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City Desk

Report: More MT foster children being placed with families


Big Sky Connection

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Eric Tegethoff

April 9, 2019
HELENA, Montana - More foster youths are being placed in families across the country, according to a new report. The Annie E. Casey Foundation says the proportion of kids in foster care who were placed with families rather than in group homes rose from 81 percent in 2007 to 86 percent in 2017.

Numbers in Montana rose faster, from 85 to 92 percent. Mary Bryan is co-founder of Child Bridge, an organization that finds and equips foster and adoptive families for Montana children. She thinks about what happens to kids who age out of foster care without a family.

"Who helps you get your first car or your first apartment? Where do you go for Christmas? Who walks you down the aisle?" Bryan reflected. "This lack of connection, without a family or without parents, is really a devastating thing for the child personally but also for society."

Research shows foster youth placed with families are more likely to finish school and get jobs, and less likely to become early parents. 

In 2018, President Donald Trump signed the Family First Prevention Services Act, which prioritizes family placement. Bryan said provisions in the act that provide more services to families in order to reduce the number of children who end up in foster care should be helpful for Montana and other states.

The report showed children nationwide are more likely to be placed with people related to them, with numbers growing from 25 percent to 32 percent in a decade. Rob Geen, director of policy and advocacy reform with the Casey Foundation, said that has been an important development.

"No matter what that home environment was like, it is traumatic for a child to be removed from their home," Geen said. "When they're placed with someone who already knows the child - who knows their likes, their dislikes, knows about their family background - that is less traumatic."

But, he added, that progress has been slower for children of color and for teens. According to the report, 95 percent of children age 12 and younger were placed with families in 2017, compared with 58 percent of kids 13 and older.




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