Spring/Summer Valedictorians: Changing the world a cap and gown at a time

With the end of the spring/summer terms comes another inspiring graduating class of Cougars.

The College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences boasts some of the best and brightest of the more than 30,000 students who walk across campus each year. This graduation, we celebrate the almost 400 FHSS graduates and their studies, efforts and experiences that are helping families, individuals and communities thrive. From Orem, Utah, to Tokyo, Japan, our graduates act as forces for good across the county and world.

Check out these adventurous, ambitious, and world-changing valedictorians:

Alexander Baxter PictureAlexander Baxter, a psychology major, loves studying monkeys. As a sophomore, Alexander started working in Dr. Dee Higley’s nonhuman primate research lab. In conjunction with Dr. Daniel Kay, he studied mother-infant attachment and infant sleep development. Alexander went on a summer internship to the California National Primate Research Center at the University of California, Davis. While there, he collected data for his own project of studying prenatal testosterone exposure. He loved the experience so much that he spent the rest of his time at BYU in Dr. Higley’s lab, and went on the internship two more times to collect data. Alexander presented his research with Dr. Higley at four professional conferences, six undergraduate research conferences, and published two first-authored research papers in peer-reviewed journals. In addition to studying attachment and social relationships in monkeys, Alexander also studied similar topics regarding humans, under the mentorship of Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad. Through the connections he made on his internship, Alexander was accepted into the biological psychology PhD program at UC Davis, and will continue doing research at the Primate Center. He is grateful for Elizabeth Wood, his lab manager and friend, and for Dr. Higley, his mentor. He will always remember Dr. Higley’s most important lesson: the people you work with are more important than the data they help you collect.

Berklee Baum PictureBerklee Annell Baum is a teaching social science major with minors in both history and teaching English as a second language. She grew up in Orem, Utah, and served a mission in Los Angeles, California. Berklee has always had a passion for learning about history and culture. During her education at BYU, she participated in a social work internship in Italy and was able to do historical research in Germany, Poland, and Austria. She was a member of Phi Alpha Theta History Honors Society, which gave her

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Want to stop corruption? Text voters

A new study shows texting information about political corruption can improve democratic election outcomes.

BYU political science professor Daniel Nielson teamed up with three other professors to look at elections in Uganda, which suffers a range of challenges due to economic, political and social corruption. This study was done as part of a broader project, Metaketa I, which funded six studies in five countries to investigate how disseminating information about corruption impacted voting patterns.

“I am always looking for ways to understand how corruption might be addressed,” said Nielson, whose study was recently published in top-ranked journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “Helping voters to hold politicians more accountable seems a promising part of the answer to that puzzle.”

In Uganda, Nielson noted, citizens struggle to vote out corrupt politicians due to state control of media, low civic education, untrustworthy institutions and uncompetitive elections.

During the 2016 Ugandan district elections, Nielson and his co-authors worked with Twaweza, a Ugandan-based organization that promotes good governance, to send mobile phone text messages to inform 16,000 voters about suspected budget fraud by local government councils.

The team was able to contact 16,000 citizens, significantly more than is typical in such studies. They found that the impact of the text messages changed citizens’ votes between 2 and 6 percent. This data would have been difficult to detect had the team only surveyed a few thousand participants, but their wide reach provided them the statistical power to detect small changes in the population’s voting behavior.

Voters who learned that suspected fraud in the political candidates was greater than they expected were 6 percent less likely to vote for incumbents. Those that learned that fraud was less than expected were 5 percent more likely to vote for incumbents.

“We see this as a bright spot that might suggest some ways forward for other non-governmental organizations when they design public-information campaigns,” said Nielson. “Our job as researchers is to point in promising directions.”

FHSS Valedictorians: Setting the Curve

BYU is famous for many things: Cosmo the Cougar, being ranked the number 1 “Stone Cold Sober” school 20 years running, and our awesome chocolate milk. Our amazing graduates however, trump all. The graduating class this year is one of the school’s biggest, which the majority of the females being returned missionaries.  From undergraduate research in Thailand to managing a neuroscience lab, FHSS boasts some of the most accomplished graduates. Check out our incredible valedictorians:

