Shining a Light on Children for National Foster Care Month
May is National Foster Care Month, which follows National Child Abuse and Neglect Month in April. These events are both designed to help everyone focus more closely on the health and welfare of our nation’s most vulnerable children.
Unfortunately, statistics underscore the challenging dynamics involved in U.S. child welfare programs today. Across the nation, child protection agencies receive approximately 4 million reports of neglect and abuse each year, according to research cited in a new HBO documentary, entitled Foster, from Participant Media and Emerson Collective, in association with HBO Documentary Films. Equally devastating, the documentary reports that as many as one in eight U.S. children will experience a viable case of neglect by age 18.
Meanwhile, according to public policy researcher Child Trends, the number of children in foster care increased for a fifth consecutive year from a historic low of 397,000 in 2012 to 443,000 in 2017.
According to this research, one in three children in 2017 were placed in foster care because of parental drug abuse. In addition, the percentage of children staying in the home of a relative has increased steadily over the last decade, reaching 32 percent of children in foster care in 2016.
And Foster Focus Magazine reports that of the 440,000+ children currently in foster care, about 20,000 ‘age-out’ of the system each year without positive familial supports or family connections. Within 18 months of emancipation, 40-50% of these 18-year-olds become homeless. An estimated 65% of those leaving foster care need immediate housing upon discharge.
Despite the challenges, most children in foster care remain hopeful and resilient. State government child welfare agencies are working to complete their analyses and take first steps to develop and implement Comprehensive Child Welfare Information Systems (CCWIS). These systems will update aging Statewide Child Welfare Information Systems (SACWIS) and promise to deliver more responsive, flexible case management support.
Meanwhile, at last month’s Child Welfare League of America CWLA 2019 Conference in D.C., state and local government leaders, residential treatment centers, and community-based providers shared evidence-based best practices for certification and credentialing processes. CWLA also highlighted innovative organizational restructuring to enhance service delivery for children and families.
With a goal to optimize the benefits of Title IV-E candidacy and the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA 2018) to increase services for families and expedite reunification with children currently in foster care, it’s our hope to see the rising numbers of children entering foster care due to parental drug or mental health issues to begin to decrease once again. The Title IV-E Prevention Services Clearinghouse was established by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) to perform systematic reviews of programs and services intended to provide enhanced support to children and families and prevent foster care placements. The Prevention Services Clearinghouse as codified in Title IV-E of the Social Security Act, rates programs and services as promising, supported, and well-supported practices.
For National Foster Care Month, we challenge the prevailing view of ‘troubled’ children in foster care. We recognize their resilience and value their strength and hopefulness. Today’s child welfare professionals, community partners, and caregivers must work together to promote family stability and preservation, enact positive change, and meet the diverse needs of families involved with the child welfare system. To learn more about how you can help, check out these resources.
Conduent has been working to serve the needs of children and families for 45+ years. We are proud to play a role in helping children in foster care, and appreciate the amazing commitment of child welfare agencies. In all we do, Conduent strives to strengthen families, and improve the safety, welfare and health of our nation’s children.