Agenda for Children

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Louisiana Making Strides in Keeping Children in Foster Care Connected to Families

April 02, 2019

NEW ORLEANS — Louisiana was one of 16 states that placed 90 percent or more of young people in foster care are in families in 2017, according to the “Keeping Kids in Families: Trends in U.S. Foster Care Placement,” a new data snapshot released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation as part of its 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 nationwide care systems placed 86 percent of these children in families in 2017, compared with 81 percent in 2007. But despite this improvement, the data reveal the group placement rate for teens has remained stagnant at the national level, and there are persistent racial disparities for children of all ages in foster care.

Key Louisiana findings from “Keeping Kids in Families” include:

  • The proportion of children in foster care who are in a family setting in Louisiana rose by seven percentage points, from 83 percent in 2007 to 90 percent in 2017.
  • For teenagers, progress in family placements has been elusive. In Louisiana, 40 percent of young people in the child welfare system who are 13 and older lived in group placements in 2017 ― the same proportion as 10 years ago.
  • Despite improvements for children from every racial and ethnic category, African-American children remain more likely to be placed in a non-family setting. In 2017, 84 percent of African-American children in foster care in Louisiana were placed in a family setting, compared to 93 percent of Non-Hispanic white children.

“This report shines light on an simple truth: children do best when they are part of a family,” said Anthony Recasner, CEO of Agenda for Children. “While we celebrate the progress Louisiana has made, we must continue working to make sure that all children have the opportunity to live in families, regardless of their age or race.”

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.

The “Keeping Kids in Families” snapshot shows that Louisiana has succeeded in placing more children with relatives: while 23 percent of children were placed with relatives in 2007, the same was true for 35 percent of children in 2017. Living with kin can provide children with greater stability and support lifelong connections with their family of origin. Unfortunately, disaggregated data reveal that progress has been uneven, and the gap between the relative placement rate for white children versus African-American children actually doubled over the past decade. The difference between the two groups grew from a 6 percent margin in 2007 to 12 percent in 2017. Whereas 40 percent of white children were in relative placements in 2017, the same was true for just 28 percent of African-American children.

Agenda 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. Similarly, 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; and
  • require director approval for non-kin placements.

“New federal legislation offers Louisiana the opportunity to accelerate our progress in connecting more kids to families, and redouble efforts to recruit kin and foster families for older youth and children of color,” Recasner said.

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