Boone Robins Christianson, of Provo, had no idea what anthropology was when he declared it as a major his freshman year. He wants to thank his parents Marlin and LaDonn for supporting him even though they were equally confused about what he could do with the degree. Throughout his time at BYU, Boone has spent the majority of his studies researching African agricultural development, including conducting research in Malawi and Namibia. In addition, he speaks Otjiherero, a rare language spoken by small groups of people from those countries. Despite his successes in anthropology, Boone has decided to pursue a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy, and will begin his pursuit of this degree at Auburn University in Alabama this upcoming fall. Boone has enjoyed being involved in intermural sports, the Diction Club, and being an active participant in his LDS campus wards. He loves spending long hours playing Boggle and eating cereal.

boone baby

John Frederick Bonney, an economics major, is the son of Philip and Georgia Bonney. He grew up in the US, Senegal, and Italy, and served a mission in the Netherlands. John has thoroughly enjoyed working with faculty at BYU, performing research in areas including behavioral, educational, and familial economics and teaching other students about applied econometric research. He is grateful to the economics faculty for their stellar instruction and would specifically like to thank Drs. Lars Lefgren, Joe Price, and James Cardon for allowing him to enhance his learning through research and teaching assistantships. While attending BYU, John has also completed four internships during which he designed market research and forecasted models currently in use by multiple Fortune 500 companies. Within the community, John has enjoyed serving through educational organizations like Alpha and Project Read. John is happily married to Amanda Bonney, who is graduating with a Master of Accountancy. After graduating, John will continue his passion for economic research as a pre-doctoral fellow at the University of Chicago.

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Grayson Morgan, a geography major with a geospatial science and technology emphasis, is the second child born to Daniel and Michelle Morgan and grew up in Beaufort, South Carolina. Geography has surrounded him his whole life, but it wasn’t until his freshman year that he realized that it was exactly what he wanted to do. During his short time at BYU, Grayson has come to thoroughly enjoy his encounters with the various Geography Department Professors, secretaries, TAs, and fellow students. Certainly, much of his learning could not have taken place without their generous help and overwhelming kindness. His family means the world to him and he would like to thank his wife, parents, siblings, and extended family for their support. Grayson loves serving others, BYU sports, playing with his two-month-old daughter, and learning new things. He is excited to continue learning this fall as he begins a master’s degree and eventual PhD program in Global Information Systems/Remote Sensing at the University of South Carolina.

Morgan

Kaytlin Fay Anne Nalder, a history teaching major, grew up in Alberta, Canada. She is the sixth of seven children born to Byron and Deanne Nalder. Her love for history began in high school, but it wasn’t until she came to BYU that she considered majoring in it. While at BYU, Kaytlin was able to work as both a teaching and research assistant for Dr. Underwood, a job which was one of the highlights of her undergraduate experience. She was also the recipient of two history paper awards including the De Lamar and Mary Jensen Student Paper Award in European History and the Carol Cornwall Madsen Student Paper Award in Women’s History. Kaytlin enjoys skiing, reading, cooking, crocheting, and spending time with family and friends. She would like to thank all of the wonderful mentors and professors she was privileged to work with during her time at BYU, as well as her family and friends for their support and encouragement.

Nalder Picture

Marissa Skinner, a family life major with an emphasis in Human Development, is the daughter of Terry and Lottie Anderson. Although she grew up in Salt Lake City, she is a Cougar fan through and through. She discovered her passion for human development simply by taking a general class and has been hooked ever since. During her time at BYU, she served as a council member for Y-Serve, served a mission in the Philippines, and worked closely with many professors to conduct research projects regarding the topics of gender-socialization and moral development. Marissa also conducted two research projects that she presented at conferences on campus. She is so excited to implement what she has learned in her program and hopes she can make a difference because of it. She would like to thank her husband, family, and faculty members for pushing her out of her comfort zone and helping her reach her goals.

Marissa Skinner

Reed Lynn Rasband, a political science major, is the son of Kevin Rasband and Heather Watts and is the oldest of eight children. He grew up raising sheep in Brigham City, Utah and served a mission in Rancagua, Chile. As an undergraduate, he was able to carry out research for his Honors thesis in Thailand, additional research in the United Kingdom, and an internship with a refugee camp on the Thai-Burma border. He worked for four years as a teaching and research assistant in the Political Science department. He has also served as the President of the BYU Political Affairs Society, as Editor-in-Chief for the undergraduate journal Sigma, and as a volunteer with two organizations serving the Utah County Latino community. This fall, he will begin work on a Ph.D. in political science, focusing on ethnic and migration politics in the hopes of finding ways to improve intergroup relations around the globe. He is incredibly grateful for the continuing support his family provides him, as well as for the excellent mentorship he has received from BYU faculty.

