HARRISBURG, Pa., Sept. 10 /PRNewswire/ -- Pennsylvania Partnerships for
Children (PPC) today released a new report on child welfare in the
Commonwealth designed to address a system that needs fixing while
highlighting some encouraging strategies to promote permanency being
implemented across the state. The report exposes some startling statistics
in counties' child welfare systems -- such as the high rate of re-entry for
children released from foster care who then bounce back into the system,
and the prolonged time it can take to move children from foster care to
adoption - but also shines a light on promising practices in use by many
county children and youth agencies.
At any given time, there are 20,000 children and youth in the foster
care system in Pennsylvania spending about 16 months in placement. However,
some counties experience as many as 40 percent of children who have been
discharged from the foster care system returning to placement. These data
show that more support must be provided to a child's birth family while he
or she is in foster care to address the issues that forced the removal of
the child from the home in the first place.
Children from birth to age five make up 30 percent of the foster care
system; children six to 12 equal 24 percent; while the vast majority or 46
percent of children living in foster care are teenagers 13 and older.
Challenges are present for children at every age in placement, but older
youth who traditionally "age out" of the system at 18 face a unique set of
difficulties when they don't have a permanent family or home to call their
own. Roughly 1,600 youth age out of the system each year to unknown
"Every child deserves a forever family. No child should languish in the
system without a safe, nurturing and permanent place to call home," said
Joan L. Benso, president and CEO of Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children.
"While there are many things broken in the current child welfare system
that must be addressed, there are family strengthening, reunification and
adoption strategies in play, too, that deserve mention -- and, hopefully,
further replication across the state."
While 22 percent of children in the system have been placed with their
relatives, 46 percent are in non-relative foster homes. But 25 percent of
children in the foster care system live in institutions and group homes.
These children -- primarily older youth -- are less likely to develop the
traditional social and emotional skills necessary to move successfully to
Foster care is meant to be a temporary arrangement for children. Child
welfare agencies should employ an array of strategies designed to improve
the odds that children will be able to return home safely or be placed
permanently in a forever family. Strategies such as family finding,
concurrent planning, family group decision making and family strengthening
efforts will increase the odds that every child will have a forever family.
Efforts are underway to utilize such strategies in Pennsylvania's child
welfare system; however the system is a long way from every family and
child experiencing this level of engagement.
PPC releases the report under its new child welfare initiative dubbed
"The Porch Light Project." The mission of the Project -- a guiding light
for policy change for thousands of children who have been removed from
their families following reports of child abuse, neglect or abandonment --
is to strengthen families in order to reduce the risk of child abuse;
assure that children have maximum stability when they must be removed from
their homes; assure that a forever or permanent family becomes the reality
for every child; and, to place equal emphasis on children who are abused
regardless of their age -- including youth who are approaching adulthood.
"The child welfare system in Pennsylvania must do more to provide the
necessary family strengthening and supports; to create greater stability
for a child placed out-of-home; to work towards permanency as a goal for
all children, and to highlight the needs of older children and youth just
as much as the needs of younger children," Benso added.
More information including county-by-county child welfare data and
"best practices" maps is available by visiting
http://www.papartnerships.org/porchlight/ or by contacting Kathy Geller
Myers, Communications Director, at 717-236-5680; firstname.lastname@example.org
This report was made possible in collaboration with Casey Family
Programs, whose mission is to provide and improve -- and ultimately prevent
the need for -- foster care. To learn more, visit http://www.casey.org. The
findings and conclusions presented in this report are those of Pennsylvania
Partnerships for Children (http://www.papartnerships.org) and do not
necessarily reflect the views of Casey Family Programs.
SOURCE Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children