Magazine article State Legislatures

Finding a Way Home

Magazine article State Legislatures

Finding a Way Home

Article excerpt

There are around 400,000 American children in foster care, and some 58,000 are living in group homes, residential treatment facilities, psychiatric institutions and emergency shelters.

This type of placement--called "congregate care"--can be beneficial for children who require short-term supervision and structure because their behavior may be dangerous. But officials believe too many kids who don't need that type of intense supervision are still in these group placements--depending on the state, between 5 percent and 32 percent--making it harder to find them permanent homes and costing state governments three to five times more than family foster care.

Child welfare agencies are working to reduce the use of congregate care by reinvesting funds into family-based and prevention services and changing policies to favor family placements and discourage congregate care.

For example, some states have lowered the number of beds in group facilities and increased the number of family foster homes. Other states are including children and families in the decisions made on where children should be placed and what resources families might need to keep their children home safely.

Virginia has been a leader in reducing the number of children in congregate care and increasing family-based placements and permanent adoptions. Among other things, the state established a council to develop a set of reforms that supported family-focused, child-centered, community-based care, with an emphasis on finding permanent homes in family settings for all children. …

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