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Charlotte Esplin, a psychology major with a clinical emphasis, grew up in Basildon, Essex, UK. After serving a mission in the Utah St. George Temple Visitors’ Center, Charlotte came to BYU. The first to attend a university in her family, Charlotte has embraced academics and all that a university life has had to offer.  While at BYU, Charlotte has worked as a teaching assistant for multiple psychology classes, and has performed quantitative research into how personality variables affect marital outcomes with Dr. Scott Braithwaite. This research has resulted in various articles,

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Halloween Costumes Based on Your Majors and Minors

It’s that time of year again, where we get to dress up as our favorite characters, monsters, or people. There are so many options that it can be hard to pick your costume. To remedy that, here are costume ideas based on your FHSS major or minor.

History or Women’s Studies

Last year, History professor Ed Stratford hosted two “dead debates,” which were fun events in which various professors acted as “resuscitated” dead U.S. presidents and queens and debated modern political and gender issues. Watch this “Between Two Ferns” parody trailers for the Dead Queens Debate for costume ideas:

 

Geography

Embrace your inner explorer and dress up as Christopher Columbus! To dress like him, you would need:

  • baggy pants, tucked into
  • white knee socks
  • floppy hat
  • long sleeved shirt
  • Long, plain vest

For some ideas on how to create simple spyglasses out of paper cups, check out this post. To see some of the maps the geography department has made of the nation, click here.

Adobe Spark (16)

Anthropology

Dressing up like an anthropology major would be very easy, if this post is any indication.

Political Science

Abraham Lincoln or any current or past American president are just a few of the options available for political science students. Here are instructions for creating President Lincoln’s famous stovepipe hat.

For updates on the political science department, check out their blog.

Halloween doesn’t have to be hard; there are a plethora of people you can dress up as. So why not show some academic pride and dress up as someone from your major or minor?

Photo credits: Christopher Columbus.

Utah Special Election 2017: Why Your Student Vote Matters

As millennials, we hate hearing over and over again that we are not civically involved because we actually are, according to education researcher Catherine Broom: we volunteer in our community, we generally know who our political representatives are, and we petition for positive change on social media. But there’s one thing that our generation has continually forgotten or neglected to do: vote.

When public office candidacies are determined by a handful of votes, it’s an understatement to say that every vote matters. This is the trend that’s being seen in recent past elections, yet research shows that nationally only 42% of 18-24 year-olds were registered to vote, a 40-year low, and only 17% of registered voters cast a ballot in the 2014 elections.

On November 7, Municipal General Elections as well as a Special General Election will be held and your votes are needed. The elections consist of the following:

Municipal General Elections

Municipal general elections are how you vote for your local mayor and city council members. In Provo, candidates for mayor include Michelle Kaufusi, Sherrie Hall Everett, and write-in Odell Miner. Acting as the executive branch in local government, the mayor’s responsibilities include, among other things, enforcement of all laws applicable to those residing or conducting business in Provo.

Municipal elections also allow individuals to vote for the city council member who will represent their local district. As the legislative branch and policy makers of Provo, the City Council

  • Establishes laws.
  • Sets policy.
  • Oversees the city’s budget.
  • Provides opinion on the administrative branch’s execution of the law
  • Approves long-term contracts and commitments of city resources.

Political science professor Chis Karpowitz  notes that there are two major reasons why BYU students should care about these local, and specifically mayoral, elections in a recent The Daily Universe article:  “One reason is that decisions made in Provo directly affect a student’s life — things like where they can live, where they can park, what community resources are available to them. The second reason they should care is because students could turn the election…they turned out to vote.”

Special General Election

Utah’s 3rd Congressional District representative Congressman Jason Chaffetz resigned from the U.S. House of Representatives this past June, leaving a vacancy. The House of Representatives is responsible for making and passing laws, formed by the bills and resolutions introduced by our own district representatives. Candidates for the position include current Provo Mayor Republican John Curtis, Democrat Kathie Allen, Libertarian Joe Buchman, United Party Jim Bennett, Independent American Party Jason Christensen, and unaffiliated candidate Sean Whalen.

John Curtis and Kathie Allen have taken a particular interest in college students and the millennial generation.

john curtis
Courtesy of John Curtis

In the past month both candidates have in fact made special efforts to spend time with and reach out to millennials. Curtis has held several “meet and greets” with students at Slab Pizza and Sodalicious, later posting on his Twitter account that “these people will change the world.” Kathie Allen has likewise held special town hall events where she told millennials that “if they would own their voting power, they could change the outcome of this special election and elections nationwide”.

katie Allen
Courtesy of Kathie Allen.

In a town where one third (32.6%) of the population is college or graduate school students, Provo millennials need to accept the challenge and responsibility to vote. “We don’t have a right to complain about [politics] if we have this right to vote and we don’t exercise it because that’s how things change. It’s a really cool power we have, so why not use it?” shared Samantha Frazier, a Political Science major and President of BYU’s Republican group on campus in a recent article

Make change with your votes, Cougars.

How To Vote

elliott-stallion-105205The first step to vote is to register. The last day to register in person at the Utah County Election Office (see the state website for necessary documentation, hint: you don’t have to have a Utah license if you still intend to be a Utah resident) is October 31st, but you can also register online (just remember to have your Utah drivers license with you) by that date. Since all ballots will be conducted entirely by mail, make sure you register as soon as possible and that your registered address is your current residence. Your completed ballot must be postmarked no later than November 6th to be counted in the election.

In the past, BYU students have led several projects to help millennials lift their political voice, but this year’s special and municipal elections are the time to put these initiatives into action. Vote November 7th and join one of the many BYU campus clubs geared towards politics and civic engagement to stay involved until the next election.

 

New Faculty Spotlight: Dr. John Holbein

“When you study great teachers… you will learn much more from their caring and hard work than from their style,” said author William Glasser. Dr. John Holbein experienced this firsthand while attending BYU as a political science undergraduate, and it was what brought him back to his alma mater to teach. Dr. Holbein is BYU’s newest Political Science professor.

Sanford School of Public Policy

“For me, there’s just something really exciting about helping people learn,” he said. “I’ve always thought that you never really understand a topic until you teach it. I learn a lot from my students. That might sound crazy to say–after all, professors are supposed to know everything. But, I find it really refreshing and invigorating to interact with students.”

So he offers this advice to students: “Don’t be afraid of your professors; we’re normal (OK, mostly normal) people just like you. We realize that BYU is a special place and are all here because we want you to be successful. Come to our office hours. Don’t shy away from contributing in class for fear of saying something stupid. You have a voice, you have something to contribute. Don’t hide that.”

Dr. Holbein’s area of expertise is voting, particularly motivations for voting. Currently, he is working to formulate inventive ways to stimulate voting. “Voter turnout is depressingly low and unequal–with disadvantaged people voting at much lower rates than advantaged people. That should be deeply troubling to us,” said the professor. As being connected with society is paramount to a person’s well-being, this is a critical problem that needs to be addressed.

Dr. Holbein graduated from Duke University in 2016 with a Ph.D in Public Policy and is currently working on a book about youth voting participation. He and his wife Brittany have one son.

When Women’s Voices are Truly Heard: Chris Karpowitz and “The Silent Sex”

“Culture does not make people. People make culture. If it is true that the full humanity of women is not our culture, then we can and must make it our culture,” wrote Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in her book We Should All Be Feminists. BYU Political Science professor Dr. Chris Karpowitz has researched what that “full humanity” looks like currently, in the context of public meetings and politics. In the 2014 book The Silent Sex: Gender, Deliberation, & Institutions, authored by him and Princeton University professor Dr. Tali Mendelberg, they discuss the reasoning behind, methods, results, and implications of a study they conducted on the subject of gender equality in politics. They found, among other things, that only in certain situations are women’s voices truly heard.

Gender Equality – The Study

silent sex
Photo courtesy of Goodreads

That study, The Deliberative Justice Experiment, included both male and female participants who were divided into groups and tasked with discussing and making decisions regarding the redistribution of money. They were told that they would be paid based on their group’s decision; the decision had to be by majority or unanimous, depending on which group they were placed in.

This experiment allowed Doctors Mendelberg and Karpowitz to ask important questions, such as:

  • How much do women and men speak?
  • Do men use interruptions to establish their status in the group?
  • Do women use them to create a warmer tone of interaction in the group?
  • Do women express their preferences during discussion?
  • How does what happens in the discussion affect the decision the groups ultimately makes?

The researchers found that those in unanimous decision groups were more inclusive and more vocal in expressing their preferences, and discussed the issue longer. If men were in the numerical minority in such a group, though, they tended to increase their participation and interrupt more. According to Karpowitz, this meant that “unanimous rule is good for women when [they] are in the [numerical] minority…but it is bad for women when they are the majority, …as men—the numerical minority—increase their participation.”

