'Every Kid Needs a Family,' recommends KIDS COUNT policy report

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Ivette Rodriguez Stern, (808) 956-3760
Center on the Family, CTAHR
Lana Crabbe, (808) 956-3760
Center on the Family, CTAHR
Posted: May 19, 2015

A KIDS COUNT policy report released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation highlights the importance of family placements for young people in the child welfare system. The report, which emphasizes that group placements are the least favorable setting for children in foster care, also highlights the promising ways that state and local government leaders, policymakers, judges and private providers can work together to help the 56,000 children who are living in such settings throughout the country.

In the U.S., 40% of young people who live in group facilities while in the child welfare system have no documented behavioral or clinical need to be in such restrictive settings. Such placements have been shown to be harmful to a child’s opportunities to develop strong and nurturing attachments. 

“Kids who grow up in families have the best chances for success through life,” said Ivette Rodriguez Stern, the Hawai‘i KIDS COUNT Project Director at UH Mānoa. “Research shows that having secure attachments provided by nurturing caregivers is critical to a child’s healthy physical, social, emotional and psychological development. Young people who don’t grow up in families are at greater risk for poor outcomes as they grow up, such as being arrested.”

Percentages of young people in group placements within the states range from as low as 4% in Oregon to as high as 35% in Colorado. The good news is that Hawai‘i is doing well with 92% of children in foster care living in family settings, and only 7% in group placements. Nationally, 84% of young people in the child welfare system are in family settings, and 14% are in group placements.

The Every Kid Needs a Family policy report recommends how communities can widen the selection of services available to help parents and children under stress within their own homes, so that children have a better chance of reuniting with their birth families and retaining bonds important to their development.

“Some of what’s recommended in the policy report is already taking place in Hawai‘i, which is the good news,” said Dr. Marianne Berry, child welfare expert and director of the Center on the Family at UH Mānoa's College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources. “For example, Hawai‘i was recently approved to use federal foster care dollars flexibly to prevent foster care placement of children and expedite permanency for those already in foster care. These efforts will include working with service providers, with families in crisis and with extended family members so that children can move out of the child welfare system and into family settings.”

Helping more children live in families means starting with the families they already have, even those in crisis. Keeping kids connected to family – their kin if not their parents – helps them stay safe and strong. When birth parents cannot care for a child, relatives can offer an existing relationship and connection to the child’s identity and culture, making an eventual return home easier. When kin care is not possible, foster parents play a critical role in nurturing and protecting children until they reside in a permanent family. When properly supported, foster families are capable of caring for the same children who otherwise end up in group placements.

Every Kid Needs a Family is available at www.aecf.org. Data from this report is available on the KIDS COUNT Data Center, which also contains the most recent national, state and local data on hundreds of measures of child well-being. Data Center users can create rankings, maps and graphs for use in publications and on websites, and view real-time information on mobile devices.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation funds a nationwide network of state-level KIDS COUNT projects, which includes the Center on the Family in Hawai‘i. The Center is a unit within the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR) at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. The Center’s mission is to enhance the well-being of Hawai‘i’s families through interdisciplinary research, education, and community outreach. For more information about the Center, visit www.uhfamily.hawaii.edu.

For more information, visit: http://www.aecf.org/m/resourcedoc/aecf-EveryKidNeedsAFamily-2015.pdf