Sigma: Journal of Political and International Studies


Mandi Eatough


foster care, abuse, neglect, privatization


Foster care in the U.S. is largely influenced by federal and state legislation. Since 1996, legislation establishing privatized foster care has become increasingly popular (Lee 2008). As levels of privatization increase nationwide, it is important to understand the impact this has on the daily lives of hundreds of thousands of children around the country. The movement toward privatizing foster care is generally attributed to the improvement in economic efficiency of case management by contracted child placement agencies (Hansen and Hansen 2006). However, the economic benefit afforded to states by privatizing foster care has been considered independently from the quality of care received by children in the system by child welfare reports and scholars alike. Studies relaying failed attempts at foster care privatization, such as Unruh and Hodgkin's (2004) evaluation of Kansas' failed privatization system in the early 2000s, regularly refer to economic problems with the specific program. However, studies such as Blackstone, Buck, and Hakim's (2004) evaluation of privatized foster care praise economic benefits based on agency placement efficiency as a reason for foster care privatization. These studies do not evaluate the quality of care provided to children in the system alongside the economic evaluations of the programs.