Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Mary Evans

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© 2017 Evelyn J. Mittler


US Foster Care is already known to be an under researched and complex topic, and the literature that is done tends to focus on the need for more investigation to improve this ineffective system. Foster care has even been described as “one huge experiment that has been conducted on children”, at a “cost of untold billions of dollars” (Courtney, 2000). This comment doesn’t seem too far off—there is a consensus that more work needs to be done in the realm of child welfare services, and some studies have even questioned whether removals and placements by foster care are beneficial at all (Doyle, 2006). In order to improve foster care and decisions in treatment (as these decisions have significant impact on children’s safety and well-being), we need to be more effective in using our resources and understanding the needs of the population, and the trends that might be influencing foster care.

On that note, research by the US Department of Health and Human Services has shown a clear relationship between parental substance abuse and child abuse, and a study reported by Economic Inquiry (Cunningham, 2013), investigates this in terms of foster care. Cunningham’s study investigates the impact of methamphetamine abuse on admissions in foster care, and reports a significant causal relationship. This interesting report motivated me to investigate this further, and in terms of the recent opioid epidemic in the US.

In this study, I adapt Cunningham’s strategies to investigate the effect of the opioid epidemic on US Foster Care, at a more recent time period. Surprisingly, I find different results for the opioid epidemic than the meth shocks, despite many variations of the model to proxy opioid use. My results show a negative relationship from opioid use on foster care admissions, while also confirming Cunningham’s study with a positive relationship with methamphetamine use and foster care at a more recent time period. This study will explain the methods that attain these results, as well as the reasons driving the results in the discussion.

While contributing to Cunningham’s study, this study also contributes new research to a topic (the opioid epidemic) frequently mentioned in recent news. This study also considers the impact of this epidemic on individuals it might impact most, and addresses the gap in literature that exists regarding US Foster Care.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.