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WA Foster Kids More Likely to Thrive in Families

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Friday, April 5, 2019   

SEATTLE – Washington state has seen a slight drop in the number of foster children being placed with families, according to a new report.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation says the proportion of kids in foster care who were placed with families rather than in group homes fell from 94% in 2007 to 91% in 2017. Still, Washington's rates are higher than the national average, which rose from 81% to 86% during the same decade.

Annie Blackledge is executive director of The Mockingbird Society, working with foster youth in the state. She says it's important to keep kids in families, and familiar settings.

"We, right now, put young people and children wherever there's an open bed,” says Blackledge. “Which may mean that you move five counties over and have change schools, and you lose everything that you know."

Blackledge says nationwide, the system is having trouble recruiting foster parents. Research shows kids who are placed in family settings 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 prioritizes family placement.

The report shows children nationwide are more likely to be placed with people related to them, with numbers growing from 25% to 32% in a decade. Rob Geen, director of policy and advocacy reform with the Casey Foundation, says that has been an important development.

"No matter what that home environment was like, it is traumatic for a child to be removed from their home,” says Geen. “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."

Progress has been slower for children of color. According to the report, 81% of African-American children were placed in families in 2017, compared with 78% in 2007. Blackledge says states should focus on how they can improve the system for these children.

"We've really got to get more culturally adept at the work that we do,” says Blackledge, “and involve the people with lived experience to really help us figure out how can we do this work better and more sensitively?"


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