An University of Washington (UW) study by Frank Edwards, a UW doctoral student in sociology, links a state's policy and approach to social problems with the number of children in its foster care system. The study reveals that foster care numbers across the county are not solely driven by child abuse and neglect - two states with comparable rates of child abuse and neglect could have very dissimilar rates of children entering foster care. Children are removed from their homes more frequently in states with more punitive criminal justice systems than those states with generous welfare programs.
"Comparing the data for various states, Edwards found that states with more punitive criminal justice systems generally had higher rates of foster care and tended to put children in treatment centers or other restrictive environments more often. Conversely, those with more generous welfare structures had lower rates of foster care, and lower rates of restrictive confinement for children in foster care."