Calif. Makes Progress Keeping Foster Kids Out of Group Homes

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Foster kids do much better when placed with a family, compared with a group home, according to a new report that says California is making good progress on that score.

Researchers from the Annie E. Casey Foundation found that the Golden State went from 83% of foster kids in a family placement in 2007 to 87% a decade later.

Rob Geen, director of policy and advocacy reform at the Casey Foundation, said this shift, especially toward placement with family members, will pay off in a big way for society as kids get older.

“When children are placed with relatives, they’re more likely to finish school, they’re more likely to be employed or find employment later, they’re less likely to become early parents,” he said. “They’re more likely to succeed in families when they have families of their own. That is one trend which is really important; we’re using relatives more.”

California lawmakers in 2015 passed the Continuum of Care Act, which put a time limit on the use of group homes and standardized the licensing of foster parents, whether or not they are family members. 

Assemblymember Mark Stone, D-Monterey Bay, who wrote the bill, said the state should give priority to the hardest-to-place cases.

“Older kids and kids who have longer-term trauma, more Adverse Childhood Experiences, they are sometimes difficult to place, because we don’t always have individualized placements for them,” he said. “And that is one of the things that is missing in California, is our ability to support the kids with the highest needs.”

Daniel Heimpel, publisher of the Chronicle of Social Change and an expert on foster care, said Congress should direct more federal dollars to helping foster families succeed.

“As we move out of group homes,” he said, “we have to be very careful to ensure that the relative, but also the non-relative foster parents, are being supported, so that they can make sure these kids have everything they need. “

Last year, Congress passed the Family First Prevention Services Act, which limits federal funds for group homes in a bid to encourage states to find more family placements. 

The AECF report is online at aecf.org, the text of the Family First Prevention Services Act is at congress.gov, and Assembly Bill 243, the Continuum of Care Act, is at leginfo.legislature.ca.gov.

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