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Foster care cases decline

Locally, number of cases cut by half from last year

September 29, 2010
Across Pennsylvania, fewer children were placed in foster care in 2009-10, and the same trend was seen locally. According to the Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children (PPC), almost 90 percent of counties reduced their foster care placements over the past year resulting in a nearly 12 percent drop in children living in foster care and a decline of more than 16 percent of children entering the system. “In our inaugural report last year we posed some fundamental questions about how well Pennsylvania state and county governments are doing keeping children safe in their own homes so fewer children enter foster care, how they’re doing in decreasing the likelihood of repeat abuse or re-entry into foster care, and the steps being taken to achieve permanency for kids through reunification with birth families, adoption or guardianship,” said Joan Benso, president and CEO of the PPC. “Now we have the data to answer these questions and assess our progress.” In Warren County, the number of children entering foster care decreased by nearly half. The PPC reports that 30 children in Warren County entered foster care in 2009-10, a dramatic drop from the 61 posted in 2008-09. There was also a local reduction in the overall foster care cases from 112 in 2008-09 to 79 in 2009-10. Warren County Commissioner John Bortz, who services on the advisory committee for Children and Youth Services, indicated that there was a push from the state level to curb the placement rates. “We always need to look at better solutions,” he said. “The more we can keep children in a traditional family setting, the better off they are.” Bortz credited the method of Family Group Decision Making as a factor in the reduced number of placements. “With a child in distress, all of the stakeholders in the child’s life are indentified and brought into a dialogue,” he said. He added, “We are seeing success locally.” In addition to collecting statistics on placement rates, the PPC was also interested in where the children in foster care were placed. According to the PPC, Pennsylvania is a state that historically has relied heavily on placing children in congregate care, like group homes and institutions, rather than foster family homes, but this trend is changing as there was a decrease of nearly 8 percent in placement of children in congregate care settings over the past year. Research indicates that children who live in group settings while in foster care have less contact with their birth families, more behavioral problems, and are less likely to end their journey living in a permanent family than children who are placed in home-like foster family settings. In Warren County, 37.5 percent of foster children were placed in a congregate care setting in 2008-09. However, the precentage decreased in the most recent statistics to 24.1 percent. “Pennsylvania’s child welfare system serves some of the most vulnerable children and families in our communities. It is critically important that we continue to monitor the performance of this essential safety net,” Benso said. “But commendable steps have been taken to fulfill our goals of safely reducing the number of children in foster care and creating safe, stable, permanent family connections for all children.”


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