow-up period and predictors of those changes for a cohort of young children enrolled in foster care.
Data came from a longitudinal follow-up of a cohort of young children entering foster care in one Connecticut region. These data were originally assembled to evaluate the effectiveness of a specialized set of services designed to provide a baseline multidisciplinary assessment and ongoing monitoring for young children entering foster care.
Setting and Participants
From February 1, 1992, through July 31, 1993, all young children (N = 120) entering foster care in one Connecticut region were enrolled in this study. Children were assessed at entry into care and at 6 and 12 months after entry. Participation rates exceeded 90% at each follow-up period.
Main Outcome Measures
The principal outcome of interest for these analyses is 12-month functioning as measured by the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scale (VABS) scores completed by their foster mothers.
At entry into foster care, children ranged in age from 11 to 76 months, were evenly divided by sex, and had a mean VABS score of 79.5 signifying functioning below the average range. At 6 months children gained an average of 7.87 points on their VABS score. By 12 months children showed an average change of 9.65 points, for a mean VABS score of 94.5, well within the nationally normed average range. The multivariate linear model predicting the 12-month VABS score showed that, controlling for the baseline VABS score, when children who were abused, older at placement, female, of African American ethnicity, spent more time in foster care, and had fewer recommended services while in care, they were more likely to show improvement on the foster mother–reported VABS evaluation.
These results demonstrate that children's reported functioning improves over the course of placement in foster care and that sociodemographic characteristics, reason for placement, length of time in foster care, and fewer recommended services at entry into foster care identified children who were more likely to improve. These results argue for a careful examination of the foster care environment to better understand which aspects of the environment contribute to improved foster mother reported functioning. Such understanding will be critical for the care and development of maltreated children.