The Foster Care Housing Crisis

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Author(s): The Chronicle of Social Change

Published: Oct. 31, 2017

Report Intro/Brief:
"In the first-ever report of its kind, The Chronicle of Social Change projects a continued increase in the number of children in foster care, as well as a concurrent shortfall in the number of foster homes to accommodate them. While the federal government tracks the overall number of youth in foster care, the latest count of 427,910 was for federal fiscal year 2015. The next count of children in foster care will be released later this year and will encompass fiscal year 2016. Based on 2017 figures provided to The Chronicle by state agencies, we project the number has risen to about 443,000, a 3 percent increase from 2015 and an 11 percent increase from 2012.

Key Findings

(1) At least half of the states in the U.S. have seen their foster care capacity decrease between 2012 and 2017. Either these states have fewer beds and more foster youth, or any increase in beds has been dwarfed by an even greater increase in foster children and youth.
(2) Our numbers suggesting downward trends in capacity are supported by documentation in the Child and Family Services Reviews, a periodic federal assessment of state child welfare systems.
(3) In some states, a growing reliance on kinship care has offset the demand for non-relative homes. But an overall increase in the reliance on relatives is smaller than one might think.
(4) Overall increase in some states has masked localized or demographic shortfalls, meaning that some children may have to be placed far from home.
(5) Capacity challenges are not necessarily a byproduct of complacency; a number of states experienced declines in capacity despite dedicated efforts to increase it.
(6) Some states have succeeded in intentionally growing the number of beds available for foster children."