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A new national report that finds there are more than 14,000 Pennsylvania children and youth living in foster care on any given day, underscoring the need for lawmakers to do more to help these young people find safe, loving and permanent families.

The 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 on foster care and remove barriers that would keep kin from being licensed and financially supported as foster parents.

"This report is a much-needed reminder that kids placed in foster care do best in family-based environments," said Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children President and CEO Joan Benso. "When state and federal policymakers examine ways to better ensure every child has a permanent family, they need to focus on best practices that encourage a 'family-first' approach that is in the best interest of children and taxpayers."

The national KIDS COUNT report reinforces many of the findings in PPC's annual State of Child Welfare reports, including finding that:

  • 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.

"We have an obligation to help all of our kids succeed," said Patrick McCarthy, president and CEO of the Casey Foundation. "If our children couldn't live with us, we would want them to live with someone close to us – and if that couldn't happen, with a caring foster family who could provide them with as normal a life as possible during a turbulent time. This report shows more kids can live safely in families and get the nurturing they need while under the care and protection of our child welfare systems."

Every Kid Needs a Family is available at www.aecf.org. More information on PPC's child welfare work can be found at our Porch Light Project website, www.porchlightproject.org.  

 

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