Monday, February 9, 2015

Fostering a Better Foster Family: A Sociological Application of GIS to Map Child Welfare

The family is seen as a fundamental American institution, the site of important early childhood development and socialization.  Foster care, which is based in the children’s welfare system of the United States, faces the hard task of socializing children in a loving environment while maintaining the core values of the children’s birth families. In this sense, foster care must maintain the family structure while separating the child from the family. In this 2012 study by Rine et al., GIS is used to assess the environmental limitations and implications of foster care in rural areas. GIS, in this context, is understood as one of the most important and crucial tools to understanding one’s physical environment and the impact of one’s immediate physical surroundings on socialization and social interaction. This study demonstrates that GIS has the potential to help specific clients meet their needs in areas with limited resources. The ability to geographically illustrate resources like markets or schools, as well as the distance from the child’s home, helps the programs gain support and understanding from the volunteers, foster families, and communities. 

This article highlights the importance of incorporating spacial analysis within the child welfare system, as well as the American welfare system. While ‘welfare’ is held as a derogatory term in the current political climate, the system of welfare attempts to balance the systemic social injustices. Understanding the importance of one’s geographic location in daily life will help develop socioeconomic programs that help deconstruct the wealth and class gap in the United States. In the context of Southwestern University, the sociology and anthropology departments need to consider incorporating GIS and spacial analysis to fully explore and understand society. 

Rine, Christine M., Jocelyn Morales, Anastasiya B. Vanyukevych, Emily G. Durand, and Kurt A. Schroeder. 2012. "Using GIS Mapping to Assess Foster Care: A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words." Journal Of Family Social Work 15, no. 5: 375-388.


  1. Are there any examples of these socioeconomic programs that could benefit from GIS and help the wealth and class gap? Also, I am confused on the map, maybe an explanation under it would help in understanding it.

  2. I like that GIS can be employed for the benefit of important causes such as foster care. However, I am confused as to exactly how it helps. I understand that GIS can help physically illustrate the distances from important locations such as schools or the birth parents' homes, but how does this benefit foster families specifically?

  3. This is an interesting use of GIS and I understand the use in a local setting, however I don't see how it can be helpful on a larger scale. For example, what if a child was transferred to another city/state/country, then the child would be brought up in an environment that is completely alien to what the child knew of its birth place/where its biological family lived.

  4. This is a very cool way to use the abilities of GIS. To be able to map the best place for foster care is intresting and I believe is very useful. Also i like how you describe GIS as an important and crucial tools to understanding one’s physical environment and the impact of one’s immediate physical surroundings on socialization and social interaction.