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Nevada National Leader in Child Placement, Report Finds

PHOTO: A new report finds Nevada tied with three other states in leading the nation for placing children in the state's care in a family setting, rather than a group home or state institution. Photo courtesy San Diego County Dept. of Health and Human Services.
PHOTO: A new report finds Nevada tied with three other states in leading the nation for placing children in the state's care in a family setting, rather than a group home or state institution. Photo courtesy San Diego County Dept. of Health and Human Services.
May 19, 2015

LAS VEGAS - Nevada is tied with Maine, Oregon and Washington for first in the nation when it comes to placing children who are not with their biological families into a family environment, rather than a group home or institution.

A report released Tuesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation found, in a recent year, 94 percent of all children in the state's care were in a family placement.

Louise Helton, with the Kids Count Project at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, says eliminating bureaucracy in the state courts could help more children get into families.

"It would be more a bureaucratic or infrastructure thing that really needs to get some shifting so that it becomes more family-centric," she says.

Helton says complexity in the court system sometimes causes children to be placed in an institutional environment when a family setting is available. The Casey Foundation report calls on policymakers, child welfare agencies and family court judges to support decision-making that ensures the least restrictive placements.

Helton adds that group placements can cost 10 times the amount it takes to place a child with a relative or foster family. She says children in group homes and institutions are also more likely to be abused and arrested.

"In the long run, the child will be much better served with the support of an adult in a family setting," she says. "The child's confidence is improved, and therefore everything flows from there when they know that they are supported and cared for."

The report also found that in 2013, 84 percent of young people in the U.S. ages 20 and under in foster care were in family placement. Another 14 percent were in a non-family placement, such as group homes or an institution.

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - NV