In Pennsylvania, there are about 14,000 children and youth in foster care on any given day. May is National Foster Care Month, a time to acknowledge those who do so much to help these children and youth find permanent, safe and nurturing homes.
Our recent State of Child Welfare report found that Pennsylvania’s foster care population has begun increasing in recent years, an increase likely fueled at least in part by an increased awareness of child abuse and neglect. As new child protection laws take effect and more children are removed from unsafe or unhealthy environments, the need for foster care is likely to keep growing.
Of course, saving a child from an unsafe or abusive environment is only half the challenge. We also need to do our best to make sure each child ends up in a safe, supportive “forever family.” And that means we must pay close attention to our foster care system to ensure it has the resources needed to adequately and appropriately help every child it serves.
The State of Child Welfare report noted two areas where improvements can be made:
- Children in foster care who have a court-ordered goal of a permanent living arrangement sometimes never reach that goal. Many age out of the foster care system between ages 18 and 21 without ever finding a permanent family upon which they can rely. Looking ahead, Pennsylvania needs to strengthen its efforts to ensure foster care is a pathway to finding a “forever family” for every child.
- State policymakers should examine ways to better provide educational stability to children and youth in foster care, who often face school challenges due to foster care placements. Education interruptions and school changes make it hard for many of these children to succeed academically.
And to all the foster parents, supportive family members, policymakers, child welfare professionals, volunteers and others who do so much to help children and youth in Pennsylvania’s foster care system, we thank you for your invaluable efforts.
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