More than two million child abuse reports are filed annually on behalf of children in the United States. Each of the reported children becomes a concern, at least temporarily, of the professional who files the report, and each family is assessed by additional professionals. A substantial number of children in these families will subsequently enter foster care.
Until now, the relationships between the performance of our child welfare system and the growth and outcomes of foster care have not been understood. In an effort to clarify them, Barth and his colleagues have synthesized the results of their longitudinal study in California of the paths taken by children after the initial abuse report: foster care, a return to their homes, or placement for adoption.
Because the outcomes of child welfare services in California have national significance, this is far more than a regional study. It provides a comprehensive picture of children's experiences in the child welfare system and a gauge of the effectiveness of that system. The policy implications of the California study have bearing on major federal and state initiatives to prevent child abuse and reduce unnecessary foster and group home care.