July 15, 2013: Kathryn Baron of EdSource reported earlier this week on the Lucile Packard Foundation's KidsData late-June release of new stats on California children in foster care.
In 2012, 55,218 children in California were in foster care, a 49% decline since 1998. The rate at which children first enter foster care fell from 3.5 per 1,000 children ages 0-17 in 1998 to 2.7 in 2012. Overall, California children are spending less time in foster care than a decade ago, although the median number of months in care increased slightly between 2009 and 2010, to 14 months. See data county by county...
The rate of first entries into foster care continues to vary by race and ethnicity, however. African American/Black and American Indian/Alaska Native children consistently have the highest rates of foster care entry, at 8.2 and 8.3 per 1,000, respectively, in 2010-12; this compares to 2.6 for Latino and white children during the same period.
As Baron reported:
“...a lot of people get excited about a reduction in numbers as if it’s telling something about the well-being of children and ... that’s really dangerous,” said Daniel Heimpel, founder and executive director of the advocacy group Fostering Media Connections.“I don’t think reduction per se is a measure of improvement.”
Heimpel said the goal has to be for “safe reduction,” ensuring that the state, local government and advocacy groups are providing ongoing services and support for the children, families and communities where they live. What’s more, Heimpel said, there are no studies yet showing whether children diverted out of foster care and kept at home do better in the long run, even with additional services.
Baron reports that Heimpel's perspective "falls into one of three camps delineated by UC Berkeley social welfare professor Jill Duerr Berrick; the two other camps include one that supports reduction in foster care placement and believes that "the threshold ws too low" in the past "for removing children from their homes." A third group wants to curtail stranger-placement and increase the numer of foster children in kinship care.