To reduce trauma and promote healing, maltreated children who have been removed from their homes need stable foster care placements and supportive lifelong permanent connections.

Data Highlights

Frequent placement changes can adversely affect a child’s emotional well-being, ability to form secure and healthy attachments and educational attainment. In 2013, 38% of California foster children in care for 24 months or more had experienced up to 2 placements and 62% of children experienced 3 or more placements.

Foster children placed with relatives often experience greater placement stability and benefit from the continued connection to family. Placing siblings together can also increase placement stability and minimize trauma for foster children. In 2012, 36% of California’s foster children were placed with relatives.

Effective foster parent training programs can include teaching emotional communication skills, disciplinary consistency and behavior management methods, as well as provide education on attachment. These programs increase positive changes in foster parent retention, placement stability and permanency. For example, an evaluation of the KEEP (Keeping Foster and Kin Parents Supported and Trained) program in San Diego County has shown participating children are twice as likely to exit to permanency, including reunifying with family, placement with relatives or adoption.

Figure: Length of foster care
(click to enlarge image)

Pro-Kid Policy Agenda

California should support policies and practices that prioritize placement stability and ensure placement with quality caregivers. Youth who enter the child welfare system have been exposed to abuse or neglect, are often traumatized by being removed from their homes and may end up being moved to multiple placements, thus impacting their ability to form meaningful connections. Providing the resources and supports necessary to ensure that these vulnerable children can heal and thrive within their communities should be a top priority. The state should prioritize sibling placements, support policies that facilitate sibling bonds and ensure children exiting the child welfare system have a permanent, lifelong familial connection.
Figure: Parent training and support
(click to enlarge image)

Momentum

The Quality Parenting Initiative is currently implemented in 18 California counties. This initiative tailors communication materials aimed at recruiting and retaining quality foster parents. Key successes of this model include smoother transitions between placement changes, reduced use of group care, more siblings placed together and increased reunification with biological families.

Assembly Bill 1133 (Mitchell) was signed into law in October 2013 and requires that California’s medically fragile foster children be placed with nurse providers when appropriate and available in order to minimize disruptions due to medical needs.

California Senate Bill 342 (Yee) requires that visits with children in foster care occur within the group home or foster home. This allows social workers to more effectively assess the home situation by visiting regularly and meeting with the youth in their daily environment. Additionally, youth can request that a private discussion occur off the premises.