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Report: NC Foster Children Find Family Support

PHOTO: A report released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation underscores the importance of a family environment for foster children.
PHOTO: A report released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation underscores the importance of a family environment for foster children.
May 19, 2015

RALEIGH, N. C. – There are nearly 9,000 children in out-of-home placements in North Carolina, and 87 percent of them are placed in family settings. That figure is up from 74 percent in 2004, according to a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Laila Bell, director of research and data for the group NC Child, says the percentage of children in foster care has seen an uptick in recent years, both nationally and in North Carolina – but after years of declining numbers, Bell is encouraged by how the state is supporting them.

"It's also important for us to note that the number of children in foster care who are being placed in family settings has increased over time," says Bell. "So, we're encouraged by that progress, but we know there's more work that's really needed."

The North Carolina General Assembly is considering several proposals that could increase the number of foster families, allow foster children to engage in more normal, age-appropriate activities, such spending the night at a friend's house, and extend foster care to young people through age 19.

The report, "Every Kid Needs a Family: Giving Children in the Child Welfare System the Best Chance for Success," recommends agencies work with families to keep children in their own homes by providing the resources, skills and services they need.

Tracey Feild, director and manager of the Casey Foundation's Child Welfare Strategy Group, calls the report a 'wake-up call' about how to best care for vulnerable young people.

"Kids who live in families, supported through tough times, have the best chance for life success," Feild says. "Separating children unnecessarily from families exacts too high a price, in both human terms and taxpayers dollars."

Currently, foster children in North Carolina "age out" of the system at 18, whether they've completed high school or made plans for their adult life. Bell explains the "Fostering Success" legislation (H 424) would extend the age of foster care through 19 for those who are finishing high school or pursuing post-secondary education.

"If we think about the way we approach this in our own families, we want to make sure that our kids have successfully started their advanced education," explains Bell. "Before they have to deal with the stress of really leaving the home, while they're transitioning to adulthood."

According to the Casey Foundation and multiple studies, children in group foster care settings re less likely to have nurturing attachments that offer protection from such stressors as child maltreatment. Experts say strong, positive attachments to caregivers are fundamental to a child's healthy brain development.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC