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Wisconsin Sees Rise in Finding Families for Foster Kids

States across the country are driving the trend of placing a higher percentage of children in foster care with families. (jess2284/Flickr)
States across the country are driving the trend of placing a higher percentage of children in foster care with families. (jess2284/Flickr)
April 4, 2019

MADISON, Wis. – Wisconsin is making a big effort to keep foster kids in family settings, with a 5% improvement over a 10-year period, according to a new report.

Wisconsin is home to almost 8,000 foster children, and researchers from the Annie E. Casey Foundation found the percentage of children being placed with families increased from 84% in 2007 to 89% in 2017.

While the overall trend is positive, the numbers are still stubbornly low for teens and children of color, said Rod Geen, director of policy and advocacy reform for the Casey Foundation.

"While I'm talking about a 10-year trend to show a fairly significant increase in placing kids in families, we're seeing much greater gains for white children than we are for African-American children," Geen observed. "So, there's more that we can do for African-American children that we need to work on."

The report recommends continuing to prioritize family placements over group settings, because children in a stable, family setting are more likely to finish school and get jobs, and less likely to become early parents.

Last year, President Donald Trump signed the Family First Prevention Services Act, which set limits on funding for group homes, giving agencies more incentive to place children in foster families or with relatives.

Ken Taylor, executive director of Madison-based Kids Forward, pointed out that, when children are placed with relatives, they're more likely to achieve permanency in a home, finish school and find employment. He's glad to see data showing fewer Wisconsin kids are being placed in group settings and institutions.

"It's best for that to be with friends or kin, or other relatives," Taylor said. "And so, the fact that the percent is going up nationally, and the percent is going up here, is good news."

Wisconsin officials cite parental drug abuse as the main factor behind a rise in numbers of children who are placed with relatives or in foster care.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - WI