Thursday, September 16, 2010
From the AP:
The number of U.S. children in foster care has dropped 8 percent in just one year, and more than 20 percent in the past decade, according to new federal figures underscoring the impact of widespread reforms.
The drop, hailed by child-welfare advocates, is due largely to a shift in the policies and practices of state and county child welfare agencies. Many have been shortening stays in foster care, speeding up adoptions and expanding preventive support for troubled families so more children avoid being removed from their homes in the first place.
The new figures, released Tuesday by the Department of Health and Human Services, show there were 423,773 children in foster care as of Sept. 30. That's down from 460,416 a year earlier and from more than 540,000 a decade ago.
California had the biggest one-year drop — from 67,703 to 60,198. Just eight years ago, the state had more than 90,000 children in foster care.
Florida, Illinois, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania are among other major states that have lowered their numbers sharply over the decade.
"It's extraordinary," said Terri Braxton, a vice president of the Child Welfare League of America. "There's been a major focus on foster-care awareness, on new legislative policies, and it's heartening to see that these efforts are finally paying off."
Though many of the initiatives are at the state level, Braxton said the trend had been aided by a federal law, the 2008 Fostering Connections Act. It allows use of federal funds to assist children who leave foster care to live with relatives other than their parents — an arrangement which in the past was generally not eligible for federal aid.
Braxton said many challenges remain, including dealing with the increasing number of foster youths aging out of the system without a permanent family. The number of such youths rose from 19,000 in 1999 to a record high of nearly 30,000 in 2008.
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