Too many Kentucky children in foster care are in group placement, advocacy report states

Nearly 1,300 of the 7,211 Kentucky children and youth in foster care are in group placements instead of with families, a news release from a child advocacy group said Tuesday.

The latest Kids Count policy report, Every Kid Needs a Family: Giving Children in the Child Welfare System the Best Chance for Success, co-released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and Kentucky Youth Advocates, highlights the importance of keeping families together and placing children who cannot safely stay with their parents in family placements, such as kinship and foster families.

The report highlights the over-reliance on group placements, such as group homes or treatment centers, for children in the child welfare system.

Nationally, 40 percent of children and youth living in group placements have no clinical need to be in such restrictive settings. Child advocates said in the news release that although group placement provides an option for the small percentage of young people who cannot safely live in any family setting while receiving treatment, group placement programs should help young people return to families more quickly.

"We need a vibrant continuum of care for kids who have experienced abuse or neglect — from working to keep families together through parent support services such as home visiting programs; empowering kinship families to step up; foster family placement; and temporarily serving those with intense treatment needs in residential care if needed," Terry Brooks, executive director at Kentucky Youth Advocates, said in the news release.

"We need to start at one end of the spectrum and do everything we can to keep families safely together first, before looking at other options."

The news release said progress has been made in Kentucky, but the state has a lower rate than the nation of placing children in family type placements such as foster families or kinship caregivers (81 percent compared with 84 percent).

In addition, 30 states and D.C. do a better job of using family-type placements than Kentucky, the news release said.