The purpose of this research is to examine whether the neighborhoods associated with foster care placement affect the risk of delinquent offending for adolescents in the child welfare system. The study will present the spatial distribution of placements and investigate the effect of neighborhood on delinquency. The study has three major hypotheses. The first hypothesis is that there are similarities between the spatial distribution of foster care placements and neighborhood demographics. Second, that concentrated disadvantages and immigrant concentration of the neighborhoods are positively associated with delinquency, while residential stability is negatively associated with delinquency. The third hypothesis is that concentrated disadvantages and immigrant concentration of the surrounding neighborhoods are positively associated with delinquency, while residential stability of the surrounding neighborhoods is negatively associated with delinquency.
The design is longitudinal and involves the analysis of a unique data sharing agreement in a large metropolitan county. The sample was comprised of 18,676 children from Cook County, Illinois. The sample included two birth cohorts born in 1983 and 1984. The sample was selected from the official child abuse and neglect records associated with the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services (IDCFS). All children were associated with at least one substantiated allegation of maltreatment. Sixty nine percent of the sample was African American, 19% was White and 12% was Hispanic, and less than 1% was Asian and Native American. Forty-eight percent of the sample was male. The average age at the time of maltreatment was 6.3 years old. The study will follow the placement experiences and juvenile arrests associated with the sample from birth through 18 years of age. The study will use data from IDCFS administrative data, Cook County juvenile court administrative data, the 1990 census, and the community survey of the Project of Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods (PHDCN).
To explore the patterns and distributions of foster care placements, the study will use mapping in ArcGIS. The researcher will compare the distribution of placements with the distribution of neighborhood characteristics from census data and the community survey of the PHDCN. The researcher will examine whether there are similarities between the spatial distribution of placements and neighborhood characteristics (e.g. concentrated disadvantage). Regarding the effect of immediate neighborhood, the researcher hypothesizes that immediate neighborhoods have impact on delinquency among the child welfare population, and the association between neighborhood demographics (concentrated disadvantage, immigrant concentration, residential stability) and delinquency among the child welfare population is mediated by social disorganization (collective efficacy, neighborhood disorder) and social norm (violent culture). Given that the data has a nested structure, the researcher will use multilevel structural equation modeling to test the hypothesis. In addition to immediate neighborhoods, the researcher hypothesizes that the surrounding neighborhoods will be associated with delinquency among the child welfare population as well. The study will use spatial cross-regressive modeling to test this hypothesis. The researcher will use the distance-decay strategy for the spatial weight matrix. The analyses are intended to help child welfare and juvenile justice system develop effective strategies to reduce the risk of delinquency for an extremely vulnerable and high risk population. ca/ncf