Too many children in the United States' welfare systems are not living with families but, according to a new study from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, it turns out Idaho is doing much better at keeping foster children with families or relatives.
"They're people that had a significant relationship with the child prior to the child coming into care, and that really helps reduce trauma on a number of fronts," said Miren Unsworth, deputy administrator for Child Welfare Services at the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. "There's much more stability in a placement with a family—whether that's the child's own family or even a non-relative family placement in a foster home."
The Annie E. Casey Foundation report, "Every Kid Needs a Family," reveals that on any given night tens of thousands of American children are going to bed without the care and comfort of a family. Many of those children are placed in group homes, which the Annie E. Casey Foundation stated can be "harmful to a child's opportunities to develop strong, nurturing attachments." Additionally, the analysis continued, "Group placements can also cost seven to 10 times the amount it takes to place a child with a relative or foster family."
Nationwide, the study reported up to 14 percent of the nation's approximate 400,000 foster kids are in a non-family placement, but Idaho bucks that trend.
"Over the last decade, we've put a strong emphasis on relative-placement and kinship care," said Unsworth. "And when that happens, we see them achieving reunification [with parents] or other type of permanency, guardianship or adoption, much more quickly."
Unsworth said Idaho has seen a slight reduction in the number of Idaho children coming into foster care over the past five years.
"At any given time, we have about 1,300 children in care and yes, we have seen a reduction," she said. "That said, there is still a tremendous need for foster families. Our needs exceed our resources. We need folks willing to foster, specifically for adolescents or sibling groups. We really would love for more people to reach out and contact 211 if they have any questions about the process."