Groundbreaking Report Shows National Foster Care Population Going Down As Foster Homes Go Up
Despite Good News, Some States Still Struggling with Foster Care Capacity
The good news, however, is tempered by the fact that at least 20 states are still facing a foster care capacity crisis.
"While declining foster care numbers are obviously good, our work has found troubling increases in numbers for black and Native American children across specific regions," noted Daniel Heimpel, publisher of The Chronicle. "Also, the foster care system is increasingly reliant on relative caregivers, but continues to routinely deny them equal financial support as non-relative foster care parents."
According to The Chronicle's third annual Who Cares reporting project, which tracks the foster care population and housing capacity nationwide, the number of children in foster care is declining, while homes available to foster youth are on the rise.
But many states are still struggling with foster care capacity – at least 20 states saw the number of licensed homes decline between 2018 and 2019. And there are disturbing trends in foster care rates among Native American children in several states, including Minnesota (150 percent increase), Montana (83 percent increase) and Wisconsin (76 percent increase).
One of the key findings is that, while a majority of states have come to rely more heavily on relatives and unrelated kin, a growing number of these families are being asked to carry out this important role without any financial support from child welfare agencies. The number of youth living in the homes of relatives and family friends, without a single dollar from the child welfare agency went up 32 percent between 2011 and 2017, from 81,838 to 108,426.
In October, the sweeping Family First Prevention Services Act goes will go into effect. The law dramatically overhauls how the federal government pays for foster care and includes new strict limits on federal funding for group homes and other institutional settings for foster youth. Despite this looming change, many states have increased their reliance on these so-called congregate care placements in recent years. Twenty states have seen the number of children and youth in congregate care rise between 2011 and 2017, and 10 of those have seen an increase of 20 percent or more.
Based on numbers collected from state agencies, the nation saw a three percent decline in the number of youth in foster care this year to just below 430,000. The number of licensed foster homes rose slightly from between 210,000 and 215,000 in 2018 to between 220,000 and 225,000 in 2019.
About The Chronicle of Social Change
The Chronicle of Social Change is a nonprofit, nonpartisan daily news publication dedicated to covering the child welfare, juvenile justice, mental health and educational issues faced by vulnerable children and families. Published by Fostering Media Connections, The Chronicle is one of the most widely read outlets for people working and interacting with these systems, and a key driver of investigative and breaking-news journalism that impacts public policy and practice.
About Fostering Media Connections
Fostering Media Connections (FMC) is a nonprofit news organization that uses a mix of investigative, accountability and solution-oriented journalism to drive reform within the systems that serve vulnerable children, youth and their families. To do this FMC publishes a daily news site, The Chronicle of Social Change, and a print magazine, Fostering Families Today. Both have won numerous journalism awards.
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