A brief from a coalition of foster youth advocates in California makes the case that reducing the number of children in foster care may not always be a good thing.
In “Are There Too Many Children in Foster Care?” California Child Advocates for Change say that many of the narratives behind federal foster care reform — such as the idea that reducing the number of children in care is always a positive thing — are misguided and not in line with the needs of children in care. More funding for prevention and in-home services should not come at the expense of the sometimes necessary role of the foster-care system.
The brief suggests that reducing the number of youth in care through greater assistance to troubled families may be difficult given a high prevalence of child abuse and neglect in the country. The authors cite research that estimates that actual child abuse and neglect may be nearly 14 times higher than confirmed child maltreatment rates and that reports to state child welfare hotlines have not decreased over the past 15 years. A greater focus on diverting children away from the child welfare could mean a greater likelihood of future injury and child fatality, according to the brief.
The report points to the findings of the California Youth Transitions to Adulthood Study (CalYOUTH), which describe the protective role of the foster care system for many youth. It also connects decreases in the number of children in the foster care system over the past 15 years with policies that have emphasized moving children to permanency faster.
The consistent decline in the number of children in care may not continue, and pressure to reduce caseloads could result in some agencies failing to remove children from unsafe situations, thereby increasing the risk of children re-experiencing child maltreatment.
To read the policy brief from the California Child Advocates for Change, click here.