***FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE*** April 2, 2019
Manager, Research and Data
40 Percent of Ohio Teenagers in Foster Care Placed in Group Homes, Increasing 10 Percent from 2007
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Many Ohio children in foster care are placed with foster families and an increasing number are being placed with relatives. However, a growing percentage of Ohio teenagers are being placed in group settings and institutions, according to the “Keeping Kids in Families: Trends in U.S. Foster Care Placement,” a new data snapshot released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation as part of its KIDS COUNT project. The KIDS COUNT data snapshot focuses on how placements for young people in foster care have changed across all 50 states and the District of Columbia using data from child welfare systems.
Children need families. While group placements are required to address specific issues, including mental health needs, the data show a growing consensus among practitioners and policymakers that young people in the child welfare system should live in families. In particular, group placements should be designed to ensure that children are placed with a family as soon as possible. An increasing number of children are entering the foster care system because community-based services to address mental health, developmental disabilities, or delinquency are unavailable, forcing their parents to relinquish custody for their children to receive care. Child services agencies are strained to find appropriate treatment for these children.
Key findings from “Keeping Kids in Families” include:
- In Ohio, 40 percent of teenagers in child welfare systems were placed in group settings in 2017, compared to 31 percent in 2007. Nationally, 34 percent of teenagers were placed in group settings in 2017.
- Non-Hispanic black children in Ohio are more likely to be placed in group homes: 16 percent of non-Hispanic black children compared to 13 percent of non-Hispanic white children. These rates are similar to those 10 years ago and align with national trends.
- In Ohio, 85 percent of children in foster care were placed with families in 2017, similar to 84 percent in 2007. Nationally, 87 percent of children in were placed with families in 2017, compared to 81 percent in 2007.
- The percentage of Ohio children in foster care placed with a relative increased from 15 percent in 2007 to 21 percent in 2017.
“Many children in foster care are recovering from the trauma of being separated from their parents, and placing them in group settings limits the individual support and attention that they receive,” said Tracy Nájera, executive director of Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio. “Group homes may be the best option in some situations, but we want to ensure that children have access to families as soon as possible, and the resources that come along with family placements.”
Over the past five years, especially in response to the opioid epidemic, more Ohio children are entering foster care, and they are staying longer and have more complex needs. Ohio has made significant progress placing children in foster care with relatives. However, an increasing number of children in Ohio are living with relatives in arrangements that do not involve child welfare systems. Because these arrangements lack legal documents and are hard to track, these families are often unaware of or have restricted access to important resources, including health and mental health care, compared to children in foster care.
Through the Family First Prevention Services Act, signed into federal law in 2018, states receive support to focus on the placements of young people to ensure that they are in high-quality, family-centered settings. Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio joins the Annie E. Casey Foundation in calling on states to use the opportunities afforded by Family First to increase available services to improve outcomes for foster youth. These measures would include:
- prioritizing recruitment of kin and foster families for older youth and youth of color in recruitment planning;
- increasing access to mental health and other services for children with complex needs;
- supporting relatives caring for Ohio children, including those that are not in contact with child welfare systems, through kinship navigator programs that connect families to available resources; and
- requiring director approval for non-family placements to increase the likelihood that children receive individualized care and have better outcomes.
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has committed to doubling the state’s investment in children’s services in the upcoming state budget, which includes $8.5 million to recruit foster families and support kin providers. This is critical in that Ohio has a shortage of foster homes available, especially for our youth with complex needs. The additional funding is dependent on whether the legislature maintains this recommended funding in the state budget. Moreover, Ohio must address foster care placement, especially regarding group settings and institutions. Further, Ohio must consider additional investments in multi-system youth and reforms in Ohio’s system that forces parents to relinquish custody in order for their children to receive services.
“Keeping Kids in Families” shows real progress in Ohio but also highlights the disparities in placements and needs of relatives caring for children.
“Family First provides a great opportunity for Ohio leaders to come together to ensure that children are in homes that best address their needs and that their caregivers are supported. Further, CDF-Ohio endorsed the Public Children Services Association of Ohio’s Continuum of Care Reform Plan, which includes recommendations that speak to many of these issues,” Nàjera said.
The mission of Children’s Defense Fund Leave No Child Behind® is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities.