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Report Finds Iowa Failing on Child Welfare Placements

PHOTO: A family environment leads to far better outcomes for kids in the child-welfare system, but in Iowa a significant percentage of these children are ending up in non-family care, such as group and institutional settings. Photo credit: Liz West/Flickr.
PHOTO: A family environment leads to far better outcomes for kids in the child-welfare system, but in Iowa a significant percentage of these children are ending up in non-family care, such as group and institutional settings. Photo credit: Liz West/Flickr.
May 19, 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa - New research shows that Iowa is falling short when it comes to the critical importance of family placement for kids in the child-welfare system.

According to the report "Every Kid Needs a Family" from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, about 14 percent of those in the child-welfare system nationwide are in non-family care.

In Iowa, it's nearly 20 percent. Anne Discher, communication director for the Child and Family Policy Center, says reducing that number and keeping more kids connected with family can make a world of difference.

"Kids who are kept in a family situation, whether it's with their own family, kinship care or foster families have better outcomes," she says. "They're less likely to be arrested, more likely to graduate from high school and more likely to have those ongoing supports that all children need as they grow into adulthood."

Discher says the report also found many children placed in group and institutional facilities have no mental health diagnosis, disability or behavioral problem to warrant such a restrictive setting.

While there is much work to be done to place more children in the child-welfare system with family or relatives, Discher says there also needs to be a focus on closing the racial and ethnicity gaps in Iowa.

"African-American kids, Native American kids are much more likely than white kids to be placed into foster care," says Discher. "We really need a foster-care system that's culturally competent and really sensitive to when we're placing kids and when there are options to keep them at home."

Overall, there are around 6,400 Iowa kids in the child-welfare system and in placement on any given day, with more than 1,200 in non-family care, including group and institutional settings. Recommendations in the report include strengthening the pool of foster families and requiring justification for group placements.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - IA