Foster care is a poorly studied and poorly understood social service program. In particular, foster care has received almost no attention from poverty policy analysts in spite of its growing size and close relationship to the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program. In this article, I describe historical and recent trends in foster care caseloads and costs and suggest that the child welfare services system is in a state of crisis. I describe the current policy framework in child welfare, arguing that it does not hold out much promise for resolving this crisis. Lastly, I argue that it is perilous for politicians and policy analysts to ignore the potential impact of currently discussed welfare reform efforts on the foster care system.
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