D.C. 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 Significant Progress in D.C. as National Rates Improve
Washington, D.C. — Children in the District of Columbia’s foster care system are increasingly likely to live in families according to the “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 KIDS COUNT® project. 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 the District placed 90 percent of these children in families in 2017, compared with 73 percent in 2007.
The total number of children in the District’s foster care system has also declined, with a 67 percent reduction in the last decade. In that time, the DC Child and Family Services Agency developed a variety of strategies to reduce the number of children coming into foster care, while arranging for more children and youth in care to live in families. Despite these improvements, there are persistent racial disparities for children in foster care. Black/African-American children account for 54 percent of the under 18 population but represent 89 percent of children in the District’s foster care system; there were no changes to this overrepresentation over the ten-year period.
“The District’s child welfare system has made tremendous progress, yet we can do more to support children and youth and strengthen families,” said Shana Bartley, executive director of DC Action for Children. “Research shows that keeping children in families improves outcomes. To reduce disparities and achieve equitable outcomes, we must deepen investments in culturally-responsive strategies to address child and family needs.”
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 Prevention Services Act, signed into law in 2018, 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 Children 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.
DC Action for Children 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. 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;
- Require director approval for non-kin placements.
The District’s practitioners and policymakers have the opportunity to build on the progress from the past decade by leveraging local and federal dollars to strengthen supports for families.