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Florida Finding More Families for Young Foster Kids

Using data from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, an Annie E. Casey report finds that child-welfare systems are doing a better job of placing kids in families. (Adam Lima/Flickr)
Using data from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, an Annie E. Casey report finds that child-welfare systems are doing a better job of placing kids in families. (Adam Lima/Flickr)
April 12, 2019

TAMPA, Fla. – Florida is making some progress placing foster kids in family settings, with a three percentage point improvement over a 10 year period, according to a new report.

Florida is home to about 24,000 foster children, and researchers from the Annie E. Casey Foundation found the percentage being placed with families increased slightly – from 86% in 2007 to 89% in 2017. Rob Geen, director of policy and advocacy reform with the Casey Foundation, says while the overall trend is positive, the numbers are still low for teens and children of color.

"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,” says Geen. “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 environment 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 sets limits on funding for group homes, giving agencies more incentive to place children in foster families or with relatives.

Norrin Dollard, director of Florida KIDS COUNT, says when children are placed with relatives, they're more likely to achieve permanency in a home, finish school and find employment. However she's concerned to see older youth overall are having trouble being placed in homes, and often are left to navigate group settings and institutions.

"I think its 95% of kids 12 and under in foster care are in family situations, versus 58% of teenagers, you know, 13 to 18," Dollard.

Dollard says the data shows Florida needs to focus more on helping teens and young adults find permanent home placements. She also encourages anyone considering adoption to explore welcoming older kids and children of color into their homes and lives.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - FL