Nearly 4,000 Foster Children in California Living in Group Homes
Children fare best in families. The same holds true for children in the child welfare system. The Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 was meant to ensure that children in the child welfare system grow up in families—cared for in their own homes or the homes of relatives whenever possible, or in new permanent homes if not. (See First Entries into Foster Care in California, by Type of Placement.)
To preserve the well-being of children who enter the system, out-of-home placements must be in the setting that most closely resembles family life. While the vast majority (more than 80%) of foster children in California are living in family-like placements (i.e., in Foster Homes or Foster Family Agency Homes, with Guardians or Kin-Relatives, or in Pre-Adoptive families), between 1998-2014, the proportion of children living in these types of placements did not grow; rather, it saw a slight decline.
That means that each year, there remains a substantial number of foster children living in non-family placements, such as shelters, group homes, and other congregate or temporary placements. In 2014, there were nearly 4,000 foster children living in group homes, one of the least optimal placement options.
The U.S. foster care system aims to provide temporary living arrangements for children while attempting to safely reunite children with parents, or to find other permanent homes. In reality, many foster children spend years in the system, and move between multiple homes. Children age 6-20, as well as those with disabilities or illnesses, and those of African American and American Indian descent, comprise a disproportionate number of youth in the foster care system (see links below). Children in the system face higher risks of physical and mental health problems as well as academic barriers.
To provide all children with safe, permanent homes, policymakers can ensure that prevention services, mental health resources and educational support are available to foster children, their biological parents, and their foster parents. Efforts should also be made to recruit and support foster families who are kin to the children in their care, as well as non-kin families who are well-suited to provide homes to these children in need.
Foster Care (summary)
Every Kid Needs a Family: Giving Children in the Child Welfare System the Best Chance for Success, 2015, Annie E. Casey Foundation
Children and Family Services Division, California Dept. of Social Services
At Greater Risk: California Foster Youth and the Path from High School to College, 2013, Stuart Foundation, Frerer, K., et al.
From Foster Home to Homeless: Strategies to Prevent Homelessness for Youth Transitioning from Foster Care, 2014, Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative
Immigration and Child Welfare, 2015, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Child Welfare Information Gateway
Strategies to Reduce Racially Disparate Outcomes in Child Welfare, 2015, Center for the Study of Social Policy, Alliance for Racial Equity in Child Welfare, Miller, O., & Esenstad, A.
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Number of Children in Foster Care, by Type of Placement
Type of Placement: Group Home