Risk assessment for foster placement breakdown: The predictive value of the strengths and difficulties questionnaire and foster child and foster family characteristics

F.B. van Rooij, C.van der Put, A.M. Maaskant, D. Folkering, J.M.A. Hermanns - Children and Youth Services Review


A significant number of long-term foster placements, intended to provide the child with a stable and safe family rearing environment until the age of 18, end unplanned. This study examined the predictive power of the Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) for predicting foster placement breakdown. It was examined whether the predictive value of the SDQ could be improved by developing a risk classification in which the SDQ scales are combined with foster child and foster family characteristics. The present sample consisted of 526 foster children. Foster parents initially filled out a questionnaire (SDQ and foster child and foster family characteristics). After 4 years files were analyzed on whether or not the foster placement broke down and the reason for break down. A CHAID-analysis was performed to develop the risk classification. Results showed that both the SDQ total difficulties score as well as the impact supplement have medium to high predictive power for placement breakdown (AUC = 0.75 and 0.70, respectively). A risk classification based on the SDQ total difficulties score, the age the child was placed with the foster family, the presence of other foster children and the SDQ hyperactivity /attention problems score had high predictive power (AUC = 0.82). Both the SDQ and the newly developed risk classification showed to be valuable tools for predicting placement breakdown. Both tools might help foster care organizations to monitor the placement and assist foster families timely to prevent breakdown.