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New Jersey Making Strides in Keeping Children in Foster Care Connected to Families
New 10-year Data Snapshot with State-by-State Data from the Annie E. Casey Foundation Shows Progress, and Some Failures, as National Rates Improve
NEWARK, N.J.— In New Jersey, 94 percent of children in foster care are placed with families rather than in group placements, putting the state in an optimal position to begin implementing the Family First Prevention Services Act, a 2018 federal law which focuses on placing children who need foster care in family-centered settings. New Jersey is one of four states that placed 73 percent or more of teenagers in families and 20 percent or fewer teenagers in group placements in 2017, according to “Keeping Kids in Families: Trends in Placement of Young People in Foster Care in the United States,” a new data snapshot released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation as part of its KIDS COUNT® project.
Access report at www.aecf.org.
Using data from the child welfare system across all 50 states and the District of Columbia over a 10-year period to look at how placements for young people in foster care have changed, the report finds that nationwide care systems placed 86 percent of these children in families in 2017, compared with 81 percent in 2007. But despite this improvement, the data reveal the group placement rate for teens in most states has remained stagnant, and there are persistent racial disparities for children of all ages in foster care.
“The Family First Act can provide state leaders with policy support and federal resources to keep the focus on family placement for the benefit of young people,” said Tracey Field, director and manager of the Casey Foundation’s Child Welfare Strategy Group. “Since some states have shown improvements keeping young people in families, we know that it can be done and that all states can improve.”
Unlike other states, New Jersey has made significant progress, reducing the number of group home placements from 1,739 (19 percent) in 2007 to 332 (6 percent) in 2017.
“Given the progress New Jersey has already made in reducing reliance on group home or institution care, we can focus on other aspects of the Family First Act such as supportive services to keep children safely at home and services to support successful reunification when children do need to enter foster care,” said Mary Coogan, vice president of Advocates for Children of New Jersey, which co-sponsored regional forums to introduce the Family First Act to stakeholders involved with child abuse and neglect cases. “New Jersey’s Division of Child Protection and Permanency is committed to increasing the number of relative or kinship care homes for children who need foster care placements.”
Being part of a family is a basic human need and essential to well-being, especially for children, teenagers and young adults who are rapidly developing and transitioning to independence, as documented in the Casey Foundation’s 2015 report, Every Kid Needs a Family. The new data suggest a growing consensus among practitioners and policymakers that young people in the child welfare system should live in families. Through the Family First Act, states are empowered to prioritize family placement and high-quality, family-centered settings which produce the best outcomes for young people.
Key findings from “Keeping Kids in Families” include:
- For teenagers, progress in family placements has been elusive. Nationwide, more than a third of young people in child welfare systems who are 13 and older lived in group placements in 2017 ― the same proportion as 10 years ago.
- A breakdown by race shows that progress is highly uneven. Systems increased the placement rate of white youth in family homes from 81 percent to 87 percent, but outcomes for Latino and African-American children improved by just 3 percent, and by just 1 percentage point for Asian-American children.
Advocates for Children of New Jersey joins the Casey Foundation in calling on child welfare systems to use the opportunities afforded by Family First to increase available services to stabilize families. Similarly, states can:
- prioritize recruitment of kin and foster families for older youth and youth of color in recruitment planning;
- engage families in decision making, since kin and foster parents should be treated as important members of a child’s team; and
- require director approval for non-kin placements.
About Advocates for Children of New Jersey
Advocates for Children of New Jersey is a statewide child research and action organization. They work with local, state and federal leaders to identify and implement changes that will benefit New Jersey's children. For more information, visit acnj.org.
About the Annie E. Casey Foundation
The Annie E. Casey Foundation creates a brighter future for the nation’s children by developing solutions to strengthen families, build paths to economic opportunity and transform struggling communities into safer and healthier places to live, work and grow. For more information, visit www.aecf.org. KIDS COUNT® is a registered trademark of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.