Children in the District of Columbia’s foster care system are increasingly likely to live in families according to the Keeping Kids in Families: Trends in Placement of Young People in Foster Care in the United States, a new data snapshot released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation as part of the Kids Count project.
Keeping DC Kids in Families
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 the District placed 90 percent of these children in families in 2017, compared with 73 percent in 2007.
The total number of children in the District’s foster care system has also declined, with a 67 percent reduction in the last decade. In that time, the DC Child and Family Services Agency developed a variety of strategies to reduce the number of children coming into foster care, while arranging for more children and youth in care to live in families. Despite these improvements, there are persistent racial disparities for children in foster care. Black children account for 54 percent of the under 18 population but represent 89 percent of children in the District’s foster care system; there were no changes to this overrepresentation over the ten-year period.
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.
- For teenagers, progress in family placements has been elusive. Nationwide, more than a third of young people in child welfare systems who are 13 and older lived in group placements in 2017 ― the same proportion as 10 years ago.
- A breakdown by race shows that progress is highly uneven. Systems increased the placement rate of white youth in family homes from 81 percent to 87 percent, but outcomes for Latinx and Black children improved by just 3 percent, and by just 1 percentage point for Asian-American children.