ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Maryland is making strides to place foster kids in family settings, with a five percentage point improvement over a 10 year period, according to a new report.
Maryland is home to almost 4,000 foster children, and researchers from the Annie E. Casey Foundation found the percentage being placed with families increased from 80% in 2007 to 85% in 2017. Rob Geen, director of policy and advocacy reform with the Casey Foundation, says while the overall trend is positive, the numbers are still stubbornly low for teens and children of color.
“While I’m talking about a 10-year trend to show a fairly significant increase in placing kids in families, we’re seeing much greater gains for white children than we are for African-American children,” says Geen. “So, there’s more that we can do for African-American children that we need to work on.”
The report recommends continuing to prioritize family placements over group settings, because children in a stable, family setting are more likely to finish school and get jobs, and less likely to become early parents.
Last year, President Donald Trump signed the Family First Prevention Services Act, which sets limits on funding for group homes, giving agencies more incentive to place children in foster families or with relatives.
Research has shown that foster children do better when placed with relatives they know and trust. Rachel White, child welfare policy director with Advocates for Children and Youth, says funding from the Family Prevention Services Act can also be used to attract more families to care for teens and children of color.
“There can be an increased emphasis on locating more foster parents of kin and also, even recruiting more African-American foster parents as well, to preserve, like, some of the cultural entities,” says White. “But with respect to families, more money can be put into recruiting families. “
White says Maryland officials have been leading the way, also approving state funding to support recruiting more relatives to step up for children in the foster-care system during the last legislative session.