The Children’s Stability and Well-Being Study (CSAW): Responding to the Needs of Youth in Foster Care

Statement of Problem

According to national estimates, two-thirds of children who are in foster care for more than a year experience three or more placements. Placement instability is a risk factor for negative health, educational, and social-emotional outcomes. Little is known about factors that impact placement stability, and placement decisions that promote resiliency for children in out-of-home care. Federal legislation in the 2008 Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act highlights the importance of placement stability through promoting educational stability and placement with kin.


Responding to the needs of youth in foster care

Child welfare-involved youth in our study missed twice as many school days (25) as children in the District missed overall (12).

This project captured how the child welfare system influenced placement stability and child well-being a group of 400 young children who entered out-of-home care in Philadelphia between 2006-2008. Partnering with the Philadelphia Department of Human Services the project examined; 1) the relationship of placement stability to school outcomes for children; 2) the challenges for relatives who were raising their children in kinship care; and 3) the system barriers that worked against providing placement stability for children. This longitudinal study built upon earlier work by the team examining the influence of placement stability on outcomes for foster care youth in the National Survey of Child & Adolescent Well-Being.

The legal and policy team is actively engaged in this project, working locally and at the national level to identify how project findings can inform policy change.

Next Steps

The CSAW program has had both regional and national influence in guiding reforms within the child welfare system. Locally, the team has worked with the performance management unit of Philadelphia’s child welfare system to more systematically measure placement disruptions on children, increase the availability of behavioral services earlier in care, strengthen coordination of services with the School District of Philadelphia, and improve the use of kinship care as a resource to improve outcomes for children. The work has led to new portfolios of work examining the concerns around over-prescribing of psychotropic medications to foster care youth, and developing more integrated models of behavioral health services embedded into the child welfare care system. The study has been frequently cited by the U.S. Children’s Bureau as they have sought to respond to the needs of youth in the nation’s child welfare system.

This project page was last updated in January 2019.

Suggested Citation

The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, PolicyLab. The Children's Stability and Well-Being Study (CSAW): Responding to the Needs of Youth in Foster Care [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: plug in date access here]. 

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