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Foster Care on Rise in NC

According to a report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, foster families are more likely to maintain relationships with their foster child as they grow into adulthood. (trobi017/Twenty20)
According to a report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, foster families are more likely to maintain relationships with their foster child as they grow into adulthood. (trobi017/Twenty20)
April 4, 2019

SALISBURY, N. C. – North Carolina's foster-care population has been on a steady rise since 2014, with 11,000 children in the system, and a new report says nurturing family members could make the difference.

Data from the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows that over the past decade, North Carolina and other states are more often placing young people who enter the child-welfare system with relatives or foster families, instead of in group homes.

According to Rob Geen, director of policy and advocacy reform for the Casey Foundation, the Keeping Kids in Families report highlights the importance of keeping kin involved in the foster-care process.

"No matter what that home environment was like, it is traumatic for a child to be removed from their home," Geen explained. "When they're placed with someone who already knows the child – who knows their likes, their dislikes, knows about their family background – that is less traumatic."

North Carolina underwent an overhaul of its child-welfare system after failing a federal review in 2015. The state began implementing new performance standards for county social-services departments, and created a mechanism to take over child-welfare services in counties that failed to meet federal standards.

The new report shows that children who are older, are a racial or ethnic minority, have special needs, or suffer from a behavioral or mental disorder are more likely to stay in care longer. Geen said child-welfare agencies are least likely to place African-American children with a family.

Based in Salisbury, Security and Hope Youth and Adult Services provides a 30-hour state-mandated training for foster families. Wendy Gee, its director of foster-care services, said they've seen an increase in kinship foster families enrolled in trauma training, but the system presents barriers for families with limited economic means.

"How to make it easier for families, what are some of the things that you can loosen some?" she asks. "You know, putting a bed in the living room in a kinship family – anything that's not related to safety. But those minor things, what is it that we can do?"

Gee sees the report as an incentive for North Carolina to seek family-placement solutions and remove barriers from recruiting and retaining kin and foster families, especially for older youths and kids of color.

Antionette Kerr, Public News Service - NC