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Worker time and the cost of stability

Listed author(s):
  • Susan Tregeagle
  • Elizabeth Cox
  • Catherine Forbes


  • Cathy Humphreys
  • Cas O'Neill

This paper investigates the time caseworkers spend supporting long-term foster care and adoption placements. Undertaken in Australia through collaboration between university and nongovernment agency researchers, the 'Cost of Support Study' tracked the hours that caseworkers spent supporting twenty-seven children and their carers over a nine month period. The placements were part of a 'Find-A-Family' program for 'hard to place children', many of whom had previously experienced multiple placement breakdowns. The program has a history of 78% stability on the first placement (over the young person's time in the program) and 93% by the second, with the type of support provided by this accredited agency's program detailed here. The weekly worker diaries reveal an average of 3 hours 32 minutes of worker time per week per placement; however wide variation is apparent in the time given to each placement, and depends on the characteristics of the child involved. Further, the resources required to support each placement are found by multiplying worker hours by the hourly cost per worker, using New South Wales government costings. The paper contributes to the important debate regarding the link between worker time and stability in care, by deepening our understanding of the costs involved in providing high quality support and supervision of casework.

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Paper provided by Monash University, Department of Econometrics and Business Statistics in its series Monash Econometrics and Business Statistics Working Papers with number 2/11.

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Length: 37 pages
Date of creation: Feb 2011
Handle: RePEc:msh:ebswps:2011-2
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  1. Oosterman, Mirjam & Schuengel, Carlo & Wim Slot, N. & Bullens, Ruud A.R. & Doreleijers, Theo A.H., 2007. "Disruptions in foster care: A review and meta-analysis," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 53-76, January.
  2. Allphin, Sally & Simmons, Brian & Barth, Richard P., 2001. "Adoption of foster children: How much does it cost public agencies?," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 23(11), pages 865-891, November.
  3. Fernandez, Elizabeth, 2009. "Children's wellbeing in care: Evidence from a longitudinal study of outcomes," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(10), pages 1092-1100, October.
  4. Brown, Jason D. & Bednar, Lisa M., 2006. "Foster parent perceptions of placement breakdown," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 28(12), pages 1497-1511, December.
  5. Christiansen, Øivin & Havik, Toril & Anderssen, Norman, 2010. "Arranging stability for children in long-term out-of-home care," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 32(7), pages 913-921, July.
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