Majority rule groups also demonstrated behaviors that had both benefits and drawbacks for women. “Majority rule signals that the more numerous groups…are entitled to exercise power,” said the authors. When women are in the majority, they participate more and “can benefit from this signal to exercise power.” So, in order to achieve their goals, women must have a large majority. The opposite is true for men: they can get away with having a small majority. Furthermore, when women are in the majority, the men in the group are more resistant to their stances. “Unanimous rule helps women when they are few, while majority rule helps women when they are many.”

Implications for Change

The authors posited that simply holding meetings and increasing the proportion of female municipal leaders were ineffective ways to boost female involvement. Indeed, the question of whether or not more females should get involved in politics because of their gender has tended to be a topic about which people have strong opinions. Margaret Dayton, a BYU alumni who is the longest-serving woman in the Utah state legislature, said in last year’s issue of Connections: “Your gender does not qualify you to serve. Your principles, your willingness to work, your experience that brings you there, those are the kinds of things that qualify people, not gender.” And Karpowitz conducted a study with fellow political science professor Jessica Preece that found that “quotas, which face practical and ideological barriers in the United States, are not the…way to increase women’s representation.”

Rather, Karpowitz and Mendelberg suggest that increasing the number of women in meetings and municipalities where they might be underrepresented or in the minority, and implementing unanimous rule—or measures that lead to total inclusion—might rectify the problem of “the silent sex.” Although unanimity is not without its problems, the process aids women when they are in the minority.

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The authors cite political theorist Alexis de Tocqueville‘s views on class differences: “The humblest individual who is called upon to co-operate in the government of society acquires a certain degree of self-respect; and as he possesses authority, he can command the services of minds much more enlightened than his own.” The same can be said for gender equality. Only by making a concerted effort can we be more inclusive of women in politics and other public forums.

 

Should Americans Care About Foreign Aid?

Anne Frank once said: “No one has ever become poor by giving.” Americans today seem to believe the opposite, viewing foreign aid programs with distrust and resentment. A 2016 Pew poll showed that just 37% of Americans think the U.S. should help other countries.  Political Science professor Darren Hawkins sought to examine these attitudes in a recent Washington Post article detailing an experiment in which he and colleagues tested the elasticity of Americans’ opinions regarding foreign aid. 

What is Foreign Aid and why is it Important?

According to the U.S. government’s foreign assistance website, there are nine categories of foreign aid:

  • Peace & Security
  • Democracy, human rights, & governance
  • Health
  • Education & social services
  • Economy
  • Environment
  • Humanitarian assistance
  • Program management
  • Combination of categories

The Borgen Project, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that fights extreme poverty by conducting a national campaign among politicians to make poverty a focus of U.S. foreign policy, said that foreign aid is essential because it can assist in educating people, build infrastructure so that the inhabitants of the recipient nation can “be mobile and have access to basic necessities such as electricity and running water,” cultivate a diplomatic relationship between the two countries, and help nations combat terrorism, among other things.

pexels-photo-520222 Americans and Foreign Aid

“Americans are notoriously uninformed on how much their government actually spends on aid,” according to Hawkins. A 2015 Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that the majority of Americans think the U.S. spends around 26% of the federal budget on foreign aid; in actuality, according to the KFF, the budget is 1% or less.

Why does this misperception exist among Americans? Hawkins lists the reasons people distrust foreign aid as generally falling within these categories:

  • Is expensive
  • Does not work
  • Breeds dependency and conflict
  • Interferes with the free market
  • Loses money to corruption

In an experiment conducted by Hawkins and the co-authors of the Washington Post article, they tested the effects of certain arguments on Americans’ perceptions of foreign aid, and found that those arguments had an effect on those American’s views on foreign aid. These possible counterarguments, along with five facts in support of each counterargument, were provided to the people interviewed in the experiment:

  • Inexpensiveness
  • Effectiveness
  • Chance for a potential positive impact
  • Service to U.S. interests
  • Need

The chart below illustrates the extent to which those interviewees who felt that the U.S. spent too much on foreign aid were influenced by various counterarguments, as opposed to a control group to which no argument was given.

 

darren hawkins chart
Credit: The Washington Post

The results show that the right argument for or against foreign aid can either increase or decrease support for the program. More importantly, it shows that most Americans can change their attitudes about foreign aid when given the correct information.

 

poverty What’s Next?

