Child welfare systems have improved nationwide in placing foster children in family settings, but the figures aren’t as high among Black children, a new report shows.
The report, released Tuesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, found that the number of white children placed in families grew from 81 percent in 2007 to 87 percent 2017. During that same period, the figures for Blacks increased from 78 percent to 81 percent, the lowest figure in terms of race and ethnicity.
“It is something that we’re concerned about, but we’re questioning why the improvements have been greater for white children that for African-American children,” said Robert Green, the foundation’s director of policy reform. “Our expectations should be that every single child that we remove from their parents’ home and placed into foster care should be with a family, regardless of their age, race, or any other situation.”
One idea would be to ensure children are placed with extended relatives, which Green said states have done much better.
In Maryland, the report shows 85 percent of children in the state were placed with families in 2017, compared to 80 percent in 2007.
Those figures could increase after the legislature recently passed a “kinship caregiver” law that allows local social workers to place a child with relatives as an alternative to foster care. The legislation also notes a person who is a close family friend can apply as a kinship caregiver.
“It’s just another way to ensure children are provided quality care,” said Sen. Bobby Zirkin (D-Baltimore County), who sponsored the bill as chair of the Senate’s Judicial Proceedings Committee.
In neighboring Virginia, children placed with families increased from 71 percent in 2007 to 81 percent in 2017.
The District showed one of the highest increases in the nation with 90 percent of children placed with families in 2017, up from 73 percent in 2007.
D.C. tied with Nebraska and Wyoming with a 17 percent increase to place children with families, which ranked as the second-highest in the nation after Rhode Island.
The report shows only Puerto Rico and Washington had a decrease in children placed with families.
Green said one goal for states would be reach the 90 percent threshold 16 states and the District of Columbia achieved.
That’s because 34 percent of those 13 and older resided in group homes or institutions two years ago, compared to only 4 percent of children 12 and younger.
“Even with the states that are performing the best, there are still children being left behind, particularly adolescences,” Green said. “Many of them don’t need to be there.”
Besides finding children to reside with relatives, the foundation recommends states utilize the federal “Family First Prevention Services Act,” which became law last year that provides financial incentives for states.
According to the act, child welfare financing would be granted based on proof to show in-home parent skill-based programs, mental health services and various treatments that shows success beyond one year.