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Report: Trying to Ensure All Kids Grow Up in Families

Experts say more needs to be done to strengthen families and make sure all Missouri kids are growing up in healthy situations.
Experts say more needs to be done to strengthen families and make sure all Missouri kids are growing up in healthy situations.
May 19, 2015

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - Every child deserves to grow up in a family home, and Missouri is making strides toward ensuring that remains the case, even for kids in the child welfare system.

According to a report out Tuesday from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, 11 percent of Missouri children in the care of the state have been placed in group-home settings, while 87 percent are in family homes.

Laurie Hines, Missouri Kids Count coordinator, says a "strong effort" is underway to find the right balance between getting troubled kids the help they need, and getting them out of group homes and into families as quickly as possible.

"We want the right balance between protecting children, but also strengthening families and fragile families in order to be good parents," says Hines.

Nationally, one in seven children in the child welfare system are living in a group setting. According to the Annie E. Casey report, 40 percent of those kids have no documented behavioral or clinical reason to be placed in such a restrictive setting.

Hines stresses that supporting fragile families so fewer kids enter the system in the first place is not something that can happen in isolation. She says it is a systemic problem that will require systemic solutions.

"They live in dangerous communities," says Hines. "They live without quality health care. They live without quality child care. They're just so much bigger than just fragile or unskilled parents."

Hines says the report highlights the critical importance of strengthening the state's safety net for struggling families, and funding programs such as home visitations and Head Start that work to address the many skills parents need to be successful and resilient.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MO