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Report: Too Many Arizona Kids Not In Foster Families

PHOTO: Approximately 14 percent of Arizona children who have been removed from their families are living in institutions or group homes, rather than foster homes or with a family member, according to a new report. Photo credit: Montana Department of Justice.
PHOTO: Approximately 14 percent of Arizona children who have been removed from their families are living in institutions or group homes, rather than foster homes or with a family member, according to a new report. Photo credit: Montana Department of Justice.
May 19, 2015

PHOENIX - Hundreds of children in Arizona are living in group homes or treatment facilities, rather than in a family environment. A new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation found in a recent year, 14 percent of the 14,000 children in the state's care were not living with a foster family or a relative.

Dana Wolfe Naimark, president and CEO with the Children's Action Alliance, says part of the problem is under-staffing at Child Protective Services.

"Case workers in our Child Protective Service system are completely overwhelmed," Wolfe Naimark says. "They have far too many cases, and so sometimes if a group home is available it's easier and quicker for them than it is to find a family member or find a foster home."

Wolfe Naimark says having more foster families in the system and increased staffing at CPS could help more kids. The Casey Foundation report calls on policymakers, child welfare agencies and family court judges to support decision-making that ensures the least restrictive placement.

Wolfe Naimark adds, group placements can cost up to 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.

"We know kids have better long-term outcomes, they graduate high school, they're healthier, they get jobs more often when they have grown up in families," she says. "But it's also cheaper for taxpayers, so it's a win-win on both sides."

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

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - AZ