American Indian Reunification in Foster Care

Exploring Family Outcomes for Children Separated from Families

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In collaboration with Virginia Tech and other academic partners, University of Denver researchers examined rates of family reunification for American Indian children in long-term foster care. The project aimed to advance a better understanding of how racial factors relate to reunification rates, as compared to other non-racial factors. The results of this study confirmed the need for further exploration of the factors that influence reunification of American Indian children with their families, indicating new pathways toward improving the lives of the affected children from tribal communities.

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About the Project

Before this study, co-authored by Jennifer L. Bellamy from the University of Denver, the available research data on family reunification among American Indian children in long-term foster care situations held significant gaps in the knowledge of how race affects these family outcomes.

Using data from the long-term foster care sample of the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW I), the researchers examined a set (N = 456) of 456 children from American Indian, African American, and White heritage, aged 2–15.

The study indicated that when controlling for other factors, race is not a significant predictor of whether a child will reunify with family after 18- and 36-month check-ins, suggesting that other factors such as type of placement and emotional-behavioral problems might more closely associated with reunification rates.

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Jennifer L. Bellamy

As a professor at the DU Graduate School of Social Work, Jennifer Bellamy specializes in child welfare, family systems and social justice. Her work centers around the impact of fathers on family function and developing better ways to engage with men through social and family services.