It’s important to consider the possible ramifications of Hawkin’s study and Americans’ perceptions of foreign aid as President Trump has recently made significant funding cuts to U.S. foreign aid to other countries in his recently released budget. This cut was instituted to pave the way for “a new foundation that places America first by returning more American dollars home and ensuring foreign aid supports American interests and values.” According to Hawkins, et. al. the president’s proposed budget cuts the funding to the State Department, in charge of USAID, by almost 30%.

For instance, Newsweek reports that African Development Bank president, Akinwumi Adesina, said that if U.S. aid to Africa is cut, the continent could become “a recruiting field for terrorists.” In Central Asia, cuts to foreign aid could also have a potentially large impact. The elimination of two programs—Assistance for Europe, Eurasia, and Central Asia (AEECA), and the Development Assistance—could make the region to be susceptible to Communist China’s influence, according to Alyssa Ayres, a Forbes contributor. After analyzing the FY18 Control Levels and Foreign Policy, she concluded that “…these proposed changes could paradoxically undermine the U.S. ability to shape objectives in the region. Moreover, at a time of massive Chinese assistance flooding the region, savings achieved through scrounging comparatively small levels of assistance will leave Washington with a shrunken profile and a shallower footprint.”

Former President George W. Bush’s USAID Administrator, Andrew Natsios spoke to Trump’s cuts: “[Cutting the budget] will end the technical expertise of USAID, and in my view, it will be an unmitigated disaster for the longer term…I predict we will pay the price. We will pay the price for the poorly thought out and ill-considered organization changes that we’re making, and cuts in spending as well.”

poverty 2 Changing Opinions

Americans are refreshingly rational about adjusting their opinions,” said Hawkins. “….On this particular issue…there seems [to be]a clear prescription: If you want to get Americans to support government spending on foreign aid, tell them how little the government currently spends.” After examining the facts, understanding the arguments for and against aid, and studying the issue, Americans can become more informed about aid and the potential damage that can come from a budget reduction.

Should we support foreign aid?

Feature image courtesy of Blue Diamond Gallery.

Foster Care Privatization can Lead to Abuse, Fulton Winner Finds

In the United States in 2015, 427,910 children were in foster care, an institution meant to care for children whose parents are temporarily or permanently unable to do so. A 2013 Child Welfare Outcomes Report found that more than 98% of those children were, in fact, well-treated. However, some sources suggest that the number is much higher. In 2015, a judge in Texas oversaw a case regarding abuse in foster care. In his conclusion he wrote: ” Texas’s [foster care] children have been shuttled throughout a system where rape, abuse, psychotropic medication, and instability are the norm.” As a method of reform, many have turned to privatization of foster care–having private companies find foster homes for children. However, is this truly a solution? Some are claiming that privatization only increases children’s risk of abuse.

sad girlThrough her studies, Fulton Conference Political Science winner Mandi Eatough found by privatizing foster care, these children do have an increased risk of neglect or abuse. She said: “It’s much easier to think about policy and government work in terms of whether it’s “good government” or “good for the economy.” However, I believe it’s far more important to consider these policies based on the impact they have on our lives. I hope that legislators and foster care workers alike will consider the implications of the foster care system on the children in it. ” 

Foster Care

According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway: “As a reform strategy, many state and local public child welfare agencies have contracted with private agencies [for] some of their services. Some child welfare systems have implemented performance contracting, in which contracted agencies are paid based on their achievements of agreed-to outcomes.”

“There are two main theories about foster care privatization policies,” explains Mandi. “The first is that privatization is preferable because of an increase in efficiency and a decrease in cost of foster care placements. The second claims that this increase in time and economic efficiency creates pressure on social workers to place children faster, leading to a decrease in the quality of the placement.”

What she found through her study corroborated this. She discovered that:

  • Changes in foster care policy often have an immediate effect on the children in the foster care system.
  • Children placed by privatized agencies are more likely to have case goals that are more efficient and less costly.
  • Children in privatized foster care systems are at a greater risk of experiencing abuse or neglect than their non-privatized counterparts.

fulton_PoliSci

What’s Next?

Mandi has plans to publish the paper and reexamine her data and in order to better understand foster care. Of her experience with the Fulton Conference, she said: “The Fulton Conference was an amazing opportunity to both share my own work and see the work of other students in the college. The part of the Fulton Conference that stood out to me the most was the fact that every student at the conference had been given the opportunity to work on mentored research with a faculty member. Being able to work so closely with faculty in my department on research I care about has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my undergraduate education.”