Each year, Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children gathers comprehensive child welfare data on each of the state’s 67 counties in an effort to analyze the commonwealth’s performance when it comes to ensuring children are raised in loving and knowledgeable families free from abuse and neglect. Since 2013, PPC has been able to monitor the state’s performance over time, by comparing data from the previous five years.
The 2017 State of Child Welfare report, released today, highlights two important improvements to Pennsylvania’s child welfare practice.
For the first time since 2012, the number of children entering foster care in Pennsylvania was lower than the number of children exiting the system in the same year. Put simply, this means the size of the child welfare system is declining. In a year where the reports of suspected child abuse and neglect increased by 38%, this demonstrates not only Pennsylvania’s commitment to a permanent family for children and youth who experience child welfare placement, but also a commitment to ensuring families at-risk of child welfare involvement are supported through services that seek to prevent abuse and neglect in the first place, such as in-home services and other family strengthening efforts.
This year’s report also includes an important new data set – General Protective Services (GPS) data. For the first time, data on GPS reports – which include reports of general neglect such as parental substance abuse, truancy or parent-child conflict concerns – are being collected by the Department of Human Services rather than at county children and youth agencies. The GPS system is an important part of our child welfare system. It helps identify and prevent problems before they occur. By intervening in high risk situations before an indication of abuse occurs, the GPS system is able to provide and refer targeted services to families in need.
Other highlights from this year’s report include:
Continued increased in reports of child abuse and neglect, as this data reflects the first full reporting year following the passage of over two dozen child protection laws;
Continued increase in family-based placements for youth in foster care, which is now at its highest percentage in five years;
An increase in congregate care placements for children and youth who re-enter the foster care system after being reunified with their families.
Looking ahead, Pennsylvania needs to continue its success in working to prevent the need for out-of-home care, but when that is not possible, we need to ensure family-based placement and permanent adult connections are provided to children and youth who are removed from their homes. Additionally, we need to prioritize increasing family-based placements for older youth and youth who re-enter foster care. Youth between the ages of 12 and 17 are more likely to leave the foster care system without a permanent family, putting them at risk of various poor outcomes in adulthood such as homelessness or unemployment.
To view the full 2017 State of Child Welfare report, as well as individual county-level reports, click here.
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