For more than two decades, the Children’s Bureau has awarded waivers to help states create new knowledge about innovative and effective child welfare practices. Through these waivers, states may spend federal funds in ways not normally allowed under current U.S. laws and regulations.
Eleven states have received waivers to explore the use of subsidized guardianship—ongoing financial support to eligible children who exit the child welfare system into the permanent care of a legal guardian—when adoption and reunification are not viable options. In this report, JBA synthesizes results from evaluations of grantees’ demonstration projects.
Most states realized cost savings as a result of their subsidized guardianship demonstrations, primarily through reduced lengths of stay in foster care and subsequent reductions in administrative expenses. For example, administrative costs associated with subsidized guardianship were only $49.38 per child in Illinois compared with $1,842.36 per child in foster care. Tennessee estimated that it would have spent more than $1 million more in combined foster care maintenance and administrative overhead in the absence of a subsidized guardianship waiver.
per child in foster care in Illinois
per child in a subsidized guardianship in Illinois
- Illinois, Minnesota, Tennessee, and Wisconsin demonstrated significant boosts in net permanency rates—ranging from 6.6 percent in Illinois to 18 percent in Wisconsin— for children randomly assigned to an experimental group over those assigned to a control group.
- Findings from Illinois, Minnesota, Tennessee, and Wisconsin suggest that reunification rates were not significantly impacted by the availability of subsidized guardianship.
- Evidence from Illinois, Minnesota, Oregon, Tennessee, and Wisconsin suggests that the availability of subsidized guardianship decreased length of time in out-of-home placement, with reductions ranging from 269 days in Illinois to 80 days in Tennessee.
- Findings from Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Oregon, and Wisconsin suggest that children placed with guardians are at least as safe as or safer from repeat maltreatment than children in other permanent settings, particularly reunification.
- Data from Iowa, Tennessee, and Wisconsin indicate that children with access to subsidized guardianship experience comparable rates of placement stability (i.e., number of placement changes) as children in other placement arrangements. Illinois and Tennessee’s demonstrations suggest that stability may be more closely tied to the nature and quality of a child’s relationship to the caregiver than to the legal status of that relationship.
- Illinois, Iowa, Oregon, Tennessee, and Wisconsin reported no significant differences in the proportion of experimental and control group children that re-entered foster care after exiting to permanency.
- Findings from Illinois, Minnesota, Montana, Oregon, and Wisconsin suggest that children in subsidized guardianship arrangements fare as well as or better than children in foster care or other permanent settings with respect to factors such as school performance and engagement in risky behaviors.