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Report: Family Care Raises Success Chances for Children

PHOTO: A family setting for Florida's foster children is key to ensuring their success later in life, according to a report released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
PHOTO: A family setting for Florida's foster children is key to ensuring their success later in life, according to a report released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
May 19, 2015

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - According to a report released Tuesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, of the more than 18,000 children in Florida's foster care system, 86 percent are placed within a family setting – slightly higher than the national average.

Many of those children who remain in a group environment are teens. Norin Dollard, co-director of Florida Kids Count, says it's important for the state to create a stronger family system for older children.

"It's a tough road for teenagers, no matter how good your kid is," says Dollard. "When you have kids with really complicated, lengthy histories of living apart from families, those foster families need a lot of training and a lot of support."

According to the Casey Foundation report, many teens enter the child welfare system because they have behavioral challenges their parents or guardians aren't prepared to handle. Many teens that enter a group placement eventually age out of the system and never join a permanent family.

The report, Every Kid Needs a Family: Giving Children in the Child Welfare System the Best Chance for Success, recommends that 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, says multiple bodies of research underline the importance of a family setting.

"We do our best for children today and into the future when we work to keep them at home whenever possible," says Feild. "With their parents and/or caring relative or foster family."

Feild says when kids are removed from families without cause, there can be lifelong ramifications for everyone.

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

According to the Casey report, group placements cost seven to 10 times what it costs to place a child with a relative or foster family. In addition, youth in group placements were more than twice as likely to be arrested compared to those placed in foster families.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - FL