Maine Making Strides in Keeping Children in Foster Care Connected to Families
New 10-year Data Snapshot with State-by-State Data from the Annie E. Casey Foundation Shows Progress in Maine and in the Nation
AUGUSTA, MAINE — The number of children in foster care being placed with families has considerably improved in Maine over the last decade, according to “Keeping Children 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 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, and there are persistent racial disparities for children of all ages in foster care nationally.
Placing young people with close family or friends when they aren’t able to live with their birth families is important because it helps minimize the trauma of removal, maintaining important connections and often keeping siblings together.
Of the 1,584 Maine children in foster care in 2017, 94 percent were placed with families, well above the national average of 86 percent, and just beneath Alaska, the state with the greatest percentage of children in foster care placed with families, at 95 percent. In the last decade, Maine’s rate of placements in families increased 14 percentage points, up from 80 percent in 2007.
Key findings from “Keeping Children in Families” include:
- 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 Latino and African-American children improved by just 3 percent, and by just 1 percentage point for Asian-American children.
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. 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 Maine Children’s Alliance 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;
- Require director approval for non-kin placements.
“While Maine has made improvements in providing family placements for children in foster care, we can still do more to support the families who are caring for kids in state custody,” said Claire Berkowitz, executive director of the Maine Children’s Alliance. “Maine should take advantage of the federal funds available through the Family First Prevention Services Act, strengthen kinship and foster families, and ensure children will ultimately have better outcomes.”
The “Keeping Children in Families” snapshot is available at https://www.aecf.org/resources/keeping-kids-in-families/.