Nearly 4,000 foster kids in California live in group homes
PALO ALTO, California – The number of foster children in California who live in family-like placements, instead of shelters or group homes, has declined since 1998, according to the Lucille Packard Foundation for Children’s Health.
Children fare best in families. To preserve the wellbeing of children who enter the foster care system, out-of-home placements must be in the setting that most closely resembles family life. The same holds true for children in the child welfare system.
The Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 was meant to ensure that children in the child welfare system grow up in families-cared for in their own homes or the homes of relatives whenever possible, or in new permanent homes if not. (See First Entries into Foster Care in California, by Type of Placement.)
While the vast majority (more than 80 percent) of foster children in California are living in family-like placements (i.e., in Foster Homes or Foster Family Agency Homes, with Guardians or Kin-Relatives, or in Pre-Adoptive families), between 1998-2014, the proportion of children living in these types of placements did not grow; rather, it saw a slight decline.
That means that each year, there remains a substantial number of foster children living in non-family placements, such as shelters, group homes, and other congregate or temporary placements.
In 2014, there were nearly 4,000 foster children living in group homes, one of the least optimal placement options.
The U.S. foster care system aims to provide temporary living arrangements for children while attempting to safely reunite children with parents, or to find other permanent homes.
In reality, many foster children spend years in the system, and move between multiple homes. Children age 6-20, as well as those with disabilities or illnesses, and those of African American and American Indian descent, comprise a disproportionate number of youth in the foster care system (see links below).
Children in the system face higher risks of physical and mental health problems as well as academic barriers.
Advocates of providing all children with safe, permanent homes, urge policymakers to ensure that prevention services, mental health resources and educational support are available to foster children, their biological parents, and their foster parents.
Efforts, they say, should also be made to recruit and support foster families who are kin to the children in their care, as well as non-kin families who are well-suited to provide homes to these children in need.
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