State of Child Welfare Report Shows Need for Child Welfare System Improvements for Children, Families and Foster Youth

Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children releases 14th annual child welfare report 

HARRISBURG (January 17, 2024) – Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children today released its 14th annual State of Child Welfare report, highlighting several gaps in the child welfare system and recommendations on how it can be strengthened. The report features critical data on abuse and neglect, the foster care system, removal reasons, congregate care reduction, transition age youth, and racial disparity and disproportionality in the child welfare system.  

“Coming out of the pandemic, we are seeing increases in Child Protective Services and General Protective Services reports. We need to bolster social safety nets for families so there are fewer touchpoints with the child welfare system,” said Kari King, PPC President and CEO.  

In 2022, there were 39,093 CPS reports, an increase of over 1,000 from 2021. There were 165,295 GPS referrals, marking an increase of over 3,500 reports from 2021.  

Transition age youth are ages 14 and older who have been served in the foster care system. Older youth made up nearly one-third of the overall foster care system, one-quarter of first-time entries, and almost one-half of all re-entries in 2022. Most older youth are placed in foster care due to neglect, not abuse. With 2 in 5 placed in a congregate care setting, they are less likely to achieve permanency.  

“Transition age youth need targeted and specialized services to prepare them for the road ahead. In speaking directly with older foster youth, they desire to help co-design transition services so that they adequately meet their needs,” King said. 

King noted that far too often, Black, Hispanic, and children and families of multiple races are over-surveilled, investigated, and represented in all aspects of the system.    

Disparity demonstrates a lack of equality between two racial groups within the child welfare system, with the report finding: 

  • Black children are nearly six times more likely to re-enter foster care and more than 3.5 times more likely to remain in foster care than white children. 
  • Black children are more than 2.5 times more likely to exit foster care and remain in foster care than Hispanic children.  

Disproportionality is apparent at the level at which groups of children are present in the child welfare system at higher or lower rates than in the general population, with the report finding: 

  • Black children are represented in re-entries 3.4 times more than their rate in the general population.  
  • Black children are disproportionately placed in institutions, and children of multiple races are disproportionately placed in pre-adoptive homes. In 2022, 19,287 children were served in the foster care system, a decrease of more than 1,200 children from 2021 and the lowest rate in the last five years.  

A majority of children, or 84.9%, are placed in a family-based setting of either kinship, non-relative, or adoptive homes. Placement rates with a kinship caretaker are the highest in 5 years, with 42% placed with someone they know, trust, and have a positive, supportive relationship. 

“We must support kin who want to create a safe environment for youth and avoid placement in foster care and ensure better outcomes for older foster youth transitioning to adulthood.”  

King said her organization is advocating for: 

  • More parental support by redefining allegations of general neglect and response to them, such as homelessness, mental and behavioral health, parental substance use, and meeting children’s basic needs. 
  • Separate licensing standards for kin and foster families to cut down burdensome, bureaucratic, and unnecessary requirements that often lead to disqualification and children being placed with strangers. This also will make it easier for more transition age youth to be placed with kin. 
  • Ensuring transition age youth can successfully exit the foster care system by enhancing transition services and allowing them to be informed of programming changes. Also, focusing on building support networks they can access once they exit care.   

PPC is a strong, effective and trusted voice to improve the health, education and well-being of children and youth in the commonwealth. Since 1992 its public policy victories have helped countless children learn, thrive and succeed, regardless of circumstances. PPC is statewide, independent, non-partisan and non- profit. Learn more at