There are more than 14,000 Pennsylvania children and youth living in foster care on any given day, and a national report issued today underscores the need for the commonwealth to do more to help these young people find safe, loving and permanent families.
The latest Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT® policy report, Every Kid Needs a Family: Giving Children in the Child Welfare System the Best Chance for Success, urges policymakers, child welfare agencies and the courts to work together in exhausting all means to find family-based settings for kids in foster care and remove barriers that would keep kin from being licensed and financially supported as foster parents.
The report is a much-needed reminder that kids placed in foster care do best in family-based environments, and it reinforces many of the findings in PPC’s annual State of Child Welfare reports:
- Overreliance on group placements – or congregate care - hinders children’s well-being and unnecessarily drains taxpayer resources. Children and youth in group placements often lose their familiar routines from school, activities and their neighborhoods. Group placements also cost seven to 10 times the cost of placing a child with a relative or foster family.
- Keeping kids connected to immediate or extended family whenever possible is best. When birth parents cannot care for a child, relatives can offer an existing relationship and connection that can make an eventual return home easier. So-called “kinship care” is better for a child’s well-being that group placements.
- Foster families are the next best option for children when kin are not available. Children report overwhelmingly positive experiences with the foster parents who care for them, but foster parents must be supported with resources and services. Nationally, 40 percent of the families who leave foster parenting do so primarily because of inadequate agency support.
Every Kid Needs a Family recommends how communities can widen the array of services available to help parents and children under stress within their own homes, so that children have a better chance of reuniting with their birth families and retaining bonds important to their development. And it shows ways in which residential treatment – a vital option for the small percentage of young people who cannot safely live in any family during treatment – can help those young people return to families more quickly and prepare them to thrive there.
More information on PPC’s child welfare work can be found at our Porch Light Project website, porchlightproject.org.
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