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Maine in Top Four States for "Family Placement"

A new Annie E. Casey Foundation report puts Maine out in front when it comes to the number of children who get placed with foster families and kinship care rather than group home settings. Credit: avidcreative/iStock.
A new Annie E. Casey Foundation report puts Maine out in front when it comes to the number of children who get placed with foster families and kinship care rather than group home settings. Credit: avidcreative/iStock.
May 19, 2015

AUGUSTA, Maine - It can make all the difference for kids in the child welfare system, according to a new report and Maine is one of the best states in the nation when it comes to "family placement."

Claire Berkowitz, executive director with the Maine Children's Alliance, says state policies that put kinship and foster families upfront for out-of-home placements are a big reason Maine ranks in the top four nationwide.

"Ninety-four percent of Maine's children in the child welfare system are living in a family setting, versus 84 percent nationally," she says. "So we're doing a much better job of keeping our kids in a family setting."

Berkowitz says the need is still great because about one in 20 children in the Maine child welfare system end up in group homes where they don't have the same stability and support as kids who are placed with family, kin or in a foster family.

Tracey Feild, director and manager of the Casey Foundation's Child Welfare Strategy Group, says Maine is on the "proper" course because there can be a long list of ramifications of removing a child from family.

"Kids lose familiar routines from school, activities, their neighbors, and they're often separated from their siblings as well," she says.

Berkowitz says it's important for the state stick to the current "game plan," because more kids are ending up in state custody over the past several years.

"There is a need for more foster families and kinship families to come forward," says Berkowitz. "What we would want the state to remember is not to go backward on the success we've had, and not turn to group home settings."

The report, Every Kid Needs a Family, finds about 57,000 children nationally are living in group home-style settings. Federal law requires these children live in family settings wherever possible.

According to Berkowitz, the evidence demonstrates it's in everyone's "best interest" for out-of-home placements.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - ME