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Foster Care Report Highlights Importance of Family

June 8, 2011

AUSTIN, Texas - The number of children in foster care nationwide has declined slightly, according to a new report. However, the report also shows that the older a child is, the less likely he or she is to be placed in what's considered the best situation for success later in life.

Laura Speer, an associate director at The Annie E. Casey Foundation, which released the new Kids Count snapshot, says foster-care teens still too often end up in group homes, institutions or homes of people other than relatives - which puts them at a disadvantage as they are about to "age out" of the system.

"It's kind of a double jeopardy, because they are going to be leaving foster care soon, and if they're in a group home, they're less likely to have that permanent family connection that they need."

Youths without that family connection are more likely to have behavioral, emotional and physical problems as young adults, Speer says.

Of the more than 26,000 Texas youths in foster care, the report shows, only 26 percent live with relatives - which Speer says is the "ideal" kind of home for most foster children.

"So they can maintain relationships with their siblings, go to the same school. Often, they can keep their friends, and so it's much less disruptive to them, and just better for them overall."

About 424,000 children are in foster care nationwide, including those living with relatives, non-relatives or in institutions and group homes. The number has declined by more than 100,000 in 10 years - thanks in part, Speer says, to a focus on helping families stay together by assisting with housing, income and therapy.

The Kids Count report is online at aecf.org.

Peter Malof, Public News Service - TX