Highlighting adolescents’ involvement with the child welfare system: A review of recent trends, policy developments, and related researchedit
Nationwide, adolescents account for approximately 35% of the total child welfare out-of-home care population. Yet research on numerous aspects of adolescents’ involvement with the child welfare system is lacking relative to research that focuses on infants and toddlers. This article provides a critical review of contemporary research – including current gaps in the research literature – and of federal policies that are pertinent to this adolescent population. In addition, this article contains a broad overview of the current demographics of the child welfare dynamics of this age group, based on information from federal and multi-state statistics, as well as from empirical qualitative and quantitative research investigations. Using the structure of the mandates of the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 – or the promotion of safety, permanency, and well-being – this article presents the review of the current research within this format. For the domain of well-being, the focus is largely on the need for enhanced research investigations of adolescents’ mental health challenges, as well as the lack of effective policy interventions for many child welfare involved adolescents afflicted with mental health difficulties. The article concludes with recommendations for future areas of research and policy focus for the population of child welfare involved adolescents.