New Report Shows 20,000 Children in Foster Care in PA

HARRISBURG, Pa., Sept. 10 /PRNewswire/ --

Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children (PPC) today released a new report on child welfare in the Commonwealth designed to address a system that needs fixing while highlighting some encouraging strategies to promote permanency being implemented across the state. The report exposes some startling statistics in counties' child welfare systems -- such as the high rate of re-entry for children released from foster care who then bounce back into the system, and the prolonged time it can take to move children from foster care to adoption - but also shines a light on promising practices in use by many county children and youth agencies.

 At any given time, there are 20,000 children and youth in the foster care system in Pennsylvania spending about 16 months in placement. However, some counties experience as many as 40 percent of children who have been discharged from the foster care system returning to placement. These data show that more support must be provided to a child's birth family while he or she is in foster care to address the issues that forced the removal of the child from the home in the first place.

 Children from birth to age five make up 30 percent of the foster care system; children six to 12 equal 24 percent; while the vast majority or 46
percent of children living in foster care are teenagers 13 and older. Challenges are present for children at every age in placement, but older youth
who traditionally "age out" of the system at 18 face a unique set of difficulties when they don't have a permanent family or home to call their own.  Roughly 1,600 youth age out of the system each year to unknown circumstances.

 "Every child deserves a forever family. No child should languish in the system without a safe, nurturing and permanent place to call home," said Joan
L. Benso, president and CEO of Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children. "While there are many things broken in the current child welfare system that must be addressed, there are family strengthening, reunification and adoption strategies in play, too, that deserve mention -- and, hopefully, further
replication across the state."

While 22 percent of children in the system have been placed with their relatives, 46 percent are in non-relative foster homes. But 25 percent of children in the foster care system live in institutions and group homes. These children -- primarily older youth -- are less likely to develop the traditional social and emotional skills necessary to move successfully to adulthood.

 Foster care is meant to be a temporary arrangement for children. Child welfare agencies should employ an array of strategies designed to improve the
odds that children will be able to return home safely or be placed permanently in a forever family. Strategies such as family finding, concurrent planning, family group decision making and family strengthening efforts will increase the odds that every child will have a forever family. Efforts are underway to utilize such strategies in Pennsylvania's child welfare system; however the system is a long way from every family and child experiencing this level of engagement.

PPC releases the report under its new child welfare initiative dubbed "The Porch Light Project."  The mission of the Project -- a guiding light for policy change for thousands of children who have been removed from their families following reports of child abuse, neglect or abandonment -- is to
strengthen families in order to reduce the risk of child abuse; assure that children have maximum stability when they must be removed from their homes; assure that a forever or permanent family becomes the reality for every child;and, to place equal emphasis on children who are abused regardless of their age -- including youth who are approaching adulthood.

"The child welfare system in Pennsylvania must do more to provide the necessary family strengthening and supports; to create greater stability for a
child placed out-of-home; to work towards permanency as a goal for all children, and to highlight the needs of older children and youth just as much
as the needs of younger children," Benso added.

More information including county-by-county child welfare data and "best practices" maps is available by visiting
or by contacting Kathy Geller Myers, Communications Director, at 717-236-5680;

This report was made possible in collaboration with Casey Family Programs, whose mission is to provide and improve -- and ultimately prevent the need for foster care.  To learn more, visit  The findings and conclusions presented in this report are those of Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children ( and do not necessarily reflect the views of Casey Family Programs.
SOURCE  Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children

Kathy Geller Myers of Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, +1-717-236-5680,
Mobile, +1-717-903-3716,  


In other news... a piece on "re-entry"

Philadelphia children discharged from foster care re-enter the system at "extremely high rates," according to a new report on child welfare released today.

Within a year of release from foster care, 43 percent of children are back in the system in Philadelphia, compared to 28.6 of children throughout the state, according to the report, compiled by Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, a statewide child-advocacy group based in Harrisburg.

Among Philadelphia children aged 13 to 15, the re-entry rate is 60 percent.

The reasons for high rates of re-entry are complex. "Our best sense is we don't do enough - not just in Philadelphia, but everywhere - to strengthen the families these children left," Joan Benso, president and CEO of Partnerships, said in a phone interview Tuesday night.

For example, if a parent's substance abuse was the reason a child was taken from the home and placed in foster care, that abuse must be addressed, Benso said. If it isn't and the child returns home, the child will likely be taken out of the home and placed back into foster care, she explained.

According to the report, 6,570 Philadelphia children are in foster care, which represents more than one-third of the total 20,000 children in the foster care system statewide.

Along with the negative re-entry information, there was some good news in the report.

For example, more than 25 percent of Philadelphia children placed outside the home by the child welfare system are living with relatives. The state average is 22 percent.

Research shows that if family problems are addressed, the child is better off with his or her natural family.

Additionally, 6.6 percent of Philadelphia children in the foster care system are placed in pre-adoptive homes, which is twice the state average. This is defined as a home run by people willing to adopt the children and awaiting finalization of the process that would make them adoptive parents.

"This implies that Philadelphia does a good job of family finding and moving toward the goal of permanency for its children placed in the child welfare system," the Partners report concluded.

Also, the report says, the median length of stay in foster care for Philadelphia children is 15 months, compared to the statewide median of 16 months.

"This suggests that a system of care is in place that moves children more quickly to either reunification with their family or [into] other permanent homes," the report says.  [From:  "Phila. kids re-enter foster care at ‘extremely high rates’", Sept 10, 2008,]

Now... if only one could ensure the child placed in a foster/adoptive home would NOT suffer from neglect or abuse, all would be working in favor of a child's best interest! 

A question about "languishing"

I have read many many news articles citing the problems children are having, in terms of "languishing in foster care".  [I believe this is the very argument adoption agencies use to help them jump on the foster-care band-wagon... the sooner a child can be placed within an adoptive family, the sooner the state can stop paying for "child services", making the pay for fast-working adoption recruiters/workers a real premium.]

I get confused with all this chatter about behavior problems in children caused by abuse, increased use of medication for kids in foster care, and the patterns of abuse and corruption found (but not always reported) within child placement services.  From all that I read, foster-care represents more family failures than U.S. health care can manage or fix.  [For instance, watch this news video (, from 2008, and ask, "how does one fix the problems caused by a pedophile not screened by CPS workers?]"

What should be the goal for each child placed in foster care?

Adoption, or family repair?

If the goal, (for most adults), is going to be adoption, what sort of interest and effort is going into First Families, and the children who miss them?

Pound Pup Legacy