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Abstract

This paper aims to illustrate the viability of using concepts and theoretical arguments from organization ecology to analyze dynamic change processes in foster care. The general topic is the relationship between foster homes and their environments. The specific focus is the effects of the environment on the entry and exit patterns of new foster homes. Drawing on our earlier studies of the 23 year history of a population of foster homes, various hypotheses shown to have validity in accounting for the processes underlying the founding and disbanding offormal organizations, also apply in the case of the entry and exit processes offoster homes. One important contribution of this paper is in re-asserting the role of theory in studying foster care, and in helping organize existing knowledge. A second contribution is in reminding us that foster homes should be conceptualized and studied as existing in relation to their social context. They are embedded in social and organizational communities, and the nature of this embeddedness has important implications not only for understanding their behavior but also for how they should be approached in policy terms.

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