Saturday, November 8, 2014

Kids Count: Two New Reports on Kinship Foster Care

MASSBudget   Kids count  MLRI


When children need to be removed from their families due to concerns of abuse or neglect, they have a greater opportunity to succeed and thrive if they are placed with members of their extended family, rather than with people they don't know. Children who are placed with members of their extended family (their "kin") experience less disruption and trauma upon removal from their parents, and benefit from continued connections with their family, their cultural and linguistic heritage and their community. They also benefit from greater stability as those placed with kin are more likely to remain in one foster care placement, and they have a greater chance of finding a permanent home.

MassBudget's new Kids Count analysis, "Family Ties: Exploring Massachusetts' use of Kinship Forster Care for Children in the Child Welfare System," is a companion to the Mass Law Reform Institute's (MLRI) release of a new Kids Count report. MassBudget finds that the state has made real progress over the past seven years, increasing kinship foster care rates from 20 percent to 28 percent for kids removed from their homes. But Massachusetts lags behind other states that have been able to place greater number of children, particularly children of color, with members of their extended families.

MLRI's new KIDS COUNT report, "The Ties That Bind: Strengthening, and Reducing Racial Disparities in, Kinship Foster Care in Massachusetts" describes the evidence on the value of kin placements and examines the policies the state has been using to increase the number of kids placed with kin. It concludes by providing a detailed set of commonsense solutions to help the Department of Children and Families increase kinship care overall and make sure that that all children, regardless of their race or ethnicity, have the same chance to overcome trauma and thrive. The report also incorporates data from MassBudget's analysis that describes the trends in kinship placements overall and for children from different racial and ethnic backgrounds.

The Ties that Bind makes the following recommendations for DCF:
  • appoint a kinship care coordinator,
  • implement a presumption in favor of kinship care,
  • review its licensing standards in light of national model standards designed to promote kinship care while keeping children safe,
  • get kin involved as soon as DCF becomes involved with a family,
  • ensure that kinship foster parents are able to access all the state supports to which they are entitled, and
  • build bridges into communities where kin live.
The report also recognizes that DCF must collect and use data about the outcomes of these and other practice and policy changes. This is important to ensure that policies and practices are having their intended effect of increasing kinship care and promoting placement stability and permanent homes for children. As with any public investments, it will be important for DCF to demonstrate the effectiveness of efforts on this issue. That will require data demonstrating how many children are helped and how those children life prospects are improved.

The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center (MassBudget) produces policy research, analysis, and data-driven recommendations focused on improving the lives of low- and middle-income children and adults, strengthening our state's economy, and enhancing the quality of life in Massachusetts.

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