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Public Policy and Administration


Anne Hacker


U.S. Child Protective Services Agencies (CPSA) have had mixed success in achieving stable, permanent placements for foster care children. To address the adverse effects of unstable placements on foster care children's emotional well-being and physical development, the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 was enacted to better ensure permanency, safety, and well-being of children in foster care. Using Stone's policy paradox as the framework, the purpose of this qualitative document analysis was to explore whether policy constructs contributed to the success or failure of promoting permanency for foster care children. Data was used from 2 states, representing those most and least successful in terms of decreasing foster care populations during federal fiscal years 2011 to 2014. Data for this study consisted of publicly available documents, including statues, policies, and official publications. These data were analyzed using an inductive coding approach and then subjected to a content analysis procedure. Key findings indicated the states differed in 3 critical policy areas: incentives to achieve progress towards reunification; facts used to change behaviors among policy actors to achieve the goal of recruiting adoptive and foster care parents; power in terms of how authority was delegated to service providers. The findings of this research may enhance policymakers' and advocates' knowledge of policy issues critical to achieving permanency for children. It is recommended that future policy changes focus on the needs of the children and the alignment of statutes, policies, and publications so they promote adequate incentives, utilization of factual information, and consistent policy interpretation at the federal and local levels.