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October 16, 2019

Nurturing Family Members Could Make A Difference

North Carolina’s foster-care population has been on a steady rise since 2014, with 11-thousand children in the system, and a new report says nurturing family members could make the difference. Data from the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows that over the past decade, North Carolina and other states are more often placing young people who enter the child-welfare system with relatives or foster families instead of group homes. Rob Geen with the Casey Foundation says the Keeping Kids in Families report highlights the importance of keeping kin involved in the foster-care process. “No matter what that home environment was like, it is traumatic for a child to be removed from their home. When they’re placed with someone who already knows the child, who knows their likes, their dislikes, knows about their family background, that is less traumatic.” North Carolina underwent an overhaul of its child-welfare system after failing a federal review in 2015. The state began implementing new performance standards for county social-services departments and creating a mechanism to take over child-welfare services in counties that failed to meet federal standards. The new report shows that children who are older, are a racial or ethnic minority, have special needs, or suffer from a behavioral or mental disorder are more likely to stay in care longer. Geen says child-welfare agencies are least likely to place African-American children with a family. Wendy Gee with Security and Hope Youth and Adult Services provides a 30-hour state-mandated training for foster-care families. She says there has been an increase in kinship foster-care families enrolled in trauma training, but the system presents barriers for families with limited economic means. “How to make it easier for families, what are some of the things that you can loosen some? Putting a bed in the living room in a kinship family, anything that’s not related to safety, but those minor things, what is it that we can do?” Gee says the report could be an incentive for North Carolina to seek family-placement solutions and remove barriers from recruiting and retaining kin and foster families, especially for older youths and youths of color.

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