New Study Offers Alternatives to Congregate Care

The Annie E. Casey Foundation has released the report “Every Kid Needs A Family,” which offers findings on the benefits of placing children in the child welfare system with family members or foster families instead of in congregate care placements. The central focus of this report is on the nearly 57,000 children and teenagers in the child welfare system currently living in group placements and residential treatment facilities.

According to the study while 1 in 7 foster youth are placed in congregate care, more than 40 percent of this population do not show clinical or behavioral signs that would require a more restrictive placement setting. The study emphasizes that group homes placements are not intended to be long term and are therefore not designed to offer the level of individual nurturing and consistency needed for healthy child development. Children placed in group homes are less likely to graduate from high school and are at a higher risk of developing clinical attachment disorders than youth placed in home and family-based settings.

The report offers three major recommendations to reduce reliance on group home placements and increase participation and quality of care in kin and foster family placements. The first recommendation is to expand the range of services provided to children and the families that make the commitment to care for children who are recovering from trauma. These suggestions focus ideas such as state and local agencies working with Medicaid to ensure adequate behavioral health support can be provided to the youth conveniently and easily in a home setting.

The second recommendation discusses focusing on recruiting, strengthening, and retaining more relatives and foster families within communities. By supporting caregivers with access to resources, benefits, and supplemental trainings and programs, relatives and foster parents will be more prepared to help guide and better understand the diverse needs of children that are being placed in their care, especially older youth who are more likely to be sent to group home placements.

The final recommendation calls on policy makers, public agency leaders and judges to support decision making that prioritizes family settings and the implementation of strategies that reduce the time youth spend in group facilities on a state and national level.

To view full report, follow this link.