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Report: More Work Needed to Ensure Kinship Care in PA

New research confirms that placing foster children with people they already know and trust improves outcomes. (WenPhotos/Pixabay)
New research confirms that placing foster children with people they already know and trust improves outcomes. (WenPhotos/Pixabay)
April 4, 2019

HARRISBURG, Pa. – A new report shows that a record increase in referrals for child abuse and neglect has led to more foster-care placements in Pennsylvania.

The Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children's 10th Annual State of Child Welfare report says between 2015 and 2017, referrals to general protective services increased 24% – the highest ever recorded – placing a strain on the state's foster-care system.

Kari King, president and CEO of the organization, said despite increased efforts to place children in the family-based settings most beneficial to them, almost half of placements still are in non-relative foster homes.

"We really need to be hyper-aware of the supports that we can provide to the child-welfare system to make sure they're capable of handling this increased caseload," said King.

She stressed that children thrive best when they're placed with people they know and trust, and with whom they have an established relationship.

Last year, Pennsylvania created a Kinship Navigator Program to assist relatives in safely and competently caring for children without the need for intervention by the child-welfare system.

King called it an important step in the right direction.

"Research shows that outcomes are better for children who are placed in family-like settings and with a relative, as opposed to going into the formal foster-care system where, for example, they could be placed in a group home," she said.

The Kinship Navigator Program can help grandparents or other relatives with questions about school registration, health insurance or other issues important to children in their care.

Transition-age youth, those older than 13, make up one-third of children entering the foster-care system, and are the most difficult to place in family settings. King pointed out that permanent placement helps older children get the support they need as they become adults.

"Making sure they graduate from high school; what might be their post-secondary plans?" she explained. "Down to things like, do they need help getting their driver's license so they have that level of sufficiency, and they can become employed and make some money?"

According to data from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, in 2017, 84% of Pennsylvania foster children were placed in family settings, an 11-percentage-point improvement over ten years.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA