Identifying differences between privatized, partially privatized, and non-privatized state foster care systems: A comparative study examining efficiency and effectiveness

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Privatization of the public child welfare system has become increasingly popular since its introduction in the early 1990s. State governments that initiate the privatization of foster care services rationalize the changes with claims of effectiveness and/or increased efficiency of services for children and families. There has been no real focus on identifying what efficiency of the system means for children and their families, nor what aspects of effectiveness focuses on children in foster care. As a result, the unintended consequences of this total restructuring of foster care bureaucracy, through the privatization of the state foster care system — and its impact on the organization service delivery and the child — are as yet unknown. The primary aim of this study is investigate whether or not there are differences between state foster care systems and their levels of privatization, as well as the differences in states’ rates of efficiency and effectiveness with regard to a child’s trajectory of experience within the foster care system. Through the analysis of existing data on state-based child welfare service performance this project intends to increase the knowledge regarding the privatization of public child welfare systems and its effect on efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery.




Social Work


Virginia Commonwealth University