Patterns of out-of-home placement decision-making in child welfare

Ka Ho Brian Chor*, Gary M. McClelland, Dana A. Weiner, Neil Jordan, John S. Lyons

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Out-of-home placement decision-making in child welfare is founded on the best interest of the child in the least restrictive setting. After a child is removed from home, however, little is known about the mechanism of placement decision-making. This study aims to systematically examine the patterns of out-of-home placement decisions made in a state's child welfare system by comparing two models of placement decision-making: a multidisciplinary team decision-making model and a clinically based decision support algorithm. Based on records of 7816 placement decisions representing 6096 children over a 4-year period, hierarchical log-linear modeling characterized concordance or agreement, and discordance or disagreement when comparing the two models and accounting for age-appropriate placement options. Children aged below 16 had an overall concordance rate of 55.7%, most apparent in the least restrictive (20.4%) and the most restrictive placement (18.4%). Older youth showed greater discordant distributions (62.9%). Log-linear analysis confirmed the overall robustness of concordance (odd ratios [ORs] range: 2.9-442.0), though discordance was most evident from small deviations from the decision support algorithm, such as one-level under-placement in group home (OR= 5.3) and one-level over-placement in residential treatment center (OR= 4.8). Concordance should be further explored using child-level clinical and placement stability outcomes. Discordance might be explained by dynamic factors such as availability of placements, caregiver preferences, or policy changes and could be justified by positive child-level outcomes. Empirical placement decision-making is critical to a child's journey in child welfare and should be continuously improved to effect positive child welfare outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)871-882
Number of pages12
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2013


  • Child welfare
  • Decision support algorithm
  • Log-linear modeling
  • Out-of-home placements
  • Team decision-making

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


Dive into the research topics of 'Patterns of out-of-home placement decision-making in child welfare